Wednesday, February 29, 2012

All That Survives

You're walking in the woods and the trail comes to a crossing. Up in the distance, through the trees, lie the assembled headstones of an ancient graveyard. The old stone walls are crumbling, and half the markers are toppled over in the snow, neglected through the years. Some, the veterans of the Revolution, still have flags renewed by dedicated loyalists living in the towns around here. This is the legacy of a not-quite forgotten New England, when bands of families cleared land and struggled to subsist in the granite wilderness, under the constant threat of disease, hunger and Indian attack from Quebec. The headstones have names, Susan Puttnam, her husband Joseph, daughter Evelyn. So many children died young, the little markers washed clean of their engraved names. Now the farms have disappeared along with the settlers, the forest taken over with a vengeance. What attracts me to the old graves are the stories contained in that little clearing, the families, their children, the light that shines on these lives in the imagination. Somehow I find my optimism renewed contemplating the old cemetery. It's why I like sad songs and movies. They speak of resilience and a shared heart that still beats.

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