Mornings, we walk among the graves,
up hills and down.
I read the stones, glean the stories buried there.
A child, born and died, 2 days old.
Her mother gone, too.
Beloved father and mother,
pictures, frozen on the stone,
As if they look the same today.
One young man, a mother’s son,
Died in war,
Before his life began.
I count the years of the beloveds
As we walk among the graves:
I reckon those whose lives I now outlive,
Some by many years.
I drift off, recounting my own life:
Who was I, then?
The time has passed away,
And so quickly.
I am sad as we walk among the graves.
I look into the sky, so beautiful.
I see the city outlined in the distance,
All that life, booming and moving,
All those moments of importance,
All too quickly.
Mary Elyn Bahlert, 10/2020
Note: I expect we’ve all had some times of reflection over the past year +, as we lived through the sheltering that marked the time of the COVID pandemic. It’s not over, and yet in many ways, our dealing with the virus that has crippled the world is not over. My husband and I have had a daily ritual of a walk – up and down hills – in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Oakland, a block away from where we live. We still have that ritual, a time that has brought us new friends, also pandemic-bound, also taking advantage of the quiet beauty of the cemetery, which overlooks San Francisco Bay from its highest point. People wearing masks have seemed friendlier, a welcome gift when everything else in our lives had stopped, or been limited in some way. I’m grateful for that “quiet place,” for the sense of community that has grown there, and for the views we enjoy in that place.
Every day, I still see gravestones I have not seen before. I still think about the lives of these others who have gone before us.
Our walk has been a ritual, a holy time, in its own way. What rituals have you received or developed during the past 16+ months?