Anyone who has read Plant Whatever Brings You Joy knows I’ve not shied away from addressing the full spectrum of life in the garden, which includes the passing away and letting go that comes bound into our life contract. Flowers, beloved puppies and cats, trees, and, ultimately, our own dear bodies. Having entrusted myself with much of the writing of the final chapters of my Grandmother’s life, who lived to be 100 years old, I learned a lot! One of those lessons was the sacred duty of how to handle her final resting place, once she had departed. Fortunately, and amazingly, in her case, her father, who died a month after she was born (thus 100 years prior!) had dutifully and lovingly purchased a family plot which I had access to for her. And so she was buried a century later with her Danish father, Norwegian mother and baby sister, Rendena Helena. Lesson duly noted.
The truth is I’d been rather scouting cemeteries for years in both Sonoma and Mendocino Counties. There is a tiny one surrounded by an old fashioned iron fence that sits on a hillside that can be seen from the highway. Utterly enchanting. And utterly closed, I’d learned. I’d considered two in the town of Mendocino itself, but upon learning at Mendocino Botanical Gardens that (supposedly) 40 acres of land was swept into the ocean by a tsunami, only just north of the cemeteries, I thought, uh, no. As the family historian, this would not do. At all.
And then organically I found myself drawn to a pioneer cemetery in the heart of Mendocino County. I found this spot, which is a certified nature habitat, to be a place of comfort, solace, beauty and intrigue. And, interestingly, years later my daughter had the same response, as she would find herself going there to meditate. It has a very old feel to it, there is an extended family of deer who live among the tombstones and towering trees, and ravens and woodpeckers find easy refuge among the branches. At the far edge is a California vineyard; at another edge a school playground, and, thus the sounds of children playing is a common and unexpected sound by day. At dusk older children come and stand beneath the trees to meet and chat and have a sense of privacy.
And, so, I inquired. And, yes, a very old section of the cemetery had recently opened up and so a family plot was secured. I then took it upon myself to design my own gravestone, working with a company in Seattle, choosing a certain granite, a pattern, and the script, adding a line from a song I once wrote, adapting it to my own life and choices. I was there when they laid it in the ground, which seemed at the time a precious and light hearted task, rendered by two kind men who keep the grounds. It was not a bit solemn, however. But very respectful. It lies just below a very old cedar tree, a beauteous feat of nature.
I am pleased and at peace with this choice. Nearby grows a towering redwood. A small chapel stands ready to greet those who have reason to come.
Both my daughter and I are aware that there are many stories here. We both feel the same thing. Now my own story is being woven among them.
I want to reassure my friends and readers that I am fine and well, and even more-so knowing I’ve written this chapter of my life, having made loving arrangements that will ease the lives of those who remain for their time on Earth, which at the moment includes me! I could never know how this all unfolds, in actuality, and surrender to my own destiny. But meanwhile I’ve entered into a spiritual endeavor we each will encounter, by taking conscious, creative, and loving care of myself and my family.
On Memorial Day I decided that with all the graves I might have tended all too far away, I would visit briefly my own. Why not? When I arrived I found someone had poked a fake green shamrock into the ground just above my headstone and I laughed, saying out loud, “Someone is tending my grave already and I’m not even dead yet.” That tickled me.
I cleaned the granite of cedar leaves, dug up a wayward clover (of the naughty variety), and took note of the adjacent headstones. I noted with interest that Mr. M. had been buried, and his wife’s name was also on his stone, but apparently she was still alive. I wondered if our paths would ever cross?
Finished with my visit, I decided to drive a bit about the narrow roads that crisscrossed the cemetery, taking time to exit and snap the little deer above. I grinned, as this is actually where I felt safe to get used to driving my new Jeep last year. I joked, “If anything goes wrong, I won’t have far to go!” Satisfied, I drove one more time back to my own plot, and lo and behold, Mrs. M. was tending her husband’s grave! (It was Memorial Day, afterall!) I exited the car, noting she also drives a Jeep, and extended my hand to her, “You must be Mrs. M.! I was wondering if I might ever meet you!” We chatted a bit, and I noticed then she had two dogs in her car. More synchronicities! She said, “Maybe we will see each other again.” I flashed her a big smile, “Yes! On the other side!”
Yesterday I returned to do something I’d been planning for quite some time–to introduce violets into the grounds around my headstone. Will they withstand the deer? It’s chancey, but perhaps! I’m hoping so!
Love and summer blessings,
Book News: The summer issue of GreenPrints has been published and editor Pat Stone, who was longtime gardening editor of Mother Earth News has included an excerpt from Plant Whatever Brings You Joy, which he has illustrated with an original drawing! Thank you, Pat!
Posted on June 6th, 2014 by Kathryn
Filed under: People at Life | 10 Comments »