Friday, August 6, 2010

magpie tales: the living, the dead & those in between

my shoes ring on the cobblestone aisle that leads through the wrought iron gates of the city cemetery, then crunch on the freshly mulched path to the left winds through monuments to our city's history. a mammoth white column from the first baptist church, the old well cap, venus slowly oxidizing in teal, they, and many others, stand silent watch to the passage of time, to the coming and going of the living and the dead.

entering the children's section, i find the wooden swing hanging from the great tree gently rocking as if one of little spirits is taking a final turn to reach the sky. i sit, begging their pardon as i take their place. i come here for peace, and this section is my favorite place among the acres of the dead. it is on the highest peak, overlooking the remaining area.

i pendulum forward and backward, the old ropes creak as they bite into the limb that supports us. tilly, a pixie bob cat, guardian of the cemetery, winds her way up the hill, past the koi pond and old chapel, to greet me. she will follow me, as she does with most visitors, anywhere i go within her domain. her cries are tender, providing what comfort she can.

on the next hill, in the newer part of the cemetery, one grave catches my eye, seeming draped in color. tilly and i meander in that direction, through the tight packed regiments of identical marble tombstones where the civil war soldiers lay. as we draw near, i stop in the shadows of an old oak, leaning against its strength to watch what we now realise is a woman.

she lay prostrate across the green grass below the head stone, twisting her fingers through it as if it were her lover's hair. she is talking, though i can only hear small caches of words. spreading herself across the whole of the plot, she embraces what can only be the one to whom she is speaking.

retrieving clippers from a canvas bag, she delicately trims and shapes the turf, with the same care and intimacy of shaving another. i feel like a peeping tom watching her love making with whatever spirit still haunts her, but my feet refuse to uproot from their position, or my eyes avert from their attention. with a spade she bites into the soil on each side of the stone, turning it so she can plant fresh flowers, adorning her love in living jewels.

she accentuates and feeds them with glittering diamonds of water from an old metal watering can, spilling the remains across her hands, rivulets running brown with soil of her labors. now clean, she presses her wet hands to her face, absorbing the cool of the water, though doing little to quench the passion that still coils within.

again she covers the hallow ground with herself, then rolls onto her back staring into the cloudless blue sky. the spell is broken, and i slip once more back the way i came. i have found my peace for the day, though i am not sure about her. i don't know whether to pity her loss and the chains that bind her to it or to be happy she has that anchor still in this world until they meet again

my shoes ring on the cobblestone aisle that leads out of the wrought iron gates of the city cemetery, back to the land of the living.

This is a Magpie Tale

96 comments:

CM said...

So descriptive, I feel like I was there leaning against an old oak tree too.

So many emotions this evoked for me. I wasn't really sure where you were going as you wondered through the cemetery. When you got to the children's section, I felt a knot in my throat for fear of where that was leading. Then, as you made your way to the newer section and saw the painful scene with the woman, I felt oh so much sympathy for her and her pain.

What a haunting and intriguing story, yet again. Great magpie!

lakeviewer said...

Amother great tale of suspense and mystery. Love what you did with the watering can.

Tattered and Lost said...

A cemetery really is for the living, isn't it?

Nicely done.

Baino said...

Hmm not sure I'd go to a cemetery for medidation, then I don't visit the dead at all. I prefer to remember them as living. Nicely woven. You got all that from a watering can?

Brian Miller said...

it was really rather a surreal day...i do like to go to the city cemetary and this is a pretty apt description of it...and the lady was quite intriguing...i took my notebook and kept writing little verses along the way and kinda combined many of them into one for this one...

The Bug said...

I like cemeteries - I like to imagine the lives those folks lived. But it's really hard to be among (or one of) the recently bereaved. My mom didn't want a grave because she was afraid that her best friend would come & obsessively sit by it. And she would have. I'm not sure we did her any favors though, taking away that place for her to go.

TALON said...

Thanks for taking me along on your walk. I felt for that woman...and the love that binds her.

AngelMay said...

Cemeteries are quiet. Good places for meditation. Their inhabitants are always well-behaved and never disturb your peace. Interesting scene, Brian. Well told.

The Urban Cowboy said...

Very descriptive, I too felt as if I was watching the woman from a distance.

Tracy said...

I so missed your posts.

Joanna Jenkins said...

You brought the cemetery so alive. It was kind of haunting and kept me reading to the very end.
Nice job.
jj

Bernie said...

Brian I have been that woman lying across the grave with a broken heart willing my loved ones presence. You wrote as if you had my experience.....her grief is raw and eventually she will rise up to acceptance. Wonderful post my friend......:-) Hugs

Stafford Ray said...

So glad she didn't see you. We do many things we would rather were private. Difficult in a cemetry. You captured her private grief and the simple act of planting flowers so well.

Rene/ Not The Rockefellers said...

Whenever I visit my father's grave it is amazing how many people I run into that I haven't seen in years. There is also this one lady who still spends her Sundays with her beloved who has passed. There she sits on her folding chair, reading the Sunday paper.Yankee game on the radio..just another Sunday afternoon.

Peace ~ Rene

kathew said...

wow- all that from a simple watering can! Well done-bravo!

Christina said...

You detailed words weave a picture in my mind. Reminds me of the old cemetery from my home town. Good one Brian.

Selina Kingston said...

Oh Brian, you have touched me so deeply with this - more than you could ever know

sagirl said...

Beautifully written, Brian. I feel as if I was there too, watching the watcher, so to speak. You are so gifted.

The Flying Chalupa said...

How refreshing and beautiful. A real event? A story? It doesn't even matter - it's captivating. Aren't cemeteries so mysterious and inviting?
ps - thanks for visiting the other day!

LadyFi said...

Wow - so powerful and emotive. Very tender and moving!

ninotaziz said...

Absorbing.

And the narrator - were they ghost from the past too?

Zuzana said...

This is one of my favorite pieces of yours. It was so wonderfully poetic, full of melancholic longing and sadness of a loss. You have a way with words, comparing grass to a lover's hair and water to diamonds.
I read it while the radio was coincidentally playing an instrumental version of *Moon River* and for some reason the sound complimented your words in an unusually impeccable way. Made me almost cry.,,
Have a lovely weekend;)
xo

Valerie said...

An emotional journey. I felt I was there, witnessing the pain of that woman. Your words conjure up a reader's emotions ... brilliant.

Betty said...

venus slowly oxidizing in teal - beautiful!

Claudia said...

You ARE a terrific writer Brian Miller!
All those emotions - the scenery - the atmosphere..
love cemeteries as well - especially the old ones and i love to read what is engraved on the stones - telling histories of the past

Maha said...

i like that style ofyours in short stories, how youalways manage to make them mysterious.

Dianne said...

This is so beautiful and moving... very nicely written...

Paul C said...

You set the scene so perfectly in this story where a woman finds a vital connection.

slommler said...

Beautiful with a nice surprise! The woman, laid out...embracing her loved one. She would have my rapt attention as well!
Hugs
SueAnn

Shrinky said...

Oh Brian, such imagery here. Your writing plucks the heart from our soul, you carry it gently in the palm of your hand, tho' careful enough never to bruise, you always etch a lingering mark there.

Beautiful.

TechnoBabe said...

Great writing. By standing back and witnessing the tender care and the emotions of a stranger she is no longer a stranger because you have shared something intimate. Even from afar. You write in such a way to tug at the heart. More than tug.

Paul Andrew Russell said...

Very nice, Brian. I especially liked

'...a pixie bob cat, guardian of the cemetery, winds her way up the hill, past the koi pond and old chapel, to greet me. she will follow me,...'

Cemeteries are such peaceful and beautiful places that appear at odds with the sadness they represent.

Birdie said...

I love the title so much Brian!! I have felt some times like 'those in between' ... as a child I used to go for a walk to the cemetery with my parents every weekend, to light the candles for those who have gone before us, there was something peaceful about these visits ... I also did love this sentence "so she can plant fresh flowers, adorning her love in living jewels." ... beautiful post Brian

Tony Single said...

I'd love to have a Tilly following me everywhere... nice, Brian.

Vicki Lane said...

Beautifully told, Brian! Love the image of Venus slowly oxidizing in teal!

Systematic Weasel said...

An awesome story filled with description! Nice magpie!

-Weasel

CatLadyLarew said...

How beautiful, Brian! What rich imagery you've captured.

Jill said...

Oh the deep anguish of longing for one's love long gone. There is peace in caring for the place where their earthly remains lay...I love cemeteries and the many stories they tell.
Well done Brian.

Nessa said...

Vivid and haunting and extremely Gothic.

Sam Liu said...

Graveyards are haunting, yet beautiful, solemn and mysterious places. They fascinate me, when I went to visit a family friend's grave, I walked around for a while, reading the headstones. It was so breathtaking to read the names of people who have passed away - some had died only last year, and other headstones reported that their inhabitants had died many hundreds of years ago.

Your wonderfully written story completed brought me back to that memory. Your writing is transporting.

Magpie said...

I, too, find peace in cemeteries. I love reading the headstones and thinking of the lives lived and lost.
As a testament to your writing skills, I blushed while reading about the woman tending the grave. As if I were there and caught spying somehow.

Miss Nikki said...

Unbelievable! Your words are like magic. Great tale... Wonderfully written, I am an admirer!

Mona said...

This reminds me of Philip Larkin's famous poem, "Church Going" where the author feels that despite the present day agnosticism, ppl will still visit churches to feel wizened in the company of the dead men buried there!

Daniel said...

Though it was not the key part of your story, your description of the old swing got to me. ... "taking a final turn to reach the sky". I hate thinking about death or that I will someday join those ranks, but even worse is thinking about children in this regard. Although your words were beautiful, part of me wishes that I could erase these newly roused images from my mind.

Lori said...

As I read it felt like I was there watching it all. A knot in my throat as I felt her pain. Great words Brian. Hope you and yours have a good weekend. :)

william said...

cant get any better than this Brian, almost felt I was there, well I was your story was captivating, bravo :)

God Whispers said...

I have always found cemetery's fascinating. My last job, I worked near one and on my lunch hour would always walk the path at the cemetery. A few times being a spectator myself at a funeral going on. Blessings to you Brian.

Suz said...

great sense of place

Tumblewords: said...

Haunting piece. I love your use of words.

Lyn said...

Original and touching in so many ways...what world was she in, I wonder..you are a great observer!

Angie Muresan said...

Oh, this is a beautiful read. Cemeteries, the old European ones, have fascinated me from a young age.

Teri said...

It seems that the two of us (and probably more) have been in cemeteries lately, me with my post about Square Lockett, you with this. Always great stuff coming from you, Brian.

sheri said...

to have watched her would certainly appeared voyeuristic but her obvious pain and longing made it seems as if he was simply drawn into the moment. this really was a beautiful piece, brian!

Helen said...

Brian ... this was mesmerizing ....

Tom said...

what a scene...

ds said...

Lovely scene: I can see it, feel it all--from the pendulum (nice!) swing, to the woman. Wonderful magpie; wonderful story. Thank you.

daylily (Queenmothermamaw) said...

reminds me of a picture I just saw on the internet of a woman sleeping beside her dead solder husband's coffin while it was lying in state.
Such writing. I enjoy your stories so much and all from the watering can.
QMM

sheila said...

Another reason to love cemeteries.
:o)
Beautiful

Teresa said...

I too felt like a peeping Tom as I read this. You are very descriptive. Awesome!

Help! Mama Remote... said...

Wow. She would have scared me out of there!

she said...

eerie, a bit creepy, sad, intense. My kind of writing, Brian. I like how you are not afraid to go to the dark part of your imagination when you write. I am the same way.

Patience said...

hauntingly beautiful and so sad. I felt like i was right there, walking the graveyard in the moon light. I reall enjoyed reading this.

Susan Deborah said...

The last days the internet had bouts of mood-swings which made me unable to stop by and now I am glad. Glad to find that it is only a cobblestone path between the living and the dead. I like spending time in cemeteries as well. There is a strange kind of peace there. It is also a less crowded space of the city with abundance of shade and quiet.

Hope the Sunday is peaceful and happy.

Joy always,
Susan

Arian T said...

wonderful story with insightful images. you're a maximalist writer brian. this reminds me of annie dillard's pilgrim at tinker creek.

Felicitas said...

What a beautifully told tale, Brian! I REALLY enjoyed this one.

Who Is Afraid of Alfred Hitchcock? said...

Hi! Brian-
Once again, I agree with the previous commenters...your story is very descriptive,very well-written,and very poignant.
Thanks, for sharing!
DeeDee ;-D

only a movie said...

Very nice, brian. I can picture it...

only a movie said...

Very nice, brian. I can picture it...

signed...bkm said...

so much said here about our ties others - love that binds us and pulls at us until - with grace we meet again...well written indeed...bkm

chiccoreal said...

Dear Brian: The observational descriptions of the grieving widow; so artfully rendered. The beginning (the prologue) and the end (the epilogue) a refreshing curtain call and scene change. Just in time to close the chapter on this woman's personal reaction to death and loss. The water can a stirring motif and a blessing of water;
"she accentuates and feeds them with glittering diamonds of water from an old metal watering can, spilling the remains across her hands". Original visuals, fantastic read, great depth of feeling and detail! Master class writing skills!

Catherine said...

You painted quite a beautiful picture with your words. Loved it

Janice said...

Very powerful and moving. You have such an amazing style and are so cleverly creative...using pendulum as a verb, for example. I loved this magpie tale.

Caty said...

I've always loved cemeteries. It's nice to be in a place where people are at peace. This was a terrific story!

Linda said...

We took a walk one day and ended up in an old cemetery. Quite interesting imagining the people who once lived and stood there. Many graves were 1800's, and some earlier. So much history in a cemetery, and you captured some of it. People hundreds of years from now will wonder who stood there long ago.

kkrige said...

nice magpie brian

JamieDedes said...

Simply beautiful. Profoundly moving. Lovingly wrought. Thanks, Brian.

PattiKen said...

This is hauntingly beautiful, Brian. And being a cat person, I love the little touch you added with Tilly. Cats know things.

Lena said...

Wow Brian, that was a fabulous story - the detail was stunning.

'as if one of little spirits is taking a final turn to reach the sky'

That line gobsmacked me!

madamebutterfly said...

Lovely sad post Brian

Prayer Girl said...

It's a good thing I wrote and posted my first Magpie Tale BEFORE I read your offering OR I might have felt totally inadequate and just never did it.

However, in the spirit of fun and learning I am glad I took a try at it. I think your Magpie tale is exquisite.

PG

Everyday Goddess said...

you are just so amazingly good at this, i even forgot it was a magpie!

Nakoah said...

Danse Macabre in words, Bravo.
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-LupmmElMoI&feature=related)
Gets me in the mood to reread "The Graveyard Book"

Mighty M said...

Stunning visualization. Great piece.

moondustwriter said...

Watching seeming intrusive and yet at the same time healing; Preparing the speaker for days ahead.

Nicely woven my friend

Chrissy said...

Brian this piece was so brilliant and touched me so deeply...

When I lost my son this past March I had a difficult time with the concept that I was leaving my baby buried beneath the soil rather than scooping him in my arms and carrying him home. I was so haunted by my thoughts and visions of his fragile body there beneath the earth. Especially on the rainy nights. I just wanted to go there and claw at the dirt with my bare hands until I reached him. I had wished we had, had him cremated.

Then as the weather started to warm a little...I knew I needed to get over my fear. I decided to go to some old local cemeteries and clean them up...picking up sticks, trash, raking etc... I started to see stories evolve from the headstones...especially the family plots. Families, where it was chronicled there in stone that parents had buried more than one baby, toddler, preschooler, teenager etc... Some families had buried ALL their children and young wives and their children with their 2nd wife as well. Just not meant to be for some I guess...

I did not know them yet I KNEW them all too well. I grieved for them as I raked and imagined all their pain and heartache. It was cathartic to know that I was not alone in my grief. That others who gone on before me and had long since passed away, had endured many losses and left their loved ones buried there beneath the earth as a testimony to LIFE!

After a few weeks of lending a hand in the cemeteries I was okay with the thought that my child would someday be a testimony for some other grieving mother who might happen to stumble upon his burial. I could finally rest in that knowledge. And was no longer haunted by desire to dig him up and bring him home.

A little gothic I know but grief is a strange animal...

Thanks Brian for reminding me how far I have come in my grieving process!!! <3 :)

rel said...

Brian,
Cemeterys and the watering can; conversations with relatives and friends, relatives mostly: from May to November is part of my weekly routine. Thanks for the stroll it felt good!
rel

Kavita said...

I am happy for her.. she finds solace in the soil there... for she knows, he is right by her side.. just a few inches away...

Such a fine read! The details in the description were amazing! It was like I was at the scene myself! It was almost poetic! Lovely!!
Very well done, Brian... Kudos!!!

Syd said...

I have felt something similar when I visit the family cemetery in Virginia. But I remember that the soul has gone. I feel comforted to know that and not have to grieve broken dead flesh.

Pat said...

I am blown away with your imagination and your descriptions - so vivid! I was standing right along beside you under that tree! What exquisite writing!

Jennifer said...

As always Brian, your prose makes me smile with its gorgeousness. I love this story not because it's beautifully told, but because I find similar peace in cemeteries. Oh the ghosts that must be in that one!

And I love the water "glittering diamonds" - diamonds is a metaphor I've often used to describe the sun on water.

Always a pleasure.

AmyLK said...

What a lovely story! I had the picture in my mind of it. You certainly are talented.

Teresa O said...

This is an amazing story and one I've witnessed for real. I'd forgotten about the young woman who lay prone, spread-eagled over a grave in a cemetery her fingers just touching the headstone until I read your hauntingly beautiful story. Perhaps this is not as unusual as I thought it was at the time.

Superb writing!

Marti said...

Love it. Well done! I am pleased to meet you...you came to visit my blog from the Magpie. Looking forward to reading more!

annell said...

That was really an amazing piece of writing. I loved the introduction of the kitty, I think they are ministers to us. Thank you. It's never easy to talk of loss and death. Just too close to life, it is.

willow said...

Lovely visions can be seen in cemeteries!

Marla said...

I have got to stop reading this stuff at midnight...