The gloriously overgrown back fence—haphazardly dressed with wild vegetation and the last of summer’s deep purple morning glories—is thickly lined with an assortment of native textured trunks topped with colorful leafy canopies. A favorite among these I call the “candle tree”, for the top branches all grow straight up like candle adornments ready to celebrate a birthday.
Beyond the “candle tree” and the festooned fence, a pasture stretches to a far distant gnarled apple orchard that welcomes our arrival at the old churchyard cemetery. We like to visit the community’s history laid to rest here, especially at this time of All Hallows’ Day dedicated to remembering the saints (the “hallows”) and all departed.
Recently, in a nearby town, we attended a memorial service for hallowed Pat, a beloved elder remembered by many. Mother to a musician and nurturer to all his music-making friends, Pat was sent over with the singing of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” accompanied by strings and drums and keyboard. As tears flowed the air was light with laughter, remembering happy times before Pat was laid to rest in her special place.
There are many hallows remembered and laid to rest in our churchyard cemetery beyond Paradise. Here aged grave stones are beautifully etched. Many are so weathered their words are fading but still telling of their saints long passed—infants and children leaving too early, as well as beloved spouses gone over, some nearly together and others decades apart.
The old markers, scattered across the drying grass look like random miniature stanchions blown by time to leaning and tilting, some even falling over. In the midst of this quasi-ordered chaos, a massive limestone rectangle supports a monumental slab topped with a few lichen-encrusted stones gathered, reverently lifted and placed like offerings to be cherished.
Together, grand and small, these make an altar as massive, semi-abstract and forever as a Henry Moore stone sculpture drawing an analogy between human bodies and the landscape that supports them—reminding us that from this earth we are brought forth and to this earth we shall return, while hallowed seasons come and go and celebrate the art of going over.