Saturday, November 08, 2003

Memento Mori

It's a cold, bright, windy Saturday. All day, non-stop, the ugly drone of leaf-blowers wrecks the peace. Next door, at the home of the ill woman, a small crowd goes at the leaves with rakes. Members of her church. Our tall, grave neighbor had said that, if we see cars coming and going, it will be parishioners coming to help out. A row of leaf bags, like worshipers in a pew standing for the doxology, line the sidewalk now. I am moved by the care of her sangha.

Our own leaves still flood the yard. Irregular piles mount against the fence and garage, and strange bare patches appear at the corners of the house. The yard man will come with HIS leaf blowers soon. I will be complicit in the cacaphony. Two years ago I raked. Last year, after a minor fall downstairs, I couldn't. This year, serendipitously, lazily, I hired the yard man even before I broke my neck.

I remember the satisfaction of filling the leaf bags, and the sight of them at the curbside.

Recently, replacing the broken book-case in the living room, we unearthed a book -- "Wandering in Eden," by Michael Adam, that I cannot even remember buying. The sticker on the front says "Filene's Basement" and $.50. Maybe it was DK's. It's dated 1976, and it's subtitled "Three Ways to the East Within Us." It's got some lovely passages on the Tao and Zen -- on oneness, and the myriad things, and on the Zen of everydayness -- and even has the Simone Weil quote about imagination "filling up the spaces through which grace might pass." It's full of lovely black and white reproductions of Chinese paintings.

I decided to go for a walk, and decided to walk through the cemetary rather than brave the cold all the way to the river. (I like, as Glenn Gould calls it, the "Idea of North" more than the experience of North.) There are headstones from as long ago as the early 1700's, and many tell of early deaths. One, the stone announces, from "smallpox." Many stones from the 1700s depict blandly staring death-heads at the top, the later ones graceful willow sprays. The newest ones are solid and imposing , like 1950's automobiles. Two stones, side by side, simply said "husband" and "wife." No names. The cemetary's surrounded by little suburban back yards. In one some children were bouncing on a trampoline. Their dog, spotting me, barked and barked, running back and forth, hurling itself at the chainlink. It did not stop until I'd disappeared from its sight over the crest of a hill.

Then I came home. Nearly fell on my face again, tripping on a curb.

And now the sun's going down, it's still loud, and it's geting colder. I've been in the Albert DeSalvo strangulation apparatus six weeks today and I certainly hope he does not hold me to another full six weeks. It could, however, be worse.

(Apparantly, I am on the cutting edge of a genre of fetishism ! Who'd ever have imagined it. )

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