When the lilies of the valley finally arrive, I take pause and fully immerse myself in the rarest of spring moments. There is a robust patch of the gorgeously-perfumed flowers in a local cemetery, and for the past twelve years I have carved out one or two special mornings in mid May all to myself, for no other purpose than to drown in the sweet scent and to lose myself in the almost meditative state which picking them induces. Until today, that is.
The men that cut the lawn and polish the headstones all know me by now. Each year at this time I stop to say hello and chat for a few minutes, and so I’ve become something of a nodding acquaintance with them. I also know Carol, the elderly woman in the single-room cottage beside the front gate who keeps impeccable hand-written lists of every person who’s either entombed there, or who has plans to be. When I am sitting in the grass, leaning in and picking stems from between the hostas, or even when I am breathing in the powdery-sweet scent of the apple blossoms which top the family plot where the lilies of the valley grow, I don’t ever worry that someone might stop and ask what business I have in being here. I’m respectful, I am grateful for the peaceful surroundings, and I am bearing witness to the deep beauty of the plants and trees which have been intentionally placed there. One might think there’s not a thing wrong with this, and yet…
This morning I was aware of a large, older model domestic vehicle coming to a stop behind me. At first I figured it was just another visitor, but then I realized that someone was trying to get my attention. It was Carol. She likely had not remembered me, although I’ve visited with her a few times in the shack, and although I myself had expressed interest in giving tours of the cemetery… I knew her at once, and I also knew why she had stopped. I was to cease my flower picking. It seems a member of the family from whose plot I was harvesting my bouquet of muget had seen me a few days earlier and mentioned it to her. (My mind went immediately to the fellow whose birth year on a stone there is yet to be followed by a second date.) The family is big in the local bank, one at which my family and I have been doing business for decades, and so at the very least I figured it was no great transgression. I’ve more than paid the value of a few weed-like stems in fees alone! But I guess that’s not the point. As I drove away (in my mind thanking the family for the gift, as I do every year) I realized that yet another era had just come to an end.
Today it’s more than midway through May, and today I know without a doubt that I am more than midway through my life. As Elihu comes to identify more specifically what it is that he wants out of the new life that awaits him, I too find myself more reflective about how it is that I wish to spend my remaining years. I told him yesterday, and I do mean it, that should I find, in the next few years, that I am to die of some unexpected malady, I’m ok with it. “And I’m not being dramatic. I mean it. Of course I can’t really know if I wouldn’t want to fight it, but I don’t think that I would. I have a few things yet that I’d like to accomplish, but overall, I’m ok. I’ve had an amazingly full life.” I paused. “You get that, right?” He said that he did. What a good young man. While a deeply sentimental person, he is also an extremely no-nonsense fellow. I know of no one more pragmatic. And so he believes me, and this gives me some relief.
The two saddest words I can ever hear are “gone by”. When May goes from almost too cool to mid-summer hot, and the blossoms begin to brown at the edges, my heart sinks in a most profound way. As a young girl the words “gone by” would hurt so deeply. Coming to terms with the end of beauty was always a very hard thing for me. I kinda feel like my life is at that point right now. The time where the blossom is giving way to its fruit. That time when the perfume disappears, when the color fades and the organism ceases its show and turns to the task of simply living. I know, it’s a trite and obvious metaphor. But my awareness is there almost every waking moment these days. It’s just how it is. And being at this place in the game now, I don’t see any point in withholding these thoughts of mine. After all, it’s what I’m here for. Hey, it’s probably what you’re here for, too…
I can’t be sure whether it’s due to my uber honest, soul-bearing content or issues with panic – or perhaps even neurological issues which stem from a previously broken neck and one brief but physically intense event last fall – or some combination of them all – but I just experienced a rather unnerving, immediate and frightening electrical sensation through my neck and head while writing the previous sentence. I’ve been having a lot of strange events lately in fact. Having issues with gait and balance. Bad rushes of heart palpitations. Maybe it’s why I shared those feelings with my kid. I dunno. On the whole I’m just kinda tolerating life right now. The way I present to the world on Facebook and Instagram is for the most part highly curated. That might also be what fuels my unease. So I’m trying to keep things as honest as I can in this forum as a means to make sure I don’t mislead the witnesses entirely.
Midway is a challenge. The beautiful bits have faded, the beginning is so far behind, and the ending is potentially any time now. Is this truly midway? Who can ever know? May be… May be not.
(Maybe take a closer look at the monument at the top.)