Friday, January 7, 2011
By no means are all of Mount Auburn Cemetery's stones perfect. Some, with all apologies to the interred, are perfectly hideous.
I don't know what the hot cross buns of stone are meant to represent, but I'm missing it. Poor Sister. Just a hop-skip away from the elegant ammonite. I am so designing my own headstone.
Kris and I looked long and hard for the metamorphosis stone she'd found and saved to show me. I was a little crestfallen to find the butterfly and caterpillar clearly rendered innocent of any reference to their true appearance. Still, a nice concept, even if the larva's prolegs and adult's segmentation and wing overlap are all so, so wrong. Being a Science Chimp can seriously get in the way of appreciating such things. Mostly, it enhances, but sometimes it hinders.
I was delighted to find this stone on the ridge near Spectacle Pond, where I saw my first of a lifetime of great binocular-fuls. It was a May morning, probably 1978. I was focused on my first-ever (life, in bird parlance) summer tanager, an orangey-green immature male with patches of red molting in. I was already hyperventilating when a male ruby-throated hummingbird flew into the scene and stabbed at the young tanager. Little did I know one day I'd live where summer tanagers sing lazily as they masticate yellowjackets in late June; where I'd have to swat the hummingbirds away to get in the front door. I felt my life was complete with that one vision; didn't know it could get any better.
That's living in the moment.
Some stones are heart-grippingly beautiful in their simplicity and hidden meaning. I took an introductory humanities course with William Alfred, and this tabula mysteriosa is perfect. It's perched unprepossessingly on the flank of "Harvard Hill," where the University's nearest and dearest rest. Kris found that, too, when she found our beloved former Dean Archie Epps' stone, and noticed that everyone around him had a connection to Harvard.
Kris remarked as we marveled that she had never seen God described as a deep but dazzling darkness--isn't He supposed to be the Light?-- anywhere but on Alfred's stone. Oh, the sun blowing its celestial trumpet, eyes crossed in effort! And that banner: DEATH IS UNDONE BY LOVE
Well, if you've ever lost someone who lives in your heart and thoughts every single day (DOD) what can you do but wipe your eyes at that?
William Alfred, who left us in 1999, just as my bright spirit Liam entered. I like his choice of "Teacher" instead of "Professor."
For those who have trouble deciphering, it says:
There is in God (some say)
A deep but dazzling darkness-
O for that night! where I in him
Might live invisible and dim.
Right up there with my favorite stones in this magical place.
There is the stone of a woman who was a book illustrator in the 1960's--so clearly indicated by the stylized birds that dance across her slate. Very Leonard Baskin, by my appraisal. Very beautiful. It overlooks Spectacle Pond, where I first heard the burbling song of a ruby-crowned kinglet.
Birds are everywhere in Mount Auburn; this is why I first came here, to watch them. I could barely see the stones for the warblers, vireos and tanagers. Now, having seen a surfeit of birds, I still come here for them, and everything.
Oh look. Who's been here?
Last spring's robin, of course. A robin would do that.