Meanwhile, in another old cemetery in Maine, the Earth is pocked with lichen-covered tombstones. This boneyard is not as orderly and cared for as the one I visited yesterday. An old stone wall lines only a portion of the back, then drops off and crumbles into nothing. It is the crumbling of the stone that stays ever in my mind, crumbling and crumbling. There is no separation between the designated area for the dead and the forest behind it. And the animals know it.
“Order! We must have order!” screams the old undertaker as he stands at the entrance of the boneyard. There was no one to take him under when he passed, as he did for so many others, and hence he stands at the entrance centuries later, still directing the dead. A measuring stick is held firmly in his bony claw as he measures each member for their last dance.
The living tried to organize the place. “We shall put these headstones all in a row,” they said. “Let us make tight and orderly lines!” Grave after grave, they did their best to make order out of chaos. Each time, the order fell quickly into ruin because the dead are not known for staying put. And so in different parts of the old cemetery, you can see where an attempt at order was made, only to be foiled once again.
Like a macabre version of Stonehenge, the tombstones shift and dance around their blackened ballroom, the order long since forgotten and the Earth shifting slowly to the music. Stones fall over and some wear down to tiny nubs, the only markers of the passing of yet another person. The historians do not visit this place as they visit Stonehenge. If they were to do so, would they make the same assumption? “It is a place of religion, of ritual, of sacrifice. It is a stone calendar marking the equinoxes.” What might they say of the dancing stones in this old cemetery?
One of the tombstones has a hand pointing upward, and the engraving says, “Yonder is my home.” The cemetery gives us religion. Another group of stones line up tall and straight like the Revolutionary War soldiers whose graves they cover. The cemetery gives us ritual. The smaller stones mark the passing of children who might not have died had there been antibiotics back then. The cemetery gives us sacrifice. The sun hits the headstones and the shadows slant long and point to the hidden comings and goings in the forest behind the dark ballroom. The cemetery gives us the calendar.
“Order! We must have order!” the undertaker screams again. Somewhere a band strikes up an old waltz in an effort to bring the dancers of the dark ballroom back into line. The stones dance slowly, ever so slowly over the years. Decades pass, and then centuries come and go. Eventually, the stones wear down to nothing and blow away into the wind, and order is at last reestablished, the landscape clear again and waiting for the next dance.
|Yonder is my home.|