Contrasts


We walk in the mornings before the sun is hot, the baby, the dog, and I.

Our route leads up the hill behind our house, past a church and a cemetery, then winds back down the hill and past the cemetery again, to home (which isn’t saying much because this town is in a dip between hills, and most roads lead up hills crowned with churches and cemeteries).

From the top of the hill, where groundhogs and rabbits graze in flowering clover just feet from the safety of the woods and underbrush, you can see all of town spread out below, and mist curling up out of other folds and dips between the hills.

Always we pass runners, which excites the baby; and other dog walkers, which excites both the baby (who doesn’t speak yet but barks at the dogs we pass) and the dog. We’re starting to know them: Phyllis who walks her two bulldogs, Brutus and Baby, when it’s very early or late in the evening; the man with the foxhound who says it isn’t one; the man with the boxer that’s maybe a pit? he isn’t sure but he suspects; the old man carrying the tiny white poodle who tells me to be glad I don’t have this one, that has to be carried when the sun is hot.

Always everything around us is very much alive, as only a summer morning can be.

Today we watched a tan car pull into the cemetery: an old car, I didn’t notice the make but it was quiet, mundane. A women was driving, I could see that much from the road. The car pulled into the first lane between headstones and sat there for a minute, idling on the pavement. The women didn’t get out, or cut the engine; she just sat and looked.

On Monday we’d seen the backhoe slice into the green grass, cutting a scar into the dirt and into someone’s heart. It was working where she paused today.

And as our road turned away I saw her move on, leaving behind the fresh grave, the new headstone. Ahead a groundhog slipped noiselessly down a path in the vetch.

It’s always like that, I think: life and death contrasted, the living so close to the dying.

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