Friday, October 30, 2009

Daffodils for All Saints

This week I visited the family graves; something we've always done in my family around this time of year to remove weathered decorations and tidy things up for the winter.

I was on a mission. I came armed with gardening tools, some grass seed and a large bag of mixed daffodil bulbs.

Part of my goal was aesthetic: Local and family custom to the contrary, I hate artificial flowers and other assorted manufactured junk on graves. Fellow Traveler and I have warned our extended family that if our graves ever look as if a dollar store vomited on them we are personally coming back to haunt them, and not in a good way. So this year I said "No mas" even to the relatively small and tidy bouquets of silk flowers I have dutifully placed on the relation's gravesites these past years.  Now I'm looking forward to coming back in the spring and seeing bright, cheerful, real flowers. Especially for my Aunt Marian, who was a skilled and enthusiastic gardener; I think they're a fitting tribute to someone who enjoyed them so much in life.

But there's another reason I've suddenly become interested in cemetery perennials.

Fellow Traveler and I have been talking about the possibility of moving out of Michigan. Not anytime soon; not until our house is paid for, at least; but someday. We want to live somewhere with open spaces and four seasons but with progressive values, where our relationship is respected legally as well as socially. We honestly don't see that ever happening in Michigan, a state that used to have a progressive reputation but that in our perception is slipping ever farther backward into the redneck zone.

In our frequent travels to cemeteries to humor Gertie's need for steeplechase games around grave monuments, I notice the untended graves of persons whose families are apparently no longer in the area to care for them. When we were in the Upper Peninsula we came upon an old graveyard, up by Seney, filled with several dozen flat, weathered wooden plaques inscribed simply with the names of men; we figured they were lumberjacks or other itinerant workers who died there in the northern forestland, far from home and family ties. It's a sad thing; but inevitable in our mobile age. On the other hand, I'm always a little cheered when I find a clump of iris or daylilies or violets atop an old, otherwise forgotten grave; once upon a time someone cared enough to leave something lasting, ever-renewing, there before they themselves left.

So I've planted my daffodils. With any luck they'll multiply like the daffodils back at Cold Comfort Cottage.  And even if we leave this area physically, they'll help us continue to honor the ancestors who remain here.

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