It made me appreciate even more the brilliance of the coaches. What better way to infuse young teenagers with a gratitude and love for their strength and beauty than to present them with a meditation on the mortality of their own bodies?
I grew up under the shadow of Harold and Maude which means I take a certain pleasure in cemeteries.
With a little help from Apple Maps I end up in the Santa Rosa Memorial Park. I like the name. It’s almost as good as the antiquarian graveyard, but with the sense that we go there to recreate and remember.
Today I do both.
My first circuit takes me through the new area of the park, utilitarian and efficient like everything else of the 21st century: neat rows of flat plaques are set into tightly trimmed grass and adorned with plastic flowers, revealing the restrictions again any sort of plantings. Clearly only one thing is intended to be planted here.
Which gives pleasure when I catch the click and whir of the sprinkler systems.
The dead have no shortage of wisdom. And I like them for that.
And there’s no shortage of loss in this place. And probably no shortage of entreaties. Please help. Someone. Please. Just help.
On the periphery of the yard, I catch sight of a memorial bench. The fellow was only 51 when he went on. But a good guy he was. He promises me, a complete stranger, that in exchange for my visit, he’ll forever look after me. It’s quite a commitment if you stop to think about it. It’s far greater than any of us can offer to one another. This guy is actually out there. Gosh knows what powers he has.
And he reminds me that it’s okay. I’m on my run. And runs are all about one step at a time. I’m there. I’m with him. And that gives me a strange strength.
His name was Parker.
John Lowe Parker.
It would heed all of us to remember.
I eventually find my way to the old part of the cemetery. And there’s the gem. The whole hilly range has been turned over to a native oak restoration area. Unmaintained, the headstones tilt and fall akilter; the trails settle under deep swaths of fallen leaves. I run through here and absorb the life and the loss and the longing.
Grave, where is thy victory?
There is no death here. Instead, the abundance of autumn and the wealth of these glorious trees.