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Walking Cemetery

Fall Morning in a Portsmouth Cemetary, New Hampshire, USA by Jerry Monkman

Fall Morning in a Portsmouth Cemetary, New Hampshire, USA by Jerry Monkman

Gray headstones stand silent sentry over buried loved ones. My German shepherd makes no distinction between them and any other rock-strewn landscape. This is just an open field where he runs, chasing crows and squirrels. He never catches them. The crows easily escape, flying off to safer havens, and the squirrels, too fast, too alert, make haste to the tree-lined buffer between the cemetery and the housing developments that border this little sanctuary. This is the only patch of open space left in my neighborhood.

The Polish Catholic Cemetery is a beloved place. Plots where generations lay side by side are tenderly taken care of by family. Fresh sprung tulips, Memorial Day planters, or crimson Christmas poinsettias fade with the seasons, and then, steadfastly are replaced. The dog notices none of this, only aware of his pure delight in the daily opportunity to run. I am grateful for this space that gives both of us something to value in life, a space to roam.

I walk around this cemetery every morning and evening. Round and round we go, hugging the edge. I am careful to tread lightly; we wouldn’t want to wear out our welcome. My pocket contains a plastic bag; not everyone loves dogs, and I try to leave no trace behind.

The path through the woods is only about one hundred fifty yards long. This buffer connects to a larger wetland beyond, and so, for a few moments we can walk under the boughs of the oaks, feel the breeze through the underbrush, and relish the crackle of leaves. This little band of wilderness is perilously close to backyard barbeques and patio furniture, but if I gaze just right, we are momentarily transported to a place where forests and farms have not yet been cultivated into half-acre yards.

In the spring, purple and white violets speckle the cemetery’s lawn. Olive moss grows where the grass does not. I am glad that the cemetery caretaker doesn’t overuse insecticides and fertilizers, so that robins can feast on worms after heavy rain and wildflowers have a chance to blossom. A thick-bellied bumblebee is no match for my dog, easily distancing itself from his inquisitive nose. A mother fox crisscrosses the cemetery while school children wait for the bus across the way. A limp squirrel hangs from her mouth, most likely breakfast for her kits hidden somewhere not far away.

As we start home, I think of those buried here, and I’m grateful for the life that continues around them. Do these grandparents and fathers, these mothers, daughters, and sons, understand the gift of their burial ground? This plot of ground, once nestled between farms and forest and now surrounded by new developments and growing families, has become a sanctuary for the living. It is a tribute to the souls resting here and an honor to share this peaceful space.

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Author Bio: CAROLINE WOLFE is a pen name under which author, Marcia Roth Tucci, writes about love, marriage, motherhood and self-discovery. The pen name represents her authentic voice, free from association of her married and paternal names, and links to her maternal heritage. Caroline Wolfe is the voice of a woman, any woman, and the essays explore moments of truth in the life of the author and women around her.

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1 comment to Walking Cemetery

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