Reflections & Cemetery Wonderings

2010 came and went in a flurry of monumental events. My Mother moved to Austin, I turned 50, I directed my first Literally Letters program at Ghost Ranch, went to Italy with my daughter, I started a new class called “Sketch Austin,” started drinking coffee for the first time in my life, began classes in African Dance. I taught at the International Calligraphy Conference in Boston, was rejected for an MFA program at UT. I was invited to teach in Italy for 2012; I attended a week-long “Process” personal growth intensive at the Hoffman Institute in Northern California, and completed four sketchbooks.

One experience, however, which effected me most deeply, was an accidental visit to the Wimberley cemetery one Sunday afternoon in early Spring. My Mother and daughter and I decided to take a rode trip in search of wildflowers, so I headed out towards Johnson City. On a whim I decided to turn off at Dripping Springs and go to Wimberley where we were disappointed to find that the flowers weren’t blooming there yet. After a glass of iced tea in a charming cafe, we drove through town looking for a place to turn around. It was then that we happened upon the cemetery. Compelled to stop because of the unusual displays we saw on the gravesights, including tchotkas of all kinds, bird-feeders, hand-carved stones, we got out and wandered around, drawn in to this artful, wacky netherworld whose inhabitants clearly had had more than a sense of humor in life–they also had the delightful audacity to know that even death could not thwart their final self-expression and exclamations of “I AM. Unique!”

The most touching part of our self-guided tour through the cemetery was discovering a stone near the entrance covered with toys and other child memorabilia. It was a young boy’s grave who we were told (by the caretaker who conveniently showed up) had died of a heart attack on Christmas eve. She also told us about the first person buried in the cemetery–on the opposite end–the little Wimberley girl who had died of a rabid skunk bite. We were all moved, and our drive home was quiet, reflective. When I came home that evening I wrote the following directly in a little sketchbook:

Cemetery Wonderings

Some people I met today live six feet under, twenty-five miles away near some mighty fine oaks.
A boy, six years old, dead of a heart attack on Christmas eve. His white stone bore the simple epitath (from the movie Toy Story) “To infinity and Beyond.”
A husband and wife buried next to one another, her feet at his head, a humming bird feeder attached to her headstone.

The little Wimberley girl was eight years old when she died of a rabid skunk bite in the late 1870’s. It was her family’s wish to bury the child under her favorite live oak tree not far from Cyprus Creek, and they were granted permission to do so by the Dobie family who owned the property. The girls’ family were among the founders of the town of Wimberley, and her burial under the big oak tree marked the founding of the Wimberley cemetery.
Does Wimberley girl know her neighbor “Infinity and Beyond,”
His life summed up in action figures lovingly placed and undisturbed around his still unmoving bed?
A carved stone whimsy of a dinosaur looks on–a gargoyle watchman of sorts–
so near the gate he won’t be running through,
an eternity away from his Mama’s loving arms.
To infinity he rises and leaves us with toys
to ponder his life.

She couldn’t know we’d ever think of her,
this child brought back to memory by a chance encounter.
We went looking for bluebonnets and found her story instead,
a rabid skunk and a town named for her family.
She was…
I am not…
And my daughter clung closely to me
as if to stave off the claim eternity has on all of us.

She was only eight after all,
and I miss her full-grown story she never lived,
and yet she grows old along with me
who has just now discovered her to remember.

SZ Spring 2010

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