Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Freemasons and Oddfellows

Went on another outing in a cemetery this weekend, to look up graves for my Dad's Find A Grave website. Me, Hux, my Dad, the girls, as well as another little girl from the neighborhood. Gorgeous day, cut unfortunately short when all the kids started arguing and we had to go home (that youthful-energy-in the-face-of-death thing I wrote of before cuts both ways).

Outwardly, cemeteries seem to be an march of tombstones with little variation, little room for individuality beyond the names and dates, but time and attention reveal this to be false. Gravestones made of marble, of granite, of concrete, even of wood (found three of those, badly worn, all details long faded). Varying amounts of aging and wear, depending on the type of stone, the age. Symbols abound for Freemasons and Oddfellows. Christian Crosses, praying hands. Mentions of various wars (the Mexican American War the oldest I could find). Engraved pictures of favorite activities of the deceased, mostly fishing and hunting. Quotes, mostly biblical, with a few poems thrown in (Frost's "miles to go before I sleep"), a few personal quotes. Flowers, teddy bears, photos, painted rocks left on the cold earth with love, sorrow, regret, longing. Several had tinsel and Christmas ornaments; one was outlined with ornaments and tinsel and had a large plastic candy cane laid in the center.

The girls are particularly interested in the graves of infants. They've learned to do the math, subtracting the birth date from the death date, and will stand at the gravesites and wonder silently at the little girl who dies at the age of two, the boy who died a month after his birth. You watch them trying to grasp at the magnitude of it all.

Below is a song - ignore the video and just listen - that runs through the closing credits of the Coens' True Grit. I downloaded it immediately after coming home from the theater, and it choked me up the first several times I listened to it. I know the hymn from way back, from my Baptist upbringing. Now, of course, it reminds me of that white clapboard Baptist church in southeastern Oklahoma, that hard red clay, those resolute wildflowers scattered among the stones.


Laurita said...

I love wandering through graveyards. They are peaceful - part spiritual, part historical. I think the graves, especially the older ones, have all sorts of stories to tell.

Fresca said...

I did the same thing! (download Iris Dement when I got home from "True Grit"!)

Speaking of movies--
alas, Peter Weir's latest disappoints.
Beautifully done, of course, but "The Way Home" is exactly like watching people walk thousands of kilometers through Nat'l Geographic territory... but not a whole lot else. Almost felt it could be a Omnitheater production.
(It's produced, in part, by Natl Geo.)

Anonymous said...


John Romeo Alpha said...

Time just gets away from us.

slommler said...

I think it is a shock to our youth to see that babies and young children have died. To see their headstones gives them pause for sure. Kids think they will live forever!!!

Lynnea said...

mortality is a tough one for us 'older' folks, imagine the depth of it in such young eyes when the world still holds that expansive promise of possibility. it's wonderful they stop and pay attention like that.

Clowncar said...

Yes, Laurita. And the stories seem to go as deep as you wanna look.

I read the reviews of the Weir movie. Too bad. Though I'll still watch it when it finds its way to Netflix. I was, incidently, one of the few people I know who didn't love True Grit. Liked it. But thought it was good, not great.

Thank you, Anon.

Everything gets away from us eventually, John.

Sue Ann, I'm not sure it's shock as much as pure non-comprehension. They just can't wrap their brains around it. Also why I think ALL kids believe in heaven. They don't know how NOT to.

Hey Maggie. Love that phrase you use: expansive promise of possibility. I think adults have that too, it's just tempered by experience, and mortality.

fresca said...

Why didn't you love the new "True Grit"?

I really, really enjoyed watching it, but when it was all over, I didn't love it like I loved the first one, with Kim Darby & John Wayne.

Probably helped that I was 8 when I saw that in 1969, but I watched it again recently and still loved it.
I'm not sure, but I think it was the touch of camp, that hint of cheese--unintentional, I assume (like Star Trek)--that made me love it.

The Coen Bros. take themselves mighty damn seriously, even when they're being funny.

Clowncar said...

I'm a little surprised myself I didn't like it more, Fresk. I've loved many of earlier Coen Bros movies. Just left me kinda cold. I heard someone describe their movies as "hermetically sealed," meaning, I assume, that you observed the story at a distance, removed from it emotionally. That's how TG kinda left me.

Fresca said...

Hm. Yeah. It has occurred to me to wonder if one or both of the bros. are a bit autistic or something.

(Sorry I'm so late responding---I took a lot of time off blogging, just catching up.)

Fresca said...

P.S. If you can, see "The Way Home" on the large screen--it's power is in the visuals, and their large scale. It was coproduced by Nat'l Geographic.