Trapped in trashless Vermont with cows and trees and pastures and white people until I was twenty, it was literature that made clear to me all that I was missing – the grand greasy underbelly of commerce and humanity as described by Ayn Rand– as Dagney, is it?- looks out over her father’s rusty acreage of railways and warehouses and sees a paradise of possibilities instead of a pocketful of possies. I was sixteen when I read that book. From that time on, I knew what I was missing. After my parents took me to New York at age seventeen and I saw my first skyscraper, tasted a Coney Island hot dog and watched Carol Burnette walking across a stage in a bright pink poodle skirt, the beauty of a village green sickened me and it still does. Isn’t it funny that all I own in this world is Vermont real estate? I have come to appreciate the wide expanse of a forty acre pasture and a winding path through white birch, but when I am walking near garbage strewn railroad tracks inhaling the oily bitterness of rust and dog shit, I feel closer to home. In fact, here in Pawtucket, where abandon railroad tracks pass through a neglected ancient (in American terms) cemetary, is where I take myself for a walk, along with the dog.
Today was a particularly beautiful autumn day, crisp and clear. I walked the curving overgrown path, past wrangling knotted trees, stunned proud by their autumn colors. A sea of broken gravestones on either side. The mother’s and father’s. Uncles and grandmothers. The Beloved. An empty pint of rum propped against the tiny stone of an early death. The weather eaten fallen flag on a young soldiers grave, name indecipherable, moss burned.
The brown grass vibrated with layers of moldering yesterday’s, the remnants of other lives just as precious as my own. These buried bones were not lonely, surrounded with rotting history, everything soaking into the ground uniformly, unseparated, un-recycled, just back into the organic soup that is us and ours and theirs. I stood above them, feeling beneath them, honored to be near them. Close to home.