THE LONELY HOUSE: My Quiet Neighbors

Right now, I’m at my computer in the loft above my garage (the dormer window on the left). From here, I can look out across fields of shaggy cornstalks and rolling green. I can see the wooded ridges in their November dress of muted purple and bronze, a fleecy copse of pine trees that are probably sheltering sleeping deer, the late afternoon sunlight pouring over everything like warm butter. And, I can see the weathered faces of the gravestones of my quiet neighbors on the opposite hill. Now the leaves are down, the stones luminesce on their bosky knob like will-o-the-wisps. The interplay of light and shadow over them, coupled with their own wear, makes them seem insubstantial markers from afar. The old stones date from the early to the late 1800’s.

My neighbors abide under a carpet of periwinkle, trout lily, columbine, and sprawling blackberry vine. The deer and turkey visit this silent place, and I have heard a fox barking there under the cold moon. When I first moved to the farm, the little cemetery was mowed and tidy. But it is accessible only by climbing a very steep and rutted dirt track, then pushing through the thorny locust trees, or by traversing the equally steep hill of the hayfield to the flattened gate. It has been a few years since a mower made its laborious ascent. The forest nips at the cemetery’s boundaries year after year. The fence is mostly down, and young saplings grow up through its rusted grid. The fence posts are good hard locust wood, but the beetle and the woodpecker are having their way there, too. Feisty red ants have moved in and built low hills of the humus. It is hard to walk among the graves now, with the mischievous tendrils snagging one’s feet and the astonishing variety of briars scratching and clinging. I visit a few times a year, just to be neighborly, and some kind soul puts tiny American flags on the graves of the old soldiers every Veteran’s Day, but nobody else goes there. Maybe few even know of the quiet people on the hill.

The dead seem only to sigh in contentment. These ancients are gone from living memory, and though their final home has fallen into neglect, they are peaceful. After all, there is the music of the wind and the whispering trees, the warmth of the dappled sun, the cool drumming of the rain or the silver kiss of the snow, the undemanding presence of the animals. Their days are calm, yet thrumming with life, and they are still a part of it. Their nights are afire with stars, the vast flying dome of the heavens clear and glittering all the way to Infinity. And the hill is a high lovely place with sweet flowers – and a good view of the friendly neighbors.


This the final post in The Lonely House series.  Thank you all for reading.


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