I had a chance to visit the Olema Cemetery in August. It’s a place I’d driven by countless times, but never noticed until last summer. After a two night stay in Stinson Beach, I decided to stop at the cemetery on my drive home, since I was alone and in no hurry to be anywhere. Camera in hand, I walked past the No Trespassing sign and the ugly cyclone fence and ventured inside. Although it was only about 11 a.m., it was already hot and the sun was beating down through a flat blue sky. There was not a single cool, shady spot although the whole place is surrounded and nicely hidden behind a ring of aged cypress trees. Old tin garbage cans overflowed with discarded grave decorations. It was quiet and bright and filled with beautiful statues and stones.
Some of the graves were overgrown and untended. The little angel pictured above was totally hidden behind a clump of vines. I just caught a glimpse of white beneath the green and got down on my belly to investigate. Pulling back the vines I found her hiding there.
Other graves were better tended, like Fred’s. I love all the knick-knacks strewn around his stone. I can imagine family and friends coming by and dropping off little things that remind them of Fred and the things he enjoyed when he was living. Fred was born the same year as me, and it looks like he died in 19- something. I wonder how long its been since someone came by to visit Fred.
I recently found this poem in the back of a Holton-Curry Seventh Grade Reader from 1914. It’s by Max Ehrman, the same guy who wrote The Desiderata. That poem has always seemed a little overwrought to me, but I really love The Prayer, so here it is.
Let me do my work each day; and if the darkened hours of despair overcome me, may I not forget the strength that comforted me in the desolation of other times. May I still remember the bright hours that found me walking over the silent hills of my childhood, or dreaming on the margin of the quiet river, when a light glowed within me, and I promised my early God to have courage amid the tempests of the changing years. Spare me from bitterness and from the sharp passions of unguarded moments. May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit. Though the world know me not, may my thoughts and actions be such as shall keep me friendly with myself. Lift my eyes from the earth, and let me not forget the uses of the stars. Forbid that I should judge others, lest I condemn myself. Let me not follow the clamor of the world, but walk calmly in my path. Give me a few friends who will love me for what I am; and keep ever burning before my vagrant steps the kindly light of hope. And though age and infirmity overtake me, and I come not within sight of the castle of my dreams, teach me still to be thankful for life, and for time’s olden memories that are good and sweet; and may the evening’s twilight find me gentle still.
May I not forget that poverty and riches are of the spirit.