Memory’s garden

I drive over to the memorial garden.

It is a grey morning, the fields harvested are bare-brown and stubbly. Crows gather on telegraph lines and occasionally throw themselves into the sky like scraps of paper, wind-tossed and wild.

I am thinking about what is to have roots. If I am from anywhere then I’m from Kent. I’ve lived in this county for well over forty years. The soil has woven its way into my soul, the chalky downland, the wave-washed coasts, rivers and woods, orchards and hop gardens.

I am thinking about my family. As I drive towards Thanet I think of my mother, my grandparents, my forebears down through hundreds of years, coastal folk.

I wonder if when we move away, we lift our roots, then disagree, the roots are here, forever. We can’t dig them up, they are part of the land as much as they are part of our souls, a psycho-spiritual landscape where memory and dream weave with the landmarks and buildings.

I speak to the places I know as I pass, sending blessings when I pass the homes of friends and acquaintances, recalling events at different locations.

In the churchyard there is the noise of rustling, and at first, I think someone is busy with maintenance, clearing leaves and dead foliage. It is actually a host of squirrels busy about their seasonal task of preparing for winter, shushing the undergrowth and swaying the branches overhead in their work.

I take a seat and sit a while. It is a still place. Maybe it’s the silence of collective memory which blankets the grass, or the gentle sleep of the dead remembered here…I have seen the work of dying first-hand, and a rest is definitely deserved.

My respects paid to Mum and my grandparents I drive down to the McDonalds nearby. My heart is lighter now, as though I left something needful there among the stones and posies. Stepping into the restaurant bright music plays, teenagers giggle together in huddled groups, construction workers complain to each other about the pace of service.

The liveliness and warmth of the place is affirming, and I sit with a paper cup of coffee and soak up the vibrant atmosphere. This, today, is a beautiful reminder of the chaotic mess of life, the sorrow and the smiling, the heartache and the hope, always intertwining, dancing with each other.

The Bible says that in the midst of life we are in death, but I also know that in the midst of death, we are in life.

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