Riding Through Graveyards

September 2nd, 2009

Every day I ride through a graveyard twice. The most surprising thing to come of this was the speed with which I stopped noticing. It was not that I stopped thinking about the dead people buried just a few feet away from where I was riding. I stopped even noticing the gravestones. In fact, after the second week of this commute, I only really noted the mortuary nature of the path I rode when the funeral home on the edge of the cemetery cremated some bodies. I found myself, panting heavily from the ride, rolling slowly through the cloud of ash that their chimney set off. The funeral home is built into the hill and the smokestack is only a few feet above the path.

The closest I came to thinking about death after that was when I saw a four point buck grazing near the flat stones of a large plot. That seemed like and appropriately cyclic image, and one I would not have expected in Portland, which is hardly rural, but where people still warn you about letting your cat out, for fear of coyotes.

This left me unprepared to crash. It was raining and I gripped the front brake harder than the rear on a tight turn. Guided by the mass of the books in my panniers, the rear tire popped out and I slid along the cement for several yards. I should note that the cemetery hill has some severe drop offs and for several yards I thought I was going to slide off the edge of the road and into the void. Instead I stopped two feet from a solid and impressive granite tombstone. The slope was quite gentle. I was left with the impression that the cemetery is occasionally capable of manufacturing its own business.

Two weeks later, as I struggled up the steepest part of the hill I looked to the left and saw a steep drop, and to the right a gravestone. “Oh yeah,” I thought, “there are gravestones here.”

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