Sunday, March 26, 2017

it might as well be spring

I've been thinking a lot about Elmira, New York, my home town, and mortality, the passing of time, and the passing of generations.  I think what really triggered these thoughts in a big way, here in my mature (sic) years, was my Uncle Sanford's funeral, a couple of years ago.  He was 100 and was buried with military honors, in the cemetery that holds Elmira's Jewish community.

After the burial, I remember walking around, both the Barcus (Reform) and Lavine (Conservative) sections.  The image I cannot get out of my mind is seeing the graves of Norma and George Feinstein, and Alan and Lorraine Nathenson, parents of my best childhood friends.  The obvious realization of 'grown-ups' who were vivid and present figures at one time now permanently residing, silently, in that field, was a bombshell.

I had had an earlier flash of insight many years ago, after my mother's burial.  I walked up and down the rows of Shul people, and I flashed back to a long-forgotten memory, of a Simchas Torah celebration at the old shul, on Orchard Street, before it moved in the mid-50s.  So, I would have been around 5 at the time.

As I strolled past the graves that afternoon, I realized that that crowd, who was there dancing around at that Simchas Torah celebration in 1955, had, over time, all gotten back together.  They were all there.

But back to Sanford's funeral.  As I walked over to my parents' graves, I came upon Sandy Kaplan, who lived across the street from us, and was one of the kids on our block.  I knew she had died from cancer some years before, but seeing her grave put seeing the graves of my parents' friends into an entirely different perspective.

Yesterday afternoon, I took a break from (a little bit of) yard work and sat on our garden bench here in Portland, so far from Elmira.  I noticed birds and squirrels, and passing clouds, and trees beginning to bud and flower once more.  I thought of the peas and potatoes I have planted in the last couple of weeks, and the reliable rhubarb, returning year after year without much effort on my part.

I feel amazingly lucky, to have emerged in a time and place of comfort and security, to have had caring and generous parents, to have found work that I love and, of course, music.  To have had the company of a woman, children, friends, and various dogs and cats.  To have planted trees.  To have memories.  To have seen Angkor Wat at sunrise; to have heard the call to prayer in Marrakesh at sunset.

I have no fear of death.  It does not make me sad that the world will go on without me.  Humans are an experiment that the Earth generated, and that experiment is going bad, but it's always been a mixed bag.

For every Enlightenment there was a Spanish Inquisition.  Somehow, though, we got Mozart and Chuck Berry, Leonardo and Picasso, and especially Laurel and Hardy.

No regrets.

1 comment:

Duffer One said...

Very thoughtful and real Barry. I like to remember my ancestors in this poem. Hopefully someone will remember me in this was.

Ancestors Breath

Listen often the things and their being
You will hear our ancestor’s breath,
In the fires voice and the roar of the water it is heard,
You can hear the ancestor’s breath,

Understand those that have died have never left,
The dead are not under the earth,
The dead have a pact with the living,

They are in the rustling trees,
They are in the groaning woods,
They are in the crying grass,
They are in the moaning rocks
The dead are not under the earth,

They are in the women’s breast,
They are in the wailing child,
They are with us in the home,
They are with us in the crowd,

The dead have a pack with the living
Their breath is with us always

Sweet Honey and the Rock