Saturday, January 20, 2007

Asleep in Jesus

This morning, snowflakes weave indolently on their earthward slide - not to stick, but just to remind us here of the cloak of winter.

In Shenandoah, the only life is on the ground. Wild chives spring up around the roots of pignut hickory trees, like shocks of sylvan sea-green hair. I stop to fill my water bottles from a shallow spring and treat it with iodine. Lord knows why, but filtering my own water makes me feel much better about the state of my life. At the crossroads of Keyser Fire Road and the Pinebridge Trail, above the nameless gorge, two hikers pause to greet me.


"No, just a day-hiker."

Would we even have seen each other on Connecticut Avenue, on a Metro car, in the crush of bodies and the cocktail of urban smells? People are so much friendlier in scarce society, where the bare trees loom monstrous and large, like sleeping giants that might awake. Such impossibly tall creatures, gnarled with worried plant dreams. They are waiting for the ten-thousandth coming of spring.

Down to the left on the lariat trail lies Bohen cemetery, a low-walled relic from the brief peopled days of this ancient valley, before the government sold the land at auction for a pittance, and sent the inhabitants where they willed. Lichen gnaws on the gravestones, unhurried. Time and entropy are on its side. The writing on most is a vanished loving thought. Some have only irregular pieces of shale to mark their plots. Unnamed but to God. This makes me sad and happy at once. Near the hingeless wrought-iron gate (I move it and lay it reverently against the wall), are the markers of John and Mary Bohen. Grander than most around them, but modest as tombstones go. It must have come up a rutted track on a mule-drawn cart in ages past, ordered from Winchester or Front Royal, when those were the edges of this smoky blue world. Asleep in Jesus, they both say. Waiting for another coming. Like the trees.

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