A Grave Matter

The moon is full, shedding its light across the waking city. April Fool's Day, the end of daylight savings and Easter Sunday in unison this year. Hot, sweet coffee, feed the cat, a load of washing and a walk.

I am lonely, desperate for a person to talk to, to hold, to argue with. Lonely, but not alone: the radio tells me it's common this contemporary dis-ease, an increasing toll on our society. The old, they are lonely, and I imagine council flats, meagre meals, and unkempt feet and hands. But no, it is the young who top the loneliness stats, the virtual world making our existence simultaneously more accessible and less real. Insta, the tool of the young, a platform for self-exposure, while sitting alone in a bedroom. A famous online life coach writes about "life envy" and the comments are pitiful:  Facebook posts keep up the illusion that we are successful, happy, and perpetually beautiful. We hide the flaws, edit backgrounds, add filters to our lives. 

I read to dispel the loneliness, characters jumping off the pages into my head, my heart. Violence and death in The Great Alone; resilience and determination in A Gentleman in Moscow. The risque Anais Nin challenges my world view, and Witi Ihimaera confirms it. 

Today, I seek out company, and head to Purewa, a park in the centre of Auckland, full of people. They are quiet these people, lying six feet under, broken concrete and lichen decorating the earth. A strange novel - Lincoln in the Bardo - has brought me to this place, the story of the president's son, William - young Willie - dying tragically at 11. He father is distraught, his mother no longer able to function. It is odd this book, but I persevere, and the quirky characters grow on me, like the weeds on the tombstones. 

I wander through the cemetery, the bright sunshine casting deep shadows beside the graves. I've come to see angels, to master my new zoom lens. Plots first inhabited in the 19th century sit alongside recent burials,  no order to their arrangement. A bottle of beer and a tiny Santa gifted to a 15 year old boy, lying beside his relatives, his parents and friends still visiting. The grief consumes us, when young lives are lost, the injustice, the despair.  

A tiny angel, a cherub, catches my eye. The marble is bright, the skin smooth. I walk around the tomb, aiming for the best angle, for bokeh in the afternoon light. Six (or is it eight?) people rest here, a fence containing them. 

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Back home, I process my photos, blue-skied monuments and simple crosses marking Easter in the metropolis. I plan a future - a future with hope, with promise, with optimism. A future with friends, with beautiful images, with fresh vegetables and flowers and tastes and scents. I am looking forward, so I write, clumsy today, a lack of practise. In that future, I will write every day.

Then I find it, a quote to end, Amor Towles at his finest:

"It is a lovely oddity of human nature that a person is more inclined to interrupt two people in conversation than one person alone with a book."

This post originally appeared on Sandy’s blog “Living in the Light” in April 2018.