One of the best places to sit and rest and think about life is in the heart of the woods.
While I was in Illinois, my sister Lynn took me up one of the many hills in Springdale Cemetery, a magnificent place encompassing 255 rolling acres. From the green slopes, crowded with headstones and weather-beaten statuary, stained with age and covered with lichens, from grassy slopes lifting up pedestal monuments, broken columns, pilaster columns topped with urns, and obelisks, Lynn and I sifted through our hearts and confided our thoughts of life and death, aware we were in a sacrosanct and enchanting place. “Death is beautiful when it merges with nature,” we said several times. “I could spend the night here in this tranquil place.” We both felt a spirit of peace surrounding us.
The cemetery was crowded with silence and beauty.
Lynn has a more professional eye for photography than I do. Her natural gift for capturing mood results in some extraordinary photos of people, landscapes, wildlife, and flowers. With a sharp and creative aim, she snaps scenes that whisper of untold stories. I, myself, take the random good picture. But I’m better at writing than I am at shooting poetic pictures.
One day, Lynn and I got up early, and she took me to an obscure spot, a small valley. The place made me imagine a luscious green crater inside a volcano, something from a story of magical realism. Beneath a soft rain, my sister and I climbed down a slope to reach our destination. Empty-handed, I had left my camera in the car. Lynn was eager to take pictures, so she protected her camera from the rain by tucking it under her shirt.
On this particular outing, I realized I had more stamina than I had exhibited just a few days earlier when Lynn had first led me up the hills. In the mountains of North Georgia, when I’m not confined inside a cabin at Blood Mountain or at Blue Ridge, when I’m not trying to complete a writing project, I take leisurely walks. Avoiding steep inclines, I never hike straight up. I couldn’t if I tried. The prednisone I take has caused me to gain weight. My North Georgia strolls lead me along gently winding paths, trails that are easy on my arthritic joints. In Illinois, though, Lynn introduced me to her more difficult mode of walking. I call her gallivanting style, “Straight up.”
As it drizzled, Lynn took photos of honeysuckle, trees, greenery, bushes, plants, and flowers, capturing the ethereal grace of the landscape. Damp, we laughed and talked and revered the cleansing of nature, a deep green sparkling caused by rain’s bath. I believe we both felt unblemished after walking in the soft rainfall in the heart of the Illinois landscape.