I have to begin with an apology! I am SO SORRY that I incorrectly listed Ruth Hendrick’s blog address. Here is the correct address for you all to enjoy! http://rutheh.com. Ruth, thank you for letting me know and for your patience. After all, it’s you who taught me how to properly do a link on here…though a proper link does no good without a proper address. Bother.
There is a place on Orcas Island which I am very fond of, odd though it may seem when you hear what it is. Yes, you may be thinking that there are MANY places I am quite fond of on Orcas, but places like the beach and the mountain go beyond fondness and reach the degree of obsession.
This place I am speaking of is not a place I am obsessed with, though I am, well, intricately connected with it. Doomed, even. Though not, most likely, to this exact place.
What the heck am I talking about?
Mt. Baker cemetery.
Mt. Baker cemetery is located on – surprise! – Mt. Baker Road, and it affords a beautiful view of the mountain for those who are spry enough to enjoy it.
Think about that for a moment.
Why is it, anyway, that so many cemeteries are located in beautiful spots? Perhaps it’s to give the visitor something else to think about for a little while. Something to comfort them with its permanence.
Until about 15 years ago, the cemetery was surrounded by forest, giving it a secluded, cozy feel. Now most of the trees are gone, ever since Buck Park, an outdoor recreation park including the world’s largest (at least at the time it was built) skateboard park is now its closest neighbor. As unpleasant as that may sound to some of you, it’s actually not all that big –nor is it crawling with saggy-bottomed teenagers. It was built to give the local kids a good place to hang out after school…after all, when you live on an island, the options are limited.*
My grandparents are buried there and I used to go with my mother, every Memorial Day, to pull up weeds and tidy up their graves. They died within a few months of each other when I was 4 years old so I don’t remember them too well, but we’d go there and Mom would talk about them and we’d listen to the peacocks across the road and Mom would pull the weeds that grew among the flowers planted on the gravesite.
No, it was not creepy. It was not scary. It was natural. I get so irritated when I hear my kids talk about “creepy graveyards”. No! It’s not a yard for graves! It’s a nice, attractive place, full of history and stories and beauty! It’s a place for memories. Not suggestive and sinister legends.
Okay, I’ll get off my soap-box now.
I used to ride my bike there frequently of a summer evening when I was growing up. I’d say “hi” to Grandma and Grandpa – sometimes even staying awhile to voice my frustrations – and then head home, coasting down Mt. Baker Road, zig-zagging up the hill to Buckhorn, and peddling into our garage, now the only part of our old house you can see from the road due to a domineering fence the current owners built clear around the half-acre lot.
I’ve been tempted to knock on their door and ask if I can see the house – they’re the same people who bought it from my parents 25 or so years ago. But I’ve never dared. I’m not sure I could bear it. Truly, I think the memories and the emotions would overwhelm me and I’d bawl like a baby right there in the familiar-yet-not-quite-right foyer.
I had a swing in my room, hanging from the beams of the cathedral-ceiling, which bonked you in the head if you were foolish enough to play beneath it and forget that it hung there. And there was a loft with hot-pink carpet which, due to the non-breakable rules of nature, was stifling hot in summer but was still a great place to pretend or hide with a good book.
There was a loft above the kitchen and dining room, too – where my mother had her sewing room and two guest beds and you could look over the edge and drop things on unsuspecting people in the living room below.
Not that I ever did that.
That was where my father built my doll house one year and I was banned from climbing the stairs for the entire month of November and into December, right up until Christmas Eve. I tried to identify the mysterious sounds that emanated from that sacred place and I did, correctly, though I never could have imagined how wonderful it would turn out to be.
Mom stored her canned goods up there, too. Beans, tomatoes, peaches, pears, jams, applesauce, sometimes even salmon. I’d play grocery store up there, and “house” and I could play with Mom’s button box and watch her create beauty out of yards of cloth.
Yes, there are a lot of reasons I couldn’t bear to return to that house, couldn’t bear to see other people’s stuff in MY HOUSE.
My grandparents built the house – from plans they found in a Better Homes and Gardens magazine. The same grandparents who now live a few miles away, in Mt. Baker Cemetery. Well, reside. I suppose that “live” isn’t the right word.
Though, to be sure, their memory lives on.
* A note about Buck Park: a few years ago, when it was still pretty new, I visited it with my sister. My favorite thing there was a signboard that I dearly wish I’d gotten a picture of. It said, in chalk for easy updating:
Broken arms: 7
Broken legs: 2
Broken pelvis: 1
Broken ankle: 9
Broken hearts: one
How I wanted to give that girl a hug! Not so much that I was worried about her heart, but I loved, loved, loved, that she included that in the list. Truly, a writer in the making!