01 June 2010

Create Remembrance: Be Here Now

Grave, Kelly (NM) cemetery, May 2010

Yesterday I had no barbecues, pool parties, or other events to attend, which is actually how I like things (gee, does that make me sound unsociable? As if you didn't already know I was weird). I decided instead to commemorate Memorial Day by visiting a local cemetery to honor those that have gone before us, and to see what photographic opportunities I might find. The Magdalena cemetery was fairly busy with people tending graves of family and friends, and I didn't want to intrude on their personal time with their loved ones. So I went way up into the Magdalena mountains to the ghost town of Kelly, where my dad had found a primitive cemetery on one of his recent motorcycle rides. I last visited Kelly about a year ago and came away with a few good pictures and a lot of beautiful rocks, a few hinting of the rich minerals that made Kelly a boom town in the late 1800s.

First settled in the 1860s when lead was discovered in the mountains and established as a thriving mining town in the 1880s, Kelly once boasted a population of over 3,000 along with its own school, two hotels, and (of course) numerous rowdy saloons. What remains now is a single church, where Mass is celebrated once a year during the annual fiesta and reunion of Kelly resident descendants, and the ruins of several buildings and the mining and smelting operations. And gravestones approaching a century old, most tilted or tumbled down, some all but disintegrated, but occasionally decorated in remembrance of a family member who once walked the streets of that remote mining town.

The first few graves I happened upon at this cemetery barely existed anymore, the concrete crosses crumbled or hand-carved stones worn almost smooth, the picket fences and metal gates around the graces tumbled and strewn about the rocky ground, and some washed away altogether except for a rough wooden cross, or broken remnants thereof. Then I spied a few that had apparently been tended at least occasionally over the years, the artificial flowers holding enough form and color to suggest that someone was still alive to remember who was buried there. Someone who was once here, among us, and is now gone. As I hiked and paused and clicked and pondered, one of my favorite songs ran repeatedly through my head: "Be Here Now," by Ray LaMontagne, particularly the line:

Don't put your trust in walls
'Cause walls will only crush you when they fall

No matter how solid they seem, how securely they seem to hold us in and the big bad world outside, walls crumble, they fall, and in the end all that is left is rubble for some stranger to walk among a decade or a century later. When we leave this earth, we leave behind people who knew and perhaps (if we were lucky) loved us; what will they remember about us? Be here now -- live your life as fully as you can stand to and then push a bit further than you can stand -- to make some good memories for yourself and your loved ones. Because when our mortal selves disappear, all that remains is remembrance.


Denise Yezbak Moore said...

I loved your post on the old cemetery located at the old mining town. For some reason old cemetery fascinate me. I like to look at the old head stones and wonder who is buried there and what kind of life they lead. Wonderful post, thank for sharing


Kim Mailhot said...

I really love this post, the pictures and the words.
I have been thinking about these kind of themes a lot lately. My mom just turned 65 and she told me it made her realize somehow that she wasn't going to be here forever. That touched me in deep inside, both for the thought of life without my precious Mom around as well as for my own sense of impermanence.As you said, it is all about making the here and now as rich and balanced as possible so that if tomorrow was your last day, that you will have as few regrets as possible.
Here's to keeping that thought close in our memories. Blessing on you and on this precious day.