Thursday, June 11, 2009

Where more of my ideas come from

Every so often I have to take a trip through the local cemetery. This is less morbid than it sounds: it serves also as a lovely vast garden with trees and hedges and bike paths and trails and runners and speed walkers, and makes a direct route from my house to one of my favourite shopping areas; you get about 40 minutes of up-close nature time just getting from A to B. Still, it's a cemetery.

Of course, I'm always looking at names and dates in there, the better to name characters. But it's hard to go that far without reflecting on the lives of the people whose loved ones gathered when the stones were new. I noticed this time that one man lived about 50 years after his wife died without remarrying, or perhaps a second wife was denied the connection and buried elsewhere. I wondered why another man was buried under a tire-shaped stone. I also wondered whether the man buried under a cube perched on one corner atop a stack of boulders - in 1898 - was an artist.

One man seemed to have married late in life, and was buried with his mother, who died in 1945. As I walked on from his grave I pictured a single mom working hard to give her son a good start at a time when even fewer social supports were available for that situation. I saw her struggling to let go, making it nearly impossible for him to step away make a life of his own. In my imagination, his marriage was a love match, but his wife could never quite get her footing until after her mother-in-law passed.

I know, it's far from a fresh story - it happens a lot in real life, if not actually to this man. But I did find it interesting that my sympathies were with the young wife rather than the clinging mother in my story. I wonder whether I would feel differently if I retold it to myself from the perspective of the latter, or from the man... were his loyalties torn? was he oblivious to both women's needs? Or maybe he just looked at his mother's life and wanted to give his future wife a better one, while easing his mother's final years, and chose to work longer and save more before taking on that kind of responsibility. And in that case - how long did he make his girlfriend wait for him?

Something to think about while I'm still not writing. And maybe while I'm having more blood orange creamsicle ice cream, to which I treated myself yesterday on my way back from B.

1 comment:

Kathleen Taylor said...

I think cemetaries are calming- and I love imagining the life stories of the people. Historically speaking, permanent settlements are a recent thing here, so none of our headstones predate 1870, but they're still fascinating.