Monday, April 13, 2009
Love and Ashes
I spend many splendid afternoons strolling in Matheson Hammock Park. You've probably already read my words before, singing praises to this magical little lagoon by Biscayne Bay.
On Sunday, April 5th, I found myself here again. The park was crowded and on this day there was a notable abundance of couples. I notice these things -- just like I notice the fluctuations of tides -- how a particular log sticks out on the bay when the tide is low, or how the pelicans swoop over schools of bait fish when the tide is high.
I know this place. I know it like my own heart beat. And each and every time I come here, something, some little detail, strikes me anew, and I learn a little bit more about this place, about myself.
I know this place. It inspires the living, the loving and even those who are no longer with us.
On this day, every bench was occupied by men and women holding hands, kissing. And the bay waters were not to be spared of unabashed amorous embraces, either.
Love was in the air.
So was death.
What struck me the most was a gathering of people just a few feet away from the lovers you see kissing in the photo above. As I walked by, I overheard someone say: "Who's next? This is what he would've wanted." The man who spoke these words was sitting on the edge of the sea wall, holding a plastic bag full of ash. Those ashes had been a body, a life. And now, whoever had been those ashes, well, whatever remained of him was surrounded by those who cared to follow him this far.
No one was crying. It really wasn't particularly dramatic.
Is this really what he wanted? Did he want his remains to be cast into the bay? On this particular Sunday, his ashes were guided by a glorious, cool and rather feisty westerly wind.
Yes. The kind of wind that makes you want to keep going, alive or dead. Unfurl the sails, let it carry you somehow. To another place, to somewhere new, or maybe, to some unfathomable place, where you might touch someone's heart.
I settled on a bench nearby and let the golden light of the sun warm my neck. I stared straight ahead at Miami's skyline, it looked so hazy and soft in the distance, concrete turned into tangerine clouds. I heard the voices surrounding me. Children giggled as they spotted crabs and jelly fish in the lagoon. The water rippled and cooed gently out into the bay. Palm fronds swayed and swooshed, muffling the piano riffs that drifted in the air from the speakers at Redfish Grill. The silent nothings of lovers drifted too, carried away into the night ahead.
I couldn't hear those silent nothings, but I knew they were there, just as I knew the voice of a person whose ashes had been graciously tossed into Biscayne Bay. Is this really what he wanted? Who was this he? And did it, did he matter anymore?
And for a moment, I thought -- this is probably what I would've wanted too. To go, among this life, this beauty and this peace, surrounded by all this love. If this is what he wanted, then he must have understood what I see everyday, when you see yourself tied to a landscape, bound somehow to the beauty that surrounds you.
Whoever you were, I'll always think of you when I stroll by the lagoon. And I still do.
But on that Sunday, just like that, I got up from my bench and I went home.
The sun always sets, lovers kiss by the beach in twilight, we die and the sun rises again on the east.
And even in death, these are blessings.