Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Ruth and Jake Lawless




On Sunday, July 24, Beth and I took our kayak, and my parents' ashes, and drove to Belfast, my home town. I had been saving my father's ashes since his death in 2002, as my parents had told me that they would like me to mix their ashes together and spread them on the strip of Belfast Bay that you could see from their house. They do have a gravesite in the cemetery in Belfast, in a plot with my father's sister Lisabeth, his mother and father, and his Aunt Mary. We went first to the gravesite, where Beth dug a small trench and I mixed their ashes together - with any spillage going into the plot. We left a third of the ashes there, and then drove to the edge of the bay at the steamboat wharf.
We paddled out, using the Baptist church and Young's lobster pound as our reckoning points. It was late afternoon, the tide and the wind both coming in, a sunny, beautiful day to be on the water.
We spread another third of their ashes on the water, in sight of their house. I wanted to do it just before high tide, so that their ashes would move upstream, take a tour of the harbor, and then head out to sea.
We paddled upstream, under the old bridge, under the new bridge, and all the way up to the head of the tide, under the railroad bridge and under the road bridge.There are not many houses along this stretch of the river, between Route One and the head of the tide. A lot of cedar, hemlock, cormorants and railroad tracks.
Just above the last bridge, at the head of the tide, the tide was stalling and turning. We were in a quiet green paradise ruled by ospreys and kingfishers. It was here, above the final bridge, that we emptied the last of the ashes, as the tide turned, and the water carried them out through the bay that they loved so much, carrying us as well. Another journey, together. Travel well, sweet ones. We love you.

We drove to Rockland to eat supper along the waterfront boardwalk, on the deck at Amalfi, drinking kir royales, eating paella, and celebrating my parents. We wondered how the shore of the river near the head of the tide, where we had just been, could still be so green, so lovely and without humans.
A little research, and contact with my poet friend Kristen Lindquist, found that one side of the river there is protected by the Coastal Mountains Land Trust, as a part of their Green Passy initiative, which is still looking for funding. I gave a donation in my parents' names, to help protect that part of the river forever. Kristen, who works for the land trust, sent me some maps and directions, including a map of the Stover Preserve, which includes a trail from the Doak Road down to the river.
On Sunday, July 31, Beth and I went back to walk down to the river. It was another lovely day, another timeless spot on the river. I urge you all to support the work of the Coastal Mountains Land Trust to preserve this lovely spot, and to support the work of your own local land trusts, to save the many special places still needing protection, for ourselves and for those we love, now, before us, and those to follow.
Here is a draft of my notes from that walk in the Stover Preserve:

What is happening here?
Here where the gentle stream
murmers its song,
on and on.
Here where sunlit leaves
turn in the breeze,
where stone walls and apple trees
look to the past and
the water, the water,
all the way to the Bay.
Everything happens here.
Here where the mosses come
to tell their stories
resting on rock on
granite outcrop.
Here where the kingfishers fly home
where hemlock breathes
where ferns and iris rest
along the river.
Everything happens here.

3 comments:

jenifer said...

As we decide what to do with our parents' ashes, your thoughts opened the way to new ideas. All is elegy.

Rich (ME to MN) said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rich (ME to MN) said...

Gary, thanks for sharing your ceremony/journey with all of us, and for allowing me to travel back to coastal Maine in my imagination through your beautiful words/poem. -- "...ashes to waters; dust to rain..."(revised)