Saturday, July 30, 2011

Life has gotten tougher for me these past years, as increased care-taking duties have made it necessary to drop classes and give up other things, including my walks. However, today I was able to get out early and walk in Mason’s Maple Grove Cemetery. I noticed that the cemetery has its own mailbox, but it’s not up at the front gate like you might think, but more in the interior of the cemetery, though not close to the cemetery’s maintenance buildings. That means that the U.S. mail carriers would have to inconvenience themselves by driving farther into the cemetery if they ever have anything to deliver to that mailbox. I don’t know if they actually do bring mail to that box, or whether the cemetery management is out of some larger city office that has its own mailbox. The idea of a forlorn mailbox sitting in the middle of a cemetery does suggest ideas for horror novels or short stories, where mysterious messages start to appear, delivered by some ghostly postman.

Another sight noticed: near the entrance, alongside the start of the path that was probably the original central road through the cemetery, lies the upper half of the tombstone of a William Coffin, who died in 18-sixty-something. There is something bemusing about the name Coffin on a tombstone, even though we learn in Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” that Coffin is a traditional New England name. Michigan was actually settled by a rush of New Englanders in search of less rocky farmland, and in fact, Mason is laid out on the New England model, with a central square and courthouse. Carved on this Wm. Coffin’s tombstone is a hand with finger pointing upward, a common Victorian symbol, reminding us to set our sights toward heaven. However, because the top of the monument is lying down-slope, this finger points downward. I have seen similar toppled tombstones with pointing figures now horizontal on walks in other cemeteries.

While in Mason, I also viewed the swollen and fast-flowing Sycamore Creek, though the floodwaters have subsided considerably since a couple of days ago when we had two nights of relentlessly fast and heavy downpours. Every year you hear about some part of this country where people have lost their homes—and sometimes their lives—to flooding, and at the same time, every year you hear about parts of the country suffering from intense drought. Too bad they can’t capture the floodwater overflow before it gets to the point of wiping out peoples’ houses and towns, and route it through something similar to the California aqueduct system to carry it to the areas that are parched. That would be quite a “stimulus project.” I visited California in June, and because I flew in to San Diego, the plane was flying low enough for me to see considerable stretches of irrigation channels and aqueducts—very impressive!

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