Oliver + Silence

There is a grave in the cemetery beside my house. It holds these names: Dr. Oliver L. Harmon and His Wife Silence Sheldon.

I have been obsessed with it ever since I first saw it. Silence Sheldon might be the most beautiful name I have ever heard and I am determined to find out more about who she was. Was she quiet? Funny? Did she attempt to live in opposition to her name? Was she loud and boisterous? Did she help her husband with his medical practice? Did she have children? What were their names?

I'm working on it and I'll let you know when I know more. Maybe it will be a book. And then a movie. 

For now I go and sit beside her grave and talk to her about this funny and weird life. Yesterday it was warm and the sun was streaming right down where she is buried, so I stayed there for a while, in, well...silence. 

The place where I live now has a huge cemetery out front, on the other side of this quiet dirt road, and a much smaller, older one on the south side, where Silence is. There is a cornfield to the north and nice neighbors behind us. They have chickens and pigs and a beautiful sap house. 

Very often I walk through the big graveyard and talk to the folks buried there. I ask them for help. Not just for me, but for the whole world. I don't think any of them are actually gone, they're just not using their bodies anymore, which might be a bigger blessing than any of us can imagine.

Needless to say, there has been a lot to talk about lately with my dead friends. Things are getting a little out of hand up here above the ground.

The good thing about being mindful of all of those who have died and the idea of death, in general, is that it makes a person count their blessings. I look out over that ocean of gravestones in the early morning light and I see the truth of the future. We are here for a little while, we live and love and hopefully do some good things, then we are dead, placed in the ground with a stone up above our head that will last a helluva lot longer than our lives did.

So I've decided to compile a list this morning because I know it's Monday and everyone is in a big hurry, but I wanted you to not forget that, even when it feels like the world is falling apart and things are feeling out of control, there are always pockets of beauty. Sometimes you just have to look a little closer and linger a little longer.

The Monday List of Really Good Things:

1. The 49th Game Supper at the Pawlet Fire Department on Saturday night. I was a plebe working there, and so I had to wash flatware for part of the night, but I didn't care because I got to watch all of the folks who came to eat interact with all of the fire people serving bear and venison and chicken and squirrel, which, by the way, is delicious. I loved finding out that the Fire Chief and his wife are vegetarians. I watched in awe as many of the same folks who work all the other events in this village prepared a meal for hundreds of people and raised thousands of dollars for our volunteer fire department. I saw the garage bays of a small fire department filled to the brim with people eating together and talking and laughing and holding babies.

2. Today Amy Chamberlain, who has owned a restaurant in Manchester for twenty years, is working all day long in the kitchen with Coco. She is taking a chance on having Coco on a cooking show she does for a local television station. They are meeting at 10:30, cooking dinner for 40 and then heading to film the show at 6. Amy is spending her entire day helping a kid learn more about something she's passionate and curious about.

3. The McChesneys, to whom I used to be related by marriage, accepted our invitation to join us for Thanksgiving this year. That means that my former father-in-law, my former mother-in-law, my former sister-in-law and my former brother-in-law plus my former niece and nephew are coming to my home to share in the giving of thanks. If that isn't an act of pure forgiveness and generosity, if that doesn't show the world how to build bridges that once fell down, I don't know what does. This is exactly where we start: right in our very own homes.

4. Caren and Joe McVicker and Doug Hacker and the folks at Lincoln Peak Vineyard up north and the folks who own the Skinny Pancake have all offered to host fundraising events for Brett's campaign to raise the money so he can make a record of the songs he's been singing for the past few decades. Other folks are buying t-shirts and purchasing the record in advance. How's that for blind faith?! I am watching a person put their deepest and truest dream out into the world with the hopes that other people will help. It takes a humble stance to do that. 

It's an oft-quoted thing that the recently departed Leonard Cohen said, but it's pretty. It's very pretty and I believe it's what my dead friends would tell me, if only I could hear their voices. If Silence had words for me, I think she would say the same thing: Ring the bells that still can ring, forget your perfect offering...there is a crack in everything.

Please do this one kind thing today: help Mr. Brett Hughes ring the bells that still can ring: Here is the link to his campaign: Brett Hughes Is Making a Record.

My sister up in Alaska ordered the pie and said, quite simply, "We need good music and art now more than ever." Also, pie. Amen.