by Dunya Dianne McPherson
I walk through the cemetery on my way to the beach. I know nothing about most names carved here. Living relatives remember self-serving snippets. “My predecessor, the famous one, the infamous one, the villain, the saint.” Descendants soon forget their ancestors’ mercurial joys, the struggles and foibles, how they smelled or moved. Were they clumsy? Were they mean? Were they kind to small wild things? Their mundane lives are gone, and everything held dear, irrelevant. To me, as to most who walk in the garden of stones, they are strangers.
But my family is here as well. The graves tell a story of my grandmother’s comfort. Her husband lies beside her. Down the hill her two daughters and one son-in-law are buried. In the adjacent plot, her mother’s ashes are marked with a stone while the those of her father and baby brother, who died at two years old, are unmarked. Perhaps because her parents divorced she felt shame. Perhaps the baby brother’s death drove a wedge between the parents. There were dark murmurings about his infidelity, his alcoholism. (See? The villain.) I will never know. The ground has swallowed it all. In in the end, despite pain or misgivings, my grandmother wanted her family around her.
Garden of Stones
Beyond the Cemetery Lies the Ocean
Beyond the cemetery lies the ocean, ever in motion, busy and lazy. Every summer day I go to its lip and wade into the amniotic fluid. I am lapped and licked, washed and scrubbed. I float in a cotton gown. The waves loosen its ties. Cloth floats around me, a billowing skin. I watch the cords meander in the water. The ocean buoys, rocks, and slaps me back into life. "Come on, infant! Cry! Breathe!" After fluttering, I land inside myself. The idea that I mean something, that I matter, that what matters to me matters to others, meanders in the water. Lifelong objectives melt in the brine. And there it is again, relief.
I remember when ‘Sex in the City’-type topics no longer dominated coffee chats with women friends. Perimenopause arrived. Then menopause. What a fantastic rollercoaster, but the silence began. We women said less, bowing to the patriarchal narrative of loss. Despite the fact that billions of people experience this powerful transition, I found myself in a quiet room, a cultural dark zone, saved mostly by the fact that having cultivated a strong relationship to my body, I could experience my experience in self-witness. I wrote about it. People read and dialogued a bit. I didn’t use the word ‘menopause’ much because it’s a glum medical word, a grumpy word unsuitable to qualities effervescing in me. Words like ‘exuberant’ and ‘fizzy’ caught my passage through that body gate. I didn’t see that poetry lying around, welcoming me to the other side. We need a better word. We need better words… about moving, body and all, into the apotheosis; about women, body and all, free of tyrannical fecundity. We don’t need words from young medical mouths or one-note men. We need words fresh from the mouths of women on the other side. Perhaps it is changing…
And mostly, what about this new consciousness sweeping through?
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