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Location: California

I love paper. Books printed on acid-free paper and bound in cloth turn me on. I'm crazy about bookmarks, and I buy too many stickers. I could spend hours in the build-your-own-greeting card section of my neighborhood craft store. My favorite thing to eat is bread, and my second favorite is fruit. (Mm, pineapple.) I read too much and too fast, and I watch too many food shows (two ways of looking at gluttony). Gloomy, rainy weather calms me and so I can't wait to move out of California, which will happen, sadly, too many years from now to count. I'm vegan, though I haven't managed to eliminate honey from my diet yet. I practice yoga; it's the only way I can keep fit. I have a better life than I ever imagined I would (or deserve to) have, but I do my best to enjoy it rather than feel guilty about it. That's my daily struggle -- and also to be thoughtful and observant and honest with myself.

Friday, December 09, 2005

A Candle and An Orange

One of my favorite places in the city where I was born and lived until I came to America is the cemetery. It's located on Army street. It has wrought iron gates guarded by a porter. On the sidewalk old women sell carnations and chrysanthemums and gladiolas from tin buckets and yellow candles that break in two as soon as you've paid for them.

I was never afraid in the cemetery. In the late afternoon, when my family visited my great-grandmother's grave, the light was so beautiful. Lit candles stuck in the dirt on the graves flickered against marble headstones and bouquets of flowers. My parents got out their gardening tools and weeded my great-grandmother's grave. In Romania graves rise above ground, their walls about a meter tall and wide enough to sit on. Sometimes a slab of stone or marble covers the walls, sometimes there's simply earth. My mother has brought a bottle of wine and lemon sours, my great-grandmother's favorite candy. She spills some wine on the earth and buries a lemon sour in a corner of the grave. We eat the rest.

It is utterly peaceful. Stone angels rise up from some head stones. If you hear anything it's the rustle of leaves or newspaper from which flowers are being unwrapped, a soft crying, a chant that has escaped from the cemetery chapel. I have such a strong feeling that this is a place of rest.

My grandmother, Veronica, died when I was seven. Not long after that it occurred to me, one night before I fell asleep, that I was going to die too. I was terrified. Not of my body and what was going to happen to it, but of the nothing that would be in place of what I was at that moment, in place of the thoughts I was thinking at that moment. I didn't grow up with any idea of hell or heaven; my parents weren't religious. What terrified me wasn't eternal punishment but finding myself in the black immensity of outer space, all alone in the dark. Me, the sky full of stars, and nothing else. I still think that's where I'll end up. I just don't think I'll know that I'm there.

Next time I visit great-grandmother's grave I think I'll take her an orange. She used to hide oranges in her shoes at Christmas time, to eat alone after everyone had gone to sleep.


Blogger madness rivera said...


That's how the cemetaries are in Puerto Rico, but we like to paint the angels pink and other pastel colors. hahahhaa.

I love the tradition of honoring the dead. Seems so much more civilized than fearing them. Not that we can't be spooked by our own demise or a loved ones demise now and again.

December 12, 2005  

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