Evergreen Cemetery, Gettysburg
On our way through Pennsylvania on Friday, we stopped at the Evergreen Cemetery, where President Abraham Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address to consecrate graves of so many men from the North and South who fought for an idea of sovereignty, the political discussion of which ocurred worlds away from where they lived their lives.
Our tour of this National Cemetery was a quick one. No pets allowed. On a mercifully cool day, we locked Clyde in his cage in the car with the windows wide open and had a quick look at this hallowed place.
The burial ground is remarkable for its modesty. Just across the street are monuments to the great military minds who led boys into battle. They are gigantic men on horseback, and they are overpowering. Here, in contrast, are curved row after row of graves of unknown soldiers marked with numbers. Above them stands some goddess or other (She is another powerless being in the face of all that anonymous loss. I didn't try to figure out who she was, though I could google her now.) holding a laurel crown over these men whose gaves ripple across the earth like an echo on water.
Not so many yards away is the Kentucky-sponsored memorial to the great son of that state whose brief speech every sixth-grader in Waterbury can recite even if they don't get what happened, where, or why. As Adella and I took in the figures on this memorial and tried to sew together some meaning for ourselves, we could hear Clyde yelping an acre away. We had to go because that's what you do when the baby cries. You do what you think is right for the ones you love.
As we drover through the battlefield on our way to North Carolina, I kept thinking back to those nameless men buried in that humble space. I thought of two questions my friend Brian posed last week before the Buddhist meditation group. One: "What are you willing to die for?" Two: "What do you want to fill your head up with?"
Gettysburg asks the same questions.
May we be worthy of our passions, and may our passions be worthy of us. And may they, and we, be equally beautiful.