Six years ago, I spent my birthday at the cemetery; Matt was away on a yearly retreat. I've always loved old cemeteries, so this was not out of character. Plus, this one has woods and water, so it is extra nice. Wandering around, wondering about all the people, their stories, their lives, trying to figure out who is related to whom, and by what routes. Reading so much in the simple names and dates: the sea captain who seems to have married several sisters, each one in turn, as one after another of them died; the wives who appear to have died in childbirth; the sons and daughters whose death dates far precede their parents; connecting birth and death dates to historical events, guessing as to what was going on.
Five years ago, it rained for two weeks solid, between Matt's and my birthdays. We planned a camping trip for his birthday, but found our usual campsites washed out by the rain. We spent the night in a hotel, and drove out to the river in the morning. We set up camp beside the river, already fast and flooded from the rain. We made camp breakfast, which includes an insane amount of food, as he didn't like to have leftovers to pack back out. As we sat by the fire, eating breakfast and reading his birthday books, the river rose. In the few hours we were there, it split the banks, turned into waterfalls and rapids, devoured rocks that were tall stepping stones when we'd arrived. Watching from the banks, it was so beautiful - dangerous, amazing.
Matt loved rivers. He needed them. Most of our adventures included rivers of some kind, from the very first place he took me from his childhood, to the Colorado, the Swift, the Rainbow, the Mississippi. The river where he died was our sanctuary; it was refuge from the stresses of living in a populated world. Last year, July 12th was the first dry sunny day in nearly 6 solid weeks of rain. The river was flooded, fast, dangerous and amazing, though we had no idea of that until it was too late.
So it occurs to me this morning, the river has always been beside us, and I have always been walking in cemeteries, alone.