Do you have a New Years Day tradition? It seems most people do – from making black-eyed-peas for good luck for the coming year, to nursing a hangover, a hike at the beach or the forest, jumping in icy water… Mine's kinda morbid by some people's standards, but I've done it at least three times in the last few years. I drive north up the coast from Santa Cruz, a bucolic event in itself, to the rustic, pastoral town of ........Pescadero.
Happily, most people content themselves with what they consider a "quintessential coastal town experience" – sampling the world-famous artichoke soup at Duartes, or shopping at the "Old General Store", but just a few hundred yards up the old stagecoach road lies Mt.Hope Cemetary,
on a hillside overlooking the pastoral fields below, the tiny town down the road, and the eucalyptus grove that borders Highway 1 and the ocean. I arrive to find just 3 or 4 people, family visiting a departed relative, who soon leave. I have the whole place to myself.
It "works" on different levels for me. But first things first. Pull out my trusty iPod, scroll down to the essential album for this experience, turn off "Shuffle songs" so I can hear them in the original order, push "Play" and for the next 45 minutes take in Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" while strolling among the graves. Imagine the part where the clock is ticking, then a cacophony of alarm clocks ring! All, while standing on this timeless hillside, surrounded by the epitome of our definition of time. Of finiteness and mortality.
From a cerebral standpoint, it's fascinating to read the gravestones of people and families that settled here as far back as the early 1800s. There's Italian, Mexican, English, Japanese immigrants. There's children who died at 3 or 4 years old, the gravestones marking the years, months, and days that they lived.
But it's also a more spiritual experience.
Reminding me that I'm not here forever, and I will soon enough take my place among their number. It always poises me for doing my best to make the year ahead count. Among the existential questions of "Why am I here"" and "Who am I?", sometimes lies poignant, existential answers. As I drove away this year, I pondered, what was my answer. And it came to me:
BE PATIENT. THE PLANTING OF A SEED IS PART OF THE FLOWER BLOOMING.