Friday, 14 October 2011

Dressed in morning

Every October I feel the pull to go to graveyards and catch wishes.

It's not as ghoulish as it sounds.

I read in a children's book some years ago that if you catch a falling leaf before it hits the ground; you can make a wish on it.

Leaf-catching is a rather strange thing to be caught doing, particularly if one is a grown woman.

Not having a car, I can walk to Beechwood Cemetery in about twenty minutes. This year, I was determined to go early in the morning, as nearly all of my past expeditions have been in the afternoon or at sunset. I set out on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving Monday, taking advantage of the fact that younger daughter has had a lift to school these mornings.

Beechwood Cemetery was not altogether deserted, even before 9 am. The groundskeepers were roaring about in their lawn mowers, vans, and earth movers. An occasional coffee-clutcher made his or her way en route to school or work. Down near the chapel, people were parking their SUVs. A long-limbed lady in black picked her way through the markers.

However, most of the time, I was on my own, snapping pictures, trying to capture the barely-used morning light. Every now and then, I would glimpse a golden shower not far away and plant myself beneath it. You really have to spot a leaf while it's still very high in the air and swoop with it. That morning, I caught seven. That's a record for one autumn, let alone one morning! I made seven wishes, three of them for younger daughter. (Judging from the events of the past week, the wishes are either coming true in a way I don't yet understand, or were poorly phrased.)

As I made my way back, I saw a man engraving a headstone, apparently sand-blasting through a plastic stencil. Wearing a hood rather like an old-fashioned hairdryer completely over his head, he crouched like Gollum on the edge of Middle Earth, surrounded by tombstones in the shape of open books, all blank, all waiting for sad stories in the drifting cloud of mist and dust.