Day 234: Norris Cemetery

Today I went on my first run since the Love Run. The weather’s finally getting better (thank GOD) so I could go to the park instead of driving to the gym to hit the dreadmill. Mind you, the gym has its assets, like the guys. And the various options of machines. And the view of I-476. And the fact that my route to get there takes me past the police station, with makes me think of a certain someone who will go nameless but still lingers in my memory as one of the bravest men I’ve ever met in person. (And wouldn’t mind knowing better, if the stars would ever align.) And being able to read “Pride and Prejudice” on the elliptical. And did I mention the guys?

But the magic of today’s run was that I didn’t have to do it. I don’t start marathon training ’til the first week in August. Granted, the Broad Street Run is a month away but I just did 13.1; I can do 10. (I did 10 twice in prep for the half. Ten isn’t so impossible as it used to be. Had it not been for the rain on Sunday, I’d have been rocking by the 10 mile mark.) No, today I went out with the aim of simply going where I wanted to go, as fast or slow as I wanted to go, and just taking it all in. So I did.

I started on my usual route up to the farm park, but I knew where I wanted to turn. At one point the path has an option to go straight and up the killer hill, or turn right to a section I’d never seen before. It’s the spot where I lost Buddy, my one-time stray black lab running partner last summer, who saw two pretty girls go that way and, hound that he was, he turned to follow them instead of me. You’re welcome for my keeping you from getting splattered by a SEPTA bus, pal.

Anyway, I knew the path might lead toward Norris Cemetery, and I wanted to see if I could get there. Before that it passed two abandoned old houses, probably boarded up when I was still in diapers. The one was inaccessible, but the other? Oh my. It must’ve been something else in its day, with its wide porch and stone steps, and the garage well off the house, connected by a gravel driveway. It had fish-scale slate roof shingles but it was missing some, and I saw a major hole in one corner of the roof. That, I know well enough, is the kiss of death to a house, but it broke my heart to see it fallen into such utter abandonment. What I wouldn’t give to have the resources and the wherewithal to make it vibrant again, but I do have to say that in passing the solidly shut windows, I felt vibrations in there that weren’t altogether pleasant. That was enough to get me moving again. (And really, I did keep a pretty decent pace. I should run to cadence all the time.)

The cemetery was fascinating. I’m one of the crazy morbid people who find death intriguing, but many years ago my mom, sister and I walked through an old cemetery in western Massachusetts, reading the stones, trying to figure out the owners’ stories. There was one man’s stone, and beside him on the left a woman’s stone engraved with, “Her place on earth left vacant, none on earth can fill.” That didn’t stop him from trying because to his right were four other wives’ headstones.

Today I read names, struggled to read dates. So many people who entered the earth before I ever arrived; people who, if they walked through town now, would never recognize it. One stone caught my eye; the owner was “aged 21 years, 11 months, 3 days” when he breathed his last. So many childrens’ stones there too. I remember from the graveyard in Mass., one section that seemed to have an entire family, all passed around the same time. We concluded that influenza or some other ravaging disease must’ve passed through and wiped out everyone in its wake. Sad.

I got to the top of the cemetery and looked down at all the stones, at the view that must’ve been nice before PennDOT took up residence on the opposite hill. I wondered what to feel. I mean, people go to cemeteries for sad reasons, but walking through as I did, I couldn’t find it, not because I didn’t know anyone there but because while all those people were gone, I knew one thing they would wish for me if they could:

LIVE. Go live, be free, be alive and be happy. Our time is over, but yours is not. Go feel joy, breathe, laugh, drink, run, and share that with the ones you love. It’s what we would do if we could.

And so I ran home.

4/20/14: Added some pictures while the laptop is up.

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