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Evergreen  6.22.15

Evergreen 6.22.15

A poem Cassidy wrote in memory of a beloved Coral Tree client, Mary, a Japanese-American woman, who lived in Irvine and passed away in June, 2015 at 90 years old. Mary was buried at Evergreen Cemetery, in Boyle Heights, in East Los Angeles.

Evergreen is one of the oldest cemeteries in L.A., and pays tribute to the city’s – and our country’s – long, sad, and, at the same time, beautiful immigrant and interracial history. “Evergreen is notable for never having banned African-Americans from being buried at the cemetery and has sections for Armenians, Japanese, early white settlers, and a large section of Mexican graves.” (Wikipedia.)

Evergreen Cemetery

Evergreen Memorial Park & Crematory in the East Side neighborhood of Boyle Heights in Los Angeles. “There is no other cemetery that so encompasses Los Angeles’ rich multi-cultural past — often violent, surpassingly unique, and now poignantly forgotten.” Photo Hadley Meares.

Evergreen 6.22.15

 

Everbrown thuds the eye but not the sound of air,

Four ravens four corners as if with quorks their cloudsheet squared

And swooped with grace and Mary met them there.

Below we stared, uneven graves from all over the place–

Japanese, Chinese, English, Spanish, a potter’s fare

(American homeless stretched their last there).

Around us Boyle Heights, Latina lanes and names,

Embroidered blouses espaliered to rod-iron frames,

Shirts stretched their sleeves, red, yellow, black,

Pop-up shops–block by block, rack by rack.

Flowers for homage edged the Evergreen lot.

Still the sleek hearse came, birds calling nonstop,

Sun-stilled tear-streaked daughter’s rain

Seemed right, dust maimed we were, are

Till Mary came, white orchids in her train.

 

Mary loved white orchids.

Further Reading

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.
In Our Dotage

In Our Dotage

As I left the front door this morning, I saw the moonflower folding on its vine. A whiff of regret swept over me for the subtle and seductive scent dissolving, the green sepals forcing that purest white leaf inward. I stopped myself and looked hard at the dying flower, that single moonflower lasting but one night: its dying form had its own beauty.

I saw I had been missing something by not stopping, not looking hard. I sensed there is a morality in every moment, a moral obligation to be present, not just to the sensuously pleasing but also to the sensuously unpleasant (and what often upon closer look has a peculiar beauty despite the tired tread of age).

As W.H. Auden (pictured below), an old master himself, wrote, “About suffering they were never wrong, The Old Masters: how well they understood…how everything turns away quite leisurely from the disaster.” No one particularly likes to look at the ravages of age head on with the exception of doctors or scientists who study them.

The poet Wordsworth wrote about aging in a poem about a different flower from the moonflower, about a small celandine that stopped him as he walked through the woods.

“…But lately, one rough day, this Flower I passed

And recognized it, though in altered form,

Now standing as an offering to the blast,

And buffeted at will by rain and storm.

I stopped, and said with inly-muttered voice,

It doth not love the shower nor seek the cold;

This neither is its courage nor its choice,

But its necessity in being old.”

The moonflower and the celandine both fold and fray not with courage or choice but by necessity of age, like those of us who live long lives. Yet that aged stance, that “offering to the blast” whether straight, hammertoed or with walker or wheelchair, that stance takes courage.

If we don’t look hard, we will miss it, we will miss them. The word dotage signifies not just dottiness or feeblemindedness but to dote, to give attention. Our older ones deserve to be doted upon.

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.
“A Private Singularity” by John Koethe

“A Private Singularity” by John Koethe

I used to like being young, and I still do,
Because I think I still am. There are physical
Objections to that thought, and yet what
Fascinates me now is how obsessed I was at thirty-five
With feeling older than I was: it seemed so smart
And worldly, so fastidiously knowing to dwell so much
On time — on what it gives, what it destroys, on how it feels.
And now it’s here and doesn’t feel like anything at all:
A little warm perhaps, a little cool, but mostly waiting on my
Life to fill it up, and meanwhile living in the light and listening
To the music floating through my living room each night.
It’s something you can only recognize in retrospect, long after
Everything that used to fill those years has disappeared
And they’ve become regrets and images, leaving you alone
In a perpetual present, in a nondescript small room where it began.
You find it in yourself: the ways that led inexorably from
Home to here are simply stories now, leading nowhere anymore;
The wilderness they led through is the space behind a door
Through which a sentence flows, following a map in the heart.
Along the way the self that you were born with turns into
The self that you created, but they come together at the end,
United in the memory where time began: the tinkling of a bell
On a garden gate in Combray, or the clang of a driven nail
In a Los Angeles backyard, or a pure, angelic clang in Nova Scotia —
Whatever age restores. It isn’t the generalizations that I loved
At thirty-five that move me now, but particular moments
When my life comes into focus, and the feeling of the years
Between them comes alive. Time stops, and then resumes its story,
Like a train to Balbec or a steamer to Brazil. We moved to San Diego,
Then I headed east, then settled in the middle of the country
Where I’ve waited now for almost forty years, going through the
Motions of the moments as they pass from now to nothing,
Reading by their light. I don’t know why I’m reading them again —
Elizabeth Bishop, Proust. The stories you remember feel like mirrors,
And rereading them like leafing through your life at a certain age,
As though the years were pages. I keep living in the light
Under the door, waiting on those vague sensations floating in
And out of consciousness like odors, like the smell of sperm and lilacs.
In the afternoon I bicycle to a park that overlooks Lake Michigan,
Linger on a bench and read Contre Sainte-Beuve and Time Reborn,
A physics book that argues time is real. And that’s my life —
It isn’t much, and yet it hangs together: its obsessions dovetail
With each other, as the private world of my experience takes its place
Within a natural order that absorbs it, but for a while lets it live.
It feels like such a miracle, this life: it promises everything,
And even keeps its promise when you’ve grown too old to care.
It seems unremarkable at first, and then as time goes by it
Starts to seem unreal, a figment of the years inside a universe
That flows around them and dissolves them in the end,
But meanwhile lets you linger in a universe of one —
A village on a summer afternoon, a garden after dark,
A small backyard beneath a boring California sky.
I said I still felt young, and so I am, yet what that means
Eludes me. Maybe it’s the feeling of the presence
Of the past, or of its disappearance, or both of them at once —
A long estrangement and a private singularity, intact
Within a tinkling bell, an iron nail, a pure, angelic clang —
The echo of a clear, metallic sound from childhood,
Where time began: “Oh, beautiful sound, strike again!”

 


Coral Tree In-home Care provides caregivers, old-fashioned kindness, and neighborly support to older adults who want to live at own home safely, comfortably, and as independently as possible. Since 2010 we’ve helped more than 350 families in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Newport Coast, and neighboring Southern California communities live safer, happier lives.