I’ve always had an odd affinity towards cemeteries. In high school, we lived towards the edge of town, about a half a mile away from the local one. My first babysitter passed away shortly after we moved to that house, and then a classmate was killed in a car accident and buried only a few gravesites away from her. I spent a lot of time walking to the cemetery to visit their graves and see what mementos had been left, then strolling the rows and reading names.
I tend to visit cemeteries as I move, but not so much when I’m traveling. Perhaps it’s the permanence – a place to reflect, a place to slow down – something I don’t have time for when I’m on the road.
I’ve been on the lookout for a particular angel statue like the one from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. I’ve probably been to thirty different burial grounds in the last decade, every time peering closely through the rows of memories to see if my angel was hiding among them. This once led me to the legendary “Black Angel” of Iowa City, where legend has it that if a non-virgin kisses the statue, they’ll be struck dead. I didn’t press my luck.
This week I caught a glimpse of an angel from afar that looked like her. Had I really found her? Just like that, my pursuit was over? I was surprised at how relieved I felt when I got closer and realized that this angel, too, was not who I was searching for.
Do I really not want to find her? Is this what they mean when they say it’s all about the journey?
She knows not where she’s going
For the ocean will decide
It’s not the destination
It’s the glory of the ride
Maybe looking for this angel makes me feel less crazy for finding peace in a graveyard.
Maybe it’s an excuse to keep exploring new cities, believing that she must be out there somewhere.
Maybe I want to believe my imagination is a better artist than those who designed the tombstones.
I keep looking. I want to keep looking. I don’t want to find that angel. I don’t want the chase to be over.
It’s the heart of nomad: the yearning for something unknowable.
I want to travel. I want to see the world. I want to have my life matter. I want to be on the move and constantly stretching and exploring.
Tonight though? Tonight I sit by a fireplace under a blanket. I smell dinner cooking and look forward to the glass of wine I’ll share with my friends. I listen to Sarah type away at her work and Phil play with their cats. I have a small stack of books beside me and the snow is falling gently outside the window. My parents and sister are driving across Nebraska to join me for Thanksgiving. I explored a new part of the city with Kara earlier today.
Yes, I want to keep searching.
Yes, I want to keep traveling.
But this moment? This, too, is part of the journey.
This moment of contentment doesn’t mean that Denver is my forever home.
But it does mean that it is okay to be still.
It is okay to be vulnerable.
It is okay to dream of the future, but not be afraid of the present.
Every moment, whether in Berlin or Sydney or Santo Domingo. Every moment, whether in Des Moines or Dallas or Denver.
It isn’t wasted.
Perhaps that’s why I like cemeteries so much.
Because in the sea of memorials, I see lives that were full or short or difficult or adventurous.
And each life meant something.
Each one was loved by someone.
Each one was missed by someone.
So I keep searching.
Because each moment in this life is worth something… even if it’s spent looking for a statue I hope I never find.