Saturday, February 25, 2012

Amid the Tombs

There's something serene and peaceful about strolling through a cemetery.  That's what I did this morning along with several other members of the local camera club.  It didn't take me long to snap ninety pictures -  oh, the beauty of digital photography! 

As I took photos of interesting markers and monuments, I couldn't help contrasting old cemeteries like St. John (Plaquemine, Louisiana) with the new modern cemeteries.  

 In old cemeteries, you or your family could choose a unique marker that seemed appropriate for the very unique you.  Your financial condition would have determined whether your marker was modest or elaborate; but either way, you had the option of having a unique marker.

In modern cemeteries there is no option for uniqueness.  All markers are flat plaques at ground level.  They all look alike.  Instead of having your uniqueness honored, you become indistinguishable in a sea of departed humanity. 

There's something cozy about an old cemetery.   Even if none of the names on the markers are familiar to me, I feel like I'm visiting real individuals.  But the coziness is lost in the collectivism of a modern cemetery. 

Oh well, there's no point in lamenting modern cemeteries.  We'll all end up in one unless you're fortunate enough to have a family plot with empty space in an old cemetery.  But sometimes there's no denying that old ways are best.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time Traveling

Some people live where their ancestral roots are deep, where they know everybody, and everybody knows them.  Others come from nomadic families, destined to live where they have no roots - destined to be outlanders.  Webster defines outlander as "someone from a different region or culture."  I have always been an outlander.  When I was an infant, my parents left southern West Virginia - where they had ancestral roots - and moved to the Florida panhandle.

We made yearly trips to West Virginia to visit relatives.  We always got a warm welcome from our relatives and enjoyed visiting with them.  But even there, where my parents were natives, I was an outlander.  I shared blood with these relatives, but I lived too far away from them to share the experience of daily life.  I was growing up in another world - a world of beaches and palm trees that contrasted sharply to the mountains of West Virginia.  To add to my sense of isolation, I was an only child so there were no brothers or sisters to share my outlander status.

I was an outlander in the Florida fishing village where I spent my childhood.  Most people who lived there fell into one of two categories.  They were either descendants of the original settlers of the county or they were in the Air Force, stationed at the nearby base.  I enjoyed neither the comraderie of the Air Force kids or the full acceptance of the settlers' children. 
I am an outlander here in southeastern Louisiana where my husband's roots run deep.  Cajuns are friendly people, but they hold blood and roots in high regard.  When you meet a Cajun for the first time, he's likely to ask who your parents are.  Sometimes you get the feeling that you're set on the sidelines when you say your parents are from another state.  If nothing else betrays my outlander status, my speech will.  I've lived here for 45 years, but often - as soon as I open my mouth - someone will say, "You're not from here, are you?"

I suppose life is easier for an outlander if he lives in a big city.  After all, cities are where outlanders collect.  There are so many outlanders from so many different places that outlander status is the norm.  But in small towns, the natives congregate and talk about their roots and their blood connections, and it's easy for an outlander to feel like a fifth wheel.

After a lifetime of being an outlander, it's no wonder that I was drawn to Diana Gabaldon's book, Outlander.  It's a time-traveling adventure.  I can relate to it because being a lifetime outlander is a little like time-traveling.  Not quite - but almost. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Errands in the Rain

La Madeleine's in the Rain
I like rainy days if the rain is misty and light and it's not too cold.  I especially like rain in Baton Rouge - or any city, for that matter.  Traffic lights and all the other lights that are common to a city are reflected in infinite ways.

My first stop was Team Honda to have the oil changed in my van.  I didn't arrive until 10:30 and expected to find the waiting room full - instead, I had it all to myself for most of my wait.  Maybe a rainy day is the perfect time to have your car serviced.  Just before I left, a young mother came in with a cute little toddler.  The mother and I chatted, and I told her that we will have new twin grandbabies in July.  She said that she is a twin, and her husband is a twin!  Needless to say, they wouldn't have been surprised if their little girl had been twins.   These days I see or hear about twins more often than usual - or so it seems.  I guess I just zero in on anything having to do with twins now that I know little twin rascals are headed our way.

I ate lunch at La Madeleine's - a Chicken Caesar Salad and a mini Lemon Tart.  I don't like eating alone in a restaurant.  I used to avoid it by getting my lunch at some fast food drive-thru and eating in the car.  But it's hard to do that and stay within my daily allotment of Weight Watcher's points.  I guess being twenty pounds lighter than I was is worth feeling lonely in a restaurant.  It wasn't too bad.  Watching rain drops roll down the window panes is mesmerizing.

All the experts - spouting endless statistics - say that our economy is sluggish, retail profits are down, and unemplyment is up.  It seems logical that this would mean an increase in the quality of customer service at retail establishments.  Not necessarily.  At Babies R Us there were zero cash registers in operation.  I had to wait while a manager got on the PA system and begged someone to please come and open a register.  When I was ready to check out at Walgreen's, the cashier near the front door told me her computer was down, and I would have to check out in the photo department or the pharmacy.  I went to the photo department and found it deserted, so I walked to the back of the store and paid in the pharmacy.

When I got out to my van, I realized that I didn't have my keys.  I checked my purse and all my pockets.  No, no keys.  I looked in the car, expecting to see them in the ignition.  No, not there either.  What in the world had I done with my keys?  I hurried back inside and retraced my steps.  Fortunately, my keys were on the pharmacy counter, right where I left them.

I stopped at the Addis post office on the way home and found my box full of good stuff - the local Riverside Reader that Jerry likes so much, letters from Singapore and Hawaii, and two post cards from Pennsylvania.  Good mail brightens any day!