“I usually take it myself but I am too ill this year.”
I contemplate the Christmas Wreath: run my fingers delicately along the hard, hard edges of the holly leaves; test their points, caress the berries and ponder a possible name for the red, flouncy blooms…
“But of course, it will be a pleasure I shall make of it a ritual to be passed down in the annals of our family, as a tradition of old.”
“Really, I don’t know where you get such ideas, but you’ll need this too…”
“To wipe down the stone, there’s a bag here too, you can carry the new wreath down in it, take up the old one and when you’re done put the dirty cloth and the old wreath in the bag and bin them.”
“Marm, yes Marm!” I salute and click the heel of my boots together rather too professionally for an amateur soldier at arms.
“Go on with you…”
I was not joking about the ritual.
This shall be my circumambulation of the ages.
It is possible to ritualise anything.
The Orientals have a tea ritual the ideal of which is perfect service. Something we Occidentals could benefit from.
Impossible of course but attempting the impossible is good for the soul.
The key to ritual is intent.
Walk anywhere with correct intent and the earth discloses a sacredness it never lost.
I shall make this wreath a living gift to the dead.
I shall walk up and around Beacon Hill as if in a procession of the ancient ones.
My limbs will ache as I stride and my breath will come in small exploding balls of air.
Upon cresting the rise I shall sail down the other side pausing only to peruse such childhood avenues as present themselves to my vista.
Armoured thus I shall enter the Dead Centre…
I need not have worried.
In the event, there is not one step taken without an accompanying quiver of memory.
Memories: they fly at me from all angles incessantly.
At one point I throw back my head and laugh out loud…long and hard.
At another, my knees seem about to buckle with a surfeit of grief.
Thankfully the streets are divested of all but car clothed souls.
Every shop has changed.
The co-operative is an Indian restaurant.
The bakery is a hardware store.
From that corner there the sun sometimes sets large over the western shore.
Such places have always been sacred to me.
It irks immeasurably that I can no longer enter One-Nine-Four…
And there find Gramps in the kitchen, his shirt sleeves rolled, and Nan in her chair.
Before we knew better they used to say, that a stroke was a blow from the Faery…
I wonder if, and how, and when, Nan could have offended them.
Mum’s choice of phrase in gold letters on black marble.
It is all for us, this upright stone in the earth, like the funeral service and the procession.
The dead have no mind for this when they have gone.
They are just as much here as anywhere and everywhere else.
We carry them with us step by care-worn step of the feet until we next meet.
Just like the living.
What would they say if they could still speak?