My favorite things in the summer are unexpected fruit trees and green cemeteries, thistles and Queen Anne’s Lace. And I found them all in Virginia this weekend.
On the train ride down, I alternated between reading “The Awakening” and “The Power Broker,” two books that both reference characters who, upon occasion, are early risers, emotional striving figures, and impulsively drawn to the sea. In other words, people after my own heart, for all that implies. For the two deeply flawed protagonists of those books–Robert Moses and Edna Pontellier–the allure of nature and the sea is overwhelming. Moses would swim for over an hour off the beaches of Long Island whenever he could, while the fictional heroine of “The Awakening” lives in New Orleans, a city made languid by sea currents and the threat of flood, and ends up searching for answers to life’s more difficult questions on the shores of the Gulf.
None of these similarities really relate to anything that I saw in Virginia, except that it became clear to me that it is only upon escape that the feeling of being stifled becomes completely apparent. Writing this at my desk near the window, where the rain has turned my apartment humid and languorous, I can barely think of wide fields and wildflowers.
Of course it is a funny Victorian conceit that, in conflict with wild Nature, man exists only to impose order. But I found these gravestones that have been patched up and re-aligned, as if to contradict the very idea that below the ground are the remains of those who died young and innocent, or old and troubled, but with lives untidy, all the same.