Writing with the Dead

(c) TheBrassGlass

(c) TheBrassGlass

I found inspiration while sitting with the dead.  Their buried bodies beckoned me to join them and write.  The dead don’t impede while one is trying to concentrate.  They lie idly by, allowing masterpieces to blossom.  No comments, no critiques, no interrupting questions.  The dead provide a quiet, nurturing atmosphere.

Today is warm and sunny as I aimlessly drive through Bucks County–going nowhere and anywhere.  The act of writing, at this point, has left me.  It’s as though the spark that makes up my inner most self–my soul–has abandoned me on this blue-green, wayward planet.  The words no longer come, and I am anxious and agitated.  My life’s purpose has disappeared, leaving me empty and lost.

A small cemetery comes into view while traveling down a desolate, pothole riddled road with no dividing yellow line.  Something inside of my mind whispers to stop.  Instinctively my body takes control and steers the car off into the megar gravel parking lot.   Without a thought as to what was occurring, I exit the car and walk to the grass covered plots.

The landscape is speckled with headstones, which are old and hand hewn.  Green lichens and mold cling to the cool white stone.  Some markers stand as clean slates, the body’s identity wiped away by the hands of the weather and time.  This cemetery is ancient.  The dead have been here for many centuries.

It is well cared for, this small cemetery.  The grass is low and the surrounding trees are maintained.  It is picturesque.  Somebody truly loves it, devoting their time to care for the hallowed ground that houses these long dead people.

Sun filters through the trees creating little pockets of light among the shadowed darkness.  All is quiet and serene.  The only sound of life comes from the birds in the trees and from my own breathing.  Here in this land of the dead, a solace for the boundary of time, I find peace.  A peace that is limited by mortality.  A peace of knowing there is only one chance to achieve dreams.

And then they come to me, pounding into my head.  Reverberations and echos drown out the natural sounds of the cemetery.  Words.  They fill my brain and suddenly I find them spewing from my mouth.  I speak out loud stories–stories of my own creation–and they fall upon dead ears.  Quick!  A pen, some paper!  I hastily run to a sunny spot shining amongst the graves, fall to the ground, and pull my pen and moleskine from my purse.  In handwriting, illegible to anyone ‘s eyes but my own, I fill up a page.  Then another.  And another.  So on and so, the lined white pages of the notebook fill with loops and curls, all the while I sit in a fevered trance surrounded by the dead.

They watch me, quietly and uninterrupting.  This living being sitting atop their graves spilling words from her brain onto paper.  She has found herself while sitting among them.  But what will come of it?  The answer is unknown, but the dam has broken.  A flood is unleashed and the world once again seems brighter, happier.  There is a future.

The dead speak of these things to the living.  This life is unique and should be cherished.  It is the only time that this instance will be lived.  One must find inspiration and take hold of it with both hands.  Feel its invigorating life force, for once a life is over, the creativity for that person ceases.

I had to travel to the dead to find my reason to live.

10 thoughts on “Writing with the Dead

  1. Absolutely captivating Amanda. Your readers are the plants and animals downstream from that broken dam, as the flood of water tickles our own fancy. The silent voices of the past screaming through your fingertips to define the future. Absolutely brilliant – more please 😉

  2. That’s the irony. Isn’t it? That dead did inspire life!
    I’d love that cemetery myself. There is one in Nairobi. I used to think I should visit it and write a story while sitting there. But I drove past it sometime in 2010 and saw how vast it is. It is vast–so vast that I got terribly shaken thinking all those people are dead, thinking they had lived and dreamed. I was scared.
    It has also been said that some graves contain even more than two bodies. The attendants just keep adding more bodies into already occupied graves. So I thought that the dead people there must be really pissed off. They are squeezed too tight. Maybe they can’t turn, breathe, and they are hurting. They may shout at me, or mock me, throw rocks or try to pull me into the grave. I never went.

    • Do send pictures of that vast cemetery in Nairobi. I would love to see.

      I am sure you would have some amazing inspiration from that place. Though, it may be hard to find a seat. Sounds like it is an overpopulated area. They may not take too kindly from being sit upon–especially if there are 2 to 3 crammed in a tiny grave plot. Though, if the ground isn’t soft, you shouldn’t have to worry about them pulling you in. The dead can’t seem to break through to the surface when the ground is hard. It’s the ones who have already escaped and are wandering in the shadows… those are the ones who will throw the rocks and mock you. They are the ones to be wary of. The walking dead can sometimes be so mean.

  3. My husband and I used to wander in a beautiful cemetery in Cleveland in the spring and fall – it was so peaceful and we often wondered why more people didn’t visit to enjoy the flowers and greenery and explore the old gravestones, which can be fascinating!

    • The older the gravestone, the better. I find them so much more fascinating. My favorites are the ones that have the skulls carved on them. In Pennsylvania, there are hundreds of tiny family cemeteries scattered all over the farmlands. Many of the headstones have the skulls. An old friend once told me that the person with that image on their headstone was killed in a Native American conflict. Something I really need to research one day…

  4. I love this piece! It is so lyrical and beautifully descriptive. Fantastic how inspired you were! I absolutely love cemeteries. I find that as I wander through them, I’m flooded with thoughts of what X person was like, how they lived, etc. There is a small cemetery in the countryside here that my ancestors who came across on the Oregon Trail are buried at. A truly inspiring place full of personal history.

    Hands down though, the best cemeteries I have ever been to were in New Orleans. You’d love it there!!!

    • Thank you! I also enjoy thinking about the people that are buried in the cemeteries: what were their lives like, what did they look like, what hobbies did they have, etc.

      And that cemetery near you sounds fabulous. Ancestors who traveled the Oregon Trail–what amazing history!!

      The cemeteries in New Orleans are on my bucket list. It is a dream to go there.

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