There was something comforting about this morning's scene, something that led me to pause and memorize every detail.
Me, on a mower, in the western half of South Section, one of my favorites, with all the really old tombstones in slightly crooked rows. I was only a row or two in from the road, and I was near the very front of the cemetery. Jacob on my right, on a mower, working up the west side of the section, a smile on his face and a little wave in my direction each time we pass each other. On my left, Ron sitting in the Bronco, observing the backhoe, left hand pressed to his lips in contemplation. Paul standing at the driver's side window of the Bronco, posture stiff and legs planted firmly, hands on hips, chatting with Ron. In the backhoe, Denny, in a bright green shirt, working hard and concentrating on the task at hand, making smooth and predictable swipes, moving dirt from the ground to the dump truck.
Above me, barn swallows swooped and glided and chased after the bugs that we churned up with the lawn mowers; dodging in and out, seemingly on a crash course with each other, darting and playing all around us. Their acrobatics brought a tremendous smile to my face, their antics a special treat that can only be witnessed during the early summer. Also above me, a clear blue sky, with only the slightest hint of puffy white cumulus clouds on the western horizon. Below me, bright green grass, the buckthorn and clover growing tall, with wild daisies poking up here and there. Around many of the tombstones, colorful flower arrangements, some real and others silk, brightening up the collection of ancient white marble stones.
I watched as Paul reached a peak in the conversation, his arms flailing and his hands gesturing wildly. Then he finished, and with his posture easing a bit, he rocked back and forth, from heel to toe and back. I followed his gaze as he nonchalantly watched the arm of the backhoe in its pendulum-like swing. I could almost hear him thinking up the next line of the conversation ... "Well, you know, it's like I said, you just gotta ..."
I watched as Denny finished his job, eased out of the backhoe, and stood with a shovel, scraping the sides of the hole smooth. His hair ruffled in the breeze, and he ran a hand through it to keep it out of those startling green eyes of his. His lips were pursed under his beard, as he concentrated. I could see his tan arms flexing and the muscles in his back working hard as he scraped away at the hole. With the ease of a schoolboy, he jumped into the hole, and worked on the inside. It reminded me of the time I watched, amazed, as he jumped effortlessly over that four-foot-tall fence at the front of the cemetery.
I watched as Ron flicked the ashes from his cigarette and grinned, laughing, as Paul chatted. Now and again he would cough, and gaze ahead, not really focusing on anything in particular. His right hand rested on the steering wheel as it always does, cocked at the wrist, with fingers relaxed. I pictured him nodding and could hear him saying "mmmm," his indication that he is following what is being said. When he spoke, he gestured with his left hand, and used his cigarette almost like a pointer.
Beside me, Jacob did laps on the mower, up and down the rows, making one pass on each side of the stones and sometimes a pass or two up the middle. His shoulders were slouched and his back hunched slightly as he sat, relaxed and limp, on the mower, his body bouncing with every rut and bump in the grass. I watched as he smiled slightly, amused at whatever thought happened across his mind. Carefully he maneuvered that five-foot mower deck in between the pathways, sometimes treading backwards in order to catch a missed patch of grass. He bent forward and ducked under the low-hanging branches of that gigantic maple along the western fence, and disappeared under its vast cover.
Yes, this morning scene, around 10:00 AM, comforted me and reminded me of why it is that I love my job so much. I felt at home, at ease, at peace; I felt comforted, and I felt that I was not alone. I felt that everything was right in my world, even if only for those few moments.