peace. perfect peace.
Life in London is loud. Sirens sounding, lorries backing up (beep beep beep), hundreds of airplanes flying overhead, people shouting, cars honking, jack hammers hammering, drills drilling and lawn mowers mowing. It’s incessant, the noise. So much so that you can’t even actually hear your own thoughts most of the time. And the thing is, you somehow get used to it. You don’t quite realize that all that noise is getting under your skin and slowly making you a little crazy until you head out into the country and hear… what do they call it? That sound in the country? Oh! Yes! The sound of SILENCE. And you exhale. Ahhhhhhh!
I am a big fan of silence. It’s nice to give the old ear drums a break once in a while. And when I can’t make it to the country, I’ve found that in a cinch, the best place to go to find that semblance of quietude is the nearest cemetery. The dead are pretty awesome at silence. They don’t raise hell and are by far the quietest tenants in London. Save for the occasional crow cawing, you can almost escape the chaos of the city dans le cimetière. It’s like a chill out lounge, without the cool jazzy music and the cocktails. Ok. So it’s nothing like a chill out lounge but there are definitely a few benches you can chill out on and reflect. Maybe you reflect on your own mortality (what with all the dead people lying in the ground beneath your feet). Or maybe you don’t think at all. Maybe sitting there, on that bench, listening to the birds, watching the tall grasses bend, stopping for a few minutes and paying attention — maybe that is silence’s reward.
Speaking of death, I finished reading One Day last night and… WARNING: SPOILER ALERT. If you don’t want to know what happens in the book, I suggest you stop reading this post immediately. Go ahead, I’ll wait for you to leave. Here, I’ll even put a photo between this paragraph and the next, on the off-chance that your peripheral vision spots something you don’t want to see.
(That’s my flatmate Leonie, by the way. Up on her rooftop, earlier this summer. It was getting dark, I only had 100 ISO film and no tripod, hence the blur. But I kind of like it, the blur. It’s ghost like, which fits in so well with the cemetery theme, don’t you think?)
Ok. So. As I was saying, in the book, these two characters spend the better part of 15 years tiptoeing around their love for each other until finally, FINALLY, after all those years of pining and lusting (which is so obviously obvious), they end up together and there’s a bunch of making out. Yay! And I naturally think “Awwwww. Isn’t that lovely?” because I love the love, right? So there I am on the tube, with a smile on my face and that “Isn’t that lovely” feeling when out of left field comes this catastrophic sentence: “Then Emma Mayhew dies, and everything that she thought or felt vanishes and is gone forever“. BAM! Just like that. Slap in the face. SO NOT LOVELY, PEOPLE. Life is hard and then you DIE. WTF? I mean, that’s some pretty heavy shit to be reading on the tube ride home. I put the book down and hated it for a while. I still kind of hate it a bit. But I have to say… it doesn’t get more real than that. As a general rule, death doesn’t give you any indication that the curtains are about to drop, so you best say your good-byes and do that thing you’ve always wanted to do because “Knock, Knock. Who’s there? DEATH!” It often is that sudden. One minute you’re here and the next you’re gone. And I think maybe we spend most of our life comfortable with all the noise around us because it distracts us from thoughts of eternal silence.
Sitting on a bench in a cemetery always reminds me that there is simply no escaping death. And though it leaves me with a sense of urgency, like a giant bomb ticking, there’s also a quiet comfort to it. A sense of peace. Perfect peace. What I mean is, I almost can’t help but take a deep breath and say “Thank Christ, I’m alive. Sure, I’m poor, my back hurts, my underpants are riding up my ass, my face has a new wrinkle on it every day, my job kind of sucks and my man sometimes drives me mental. But I’m ALIVE!” And I’ll take that over death, any day.
Plus, cemeteries are just plain cool. Period.