because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

THE BACKYARD CEMETERY

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I’d been fine, deadheading marigold blossoms, brown and crinkly at the buds.

For the first time in years, the sunflowers had come up, bobbling precariously on their thin green stems, ready to topple, as they always do. I’d been remiss about fall cleanup, so I stood out there in my winter boots, clipping and cutting, pruning and bagging.

And then, from the boggy-browns of late-winter garden, a turtle emerged, pulling himself through the grass.

Plugging along doggedly, he stopped to rest now and again and to crane his neck up and down.

I thought at first he was one of those snappers, the kind that can take your finger off if you get too close, so I kept my distance, wondering if he’d walked the whole five-miles from the lake, or if he’d caught a ride part-way. Either way, I knew he didn’t belong here, in the middle of my garden.

It caught me by surprise, the wishing.

Because he used to take care of this type of thing: shit on the lawn, birds the cat dragged in, half-squished spiders.

But I am alone now, so I scooped a rusted shovel under the turtle and saw the flabby edge of its shell, how it folded around the turtle like a shroud. 

I thought about what I wished someone – anyone – would have done for me when I found myself sick and alone and crouching in the shadows.

I pulled off my gardening gloves and reached out, barehanded.

I petted his neck and sat with him for a long, long time.

And somehow that ocean between us became a lake and then a pond until it was nothing but a tiny droplet in my little plastic watering can.

12 thoughts on “THE BACKYARD CEMETERY

    1. Omigoodness! Carl! You’re still out here! I’m so so happy tp hear from you! You were the VERy first person I ever followed on WordPress, back in the day! Did you see that I am now and artist myself? I had a brain injury and I started painting. Life is wild, isn’t it? Are you still down in Miami? I’d LOVE more than anything to come down and visit you this year. Is that a thing?

  1. Renee, this little story is a big, beautifully written reflection of our aloneness, and how simple touch can create connection and community. Love you.
    Love your heart. #takeoffourgloves

    1. Hi Carol! Thank you so much for leaving such a thoughtful comment! I am doing my best to find constructive ways to share my feelings. Thank you for all your love!

  2. We bury so much, until tamed and gentled by our touch and our tears.

    1. All of my stuff has now been unearthed – but WOW all that digging leaves one helluva big gash in its place. Now I’m trying to stop wallowing in the sad place! Time to reclaim my life! I hope 2019 is a good one for you – and that we can reconnect for a good heart to heart.

  3. Beautiful and bittersweet words. Having lived the better part of my life alone before I got married at 29, I can relate to your feelings. Yet somehow being forced to rely on no one else instilled in me a sense of bravery, compassion for others and most important– LOVE for myself. Happy new year to you!

  4. Renee, I love this story and the art work, especially!

    1. Thank you so much, Carol. I JUST started writing again. I was once so prolific; now, everything is harder. I’m grateful to you for continuing to read and support e in my creative efforts!

  5. Renee, I loved this short story. It has so much in such a tiny package.
    You have a beautiful way with words!

    1. Hi Denise! Thank you so very much! This one came very easily because it is how I’ve been feeling: alone and profoundly aware of my mortality.

  6. Hi David. Thank you very much. I’m just starting to write again. How come you didn’t tell me that I’d misspelled ‘cemetery’?! Hope 2019 is a good one for you!

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