Not in that order.
I’ve said a lot of good-byes recently, although I tell myself each time that it’s just temporary; I’ll see people again at some point. Life is like that. I’ve said good-bye to friends, former coworkers, our pastor, and really managed to keep it together. So who did I get teary saying good-bye to this morning? My dermatologist.
One of the best names I ever picked blindly off a healthcare provider list, my dermatologist is fabulous, and as a result of some irregular biopsies and a skin-cancer scare a few years back, I have seen her quite frequently over the past five years or so. At the height of the scary time I was seeing her almost every two weeks. So we’ve bonded. Today I had my last checkup, and I am nearly certain she got a little teary, and I did, too.
That office is near the Mt. Auburn Cemetery, a place I’ve always intended to visit, and I figured it was now or never. So around 9:30 this morning I pulled in through the broad gates and parked as the instructions said along one of the roads that meander through the 175 acres.
Who doesn’t love a good cemetery? The older, the better, is my feeling. Mt. Auburn was lush, peaceful, and beautiful. The landscaping is beautiful, I mean, but there’s something… spiritually beautiful about it, too. It always seems like a tiny profound moment when I calculate the number of years between two dates on a marker… when I wonder what the person’s life was like between 1806 and 1845… when I feel my breath catch at a child’s marker. It’s a somber beauty, to be sure, but it doesn’t feel dark and sad, at least not at this point in my life. Somehow it reminds me that each life is unique, and matters.
Cemeteries are also great repositories of names. If you’re a writer and (like me) you stink at naming characters, or if you’re having a baby, or like words, or whatever, take a walk around an old cemetery. Yes, there were a lot of Sarahs in the 1800s, but there were also Homers and Isabelles, along with Cyrus and Hosea and Clementine (female), Myles and Matilda and Alphonsus and Cecilia.
I should add that I prefer cemeteries on sunny, dewy mornings, rather than in the dark. I have some freaky memories of a youth group “man hunt” game in a cemetery at night, and hiding in the blackness behind ancient gravestones is not my cup of tea. Yikes.
Lastly in today’s trio of topics, we drove to the Adirondacks last weekend and concluded that it is really difficult to not eat junk on the road. Rest stops along that stretch are just fast food and gas station quickie-marts, and at the unmarked exits along 87 you don’t know how many miles it’ll be till you find civilization. But our experience showed us it was worth the ambiguity. After passing our one-millionth McDonald’s, starving, and just wanting some real, honest food, we blindly took southbound exit 21 for Catskill, NY. Near the on and off ramps we only saw a divey bar and some gas stations, but we headed the two-ish miles farther into Catskill itself and found one of those old towns that on a summer night seems to be stuck in time, somewhere in the hazy past. Old buildings, an old movie theater, couples strolling down Main Street, teenagers shouting to each other.
And then we spotted Bell’s Cafe-Bistro. The Web site in no way expresses the character and flavor of this little place. Signage lured us with promises of local ingredients, sustainable practices, or the like, and we decided to dine. The menu was fresh and creative, the atmosphere was classy-relaxed (yet no one commented on the fact that we were disgusting from being two days in the woods), and the chef came out to ask us how we liked our meals just before his toddler daughter ran in the screen door giggling. With the giant old-fashioned fans cranking overhead, and diners both inside and out on the sidewalk, I knew I could spend many a summer night here if opportunity allowed. Our meals (I had the broccoli rabe ravioli; Tim had a thick envy-producing burger) were delicious, and I regretted not being able to sample the rest.
Unfortunately, on this balmy Saturday evening, we were one of only a few occupied tables, and I worried about the survival of this lovely spot. If you’re on the Thruway this summer, skip McDonald’s and check out Bell’s. Or venture off another exit and find your own real food, and let the rest of us know.