My best recent exploration occurred when I drove up a steep and bumpy dirt road that hugged the side of a forested mountain. The little road twisted along for what seemed like an overly long time, considering how little there was along it. The thick canopy was broken only occasionally for clearings surrounding the few homes I passed. As a narrow-minded city person I couldn’t help but wonder, who would live all the way out here?
The road turned into a track, still navigable in four wheel drive for a little while more before becoming impassible. Where I stopped there was a low stone wall.
On the other side of the wall was a cellar hole, now just a depression. Foundation stones were tumbled around its bottom, which was partly covered over by a think layer of fallen leaves.
A little ways from the depression, located in what must have been a clearing once, were five small, rough, unmarked graves. Daylilies grew all around the markers, as did this rose.
The hands that planted and tended this rose have long been still, and the unmarked graves leave no clue as to who they were that lived and died here. Their home is gone, their fields returned to forest. The plants themselves are almost the only pieces of material culture left to bear their witness.
A house feels permanent, a person seems semi-permanent, and a garden feels ephemeral. But there must have been a point in time where one’s decay accelerated, while the others’ were stayed. I brought a little chunk of this rose back home with me, and I hope it survives. If it does, it will be a memento mori, reminding me of the short durations of people, buildings, and tended spaces.