A couple of weeks ago, I was at the Memorial Park out on the highway between Oak Ridge and Solway. My parents are buried there. Why they bought plots there, I don't know, but they did.
The cemetery isn't pretty, or peaceful. On a hill overlooking a busy highway, it's a mostly treeless grassy landscape reminiscent of a golf course populated with a sea of flat grave markers (not stone monuments, which I could get into, but flat markers on the ground for ease of mowing, I suppose) decorated with garish plastic flowers.
The highway it sits on is the main thoroughfare for commuters between Knoxville and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Y-12 Nuclear Weapons Plant, so it's always noisy with a gazillion cars and trucks ceaselessly speeding by. Though it's close to the beautiful Clinch River, the view is marred by the immense power lines running between the Bull Run Steam Plant and Oak Ridge.
In short, it's what I consider to be the WalMart of cemeteries. My parents and in laws are all buried out there. And honestly, the people who work there couldn't be nicer. But I don't want to be buried in that place, nor will I ever bury anyone else there again.
As I sat at the ticky tacky cemetery on December 21 in the chilly, damp wind, surrounded by all those plastic flowers, I had the disconcerting sense that I had been plopped into someone else's dream, that nothing I saw was real, that life itself was an inescapable illusion, simultaneously bleak, hilarious, and meaningless.
At first, it was no more than a sneaky little smile that played around my lips. I tried to suppress it, but I couldn't. I smiled broadly and then, it got worse: I started laughing and then hooting and kicking my legs hysterically. I couldn't stop. Except I was crying at the same time.
When my little lunatic spell passed, I felt empty. I walked back to my van and sat in the parking lot for a bit. Finally, I felt an overwhelming urge to drive to every house I ever lived in with my parents and sister: the little A house on Pacific, the East Village house on Atlanta Road, and finally the house Daddy and Mother built at 111 Ditman Lane.
As I drove from house to house, remembering the years spent in all of them, the memories they stirred seemed just as illusory and dream like as the episode in the cemetery. But this time, nothing was funny. I felt alone and apart, separated from something essential.
The pang of loss was not for something I ever had; we were not a happy family. The pang was for the love and affection that other families seemed to enjoy but we did not. And now it's too late.
The next day, while I was sweeping the living room floor, this little song came into my mind. I jotted it down and later in the afternoon, I came out to the studio and recorded it. The accompanying photo is a picture I snapped of the Clinch River above Norris.
As always I ask you to share Dogwood Daughter with someone else today. I'm an indie artist with no advertising budget, only word of mouth from kind folks like you. Thanks. Martha Maria