Last year a church here participated in the Field of Flags project displaying 4,576 flags that represented those fallen at that time in Iraq and Afghanistan. It was very powerful and sobering to see. Check out the other photos below of this and remember what this day is chiefly about, while we enjoy the freedoms, memories and traditions made possible by their sacrifice. Then, LIVE, because that is what they would want you to do!
Around here, Memorial Day is the absolute best day for biking due to significantly fewer cars on our winding roads, whose traffic and short sight distances usually make biking dangerous. I love to get up early on Memorial Day and seize this opportunity to have the world and the road to myself. As I biked past two cemeteries, each full of flags with several cars, I thought about the Memorial Days of my past.
I remembered my older sisters’ jealous horror that my parents had allowed me to go on a co-ed weekend at sixteen, held at a friend’s cabin on a lake in northern Michigan, as well as the med-school boyfriend with the bright yellow corvette (it is very strange to ride so close to the ground!) that I met there. He would later give me my copy of Evangeline by Longfellow. I remember elaborate all day picnics and poetry during college in the Ann Arbor Arboretum with my friend Kathleen when we decided “elysium” was our favorite new word. (It means place or condition of ideal happiness!) I reminisced about writing Memorial Day letters to my mother in the luminous sun of a quiet dawn – something I no longer do. I recalled moving in on Memorial Day weekend into our current house here in Connecticut seventeen years ago, after living in New York City. We were overcome with the delightful surprise of waking up on Memorial Day to birdsong and thinking we had arrived in heaven. I swear, those birds’ ancestors honored us this morning in the same fashion.
This morning, I was proud to make it up the long hill by the vet for the first time, but the steep hill by New Pond Farm still eludes me and places my feet off the pedals and onto the road. But if this hadn’t been the case, I wouldn’t have taken the pictures (below) of the one room schoolhouse from 1789, which made me think of all sorts of other soldiers to be grateful for. (Check out the photo below of a Revolutionary diorama taken during Ridgefield’s 300th anniversary.) On the return trip, I love that hill that I can’t get up – it is a thrill to go down so fast and so far without pedaling! To be honest, I don’t bike for the exercise; that would not get me out of bed when I could lay there listening to the birds chatter and rejoice. No, it is the exhilarating downhill plummet, the rush of wind right through me, the blur of sensations that make me feel free – that’s what I show up for.
My husband does a lot of gardening on Memorial Day weekend, and I often paint. Below is a painting I did in my art journal last year on Memorial Day that I pulled out and looked at, thinking how striking it is that the view from my picnic table looks exactly like that this year as well.
And what else is Memorial Day but the quintessential meal of a burger, with watermelon and chips? Mine was a Boca brand veggie burger on a whole wheat bun with muenster cheese, but my husband prefers a turkey burger. One of his triumphs in life is that he’s gotten me to put mustard and dill relish on mine which I never did before I knew him. Anyway, this meal speaks of Memorial Day as the official start of summer more than any other day on the calendar. And only those my age or older will remember when Memorial Day meant that you could now wear white shoes until Labor Day.
So today I’m just grateful for my world to stop for a moment to feel this deep gratitude for freedom, friends, family, flowers and feathers, harmony and hope. And I thank the soldiers past and present that made it possible, especially since that is one job I personally could not do.