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It is a whirlwind in here

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Kites Fly Over Religion And History

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I was writing the last quarter of a novel. Lots of intensive work in the course of a day. I usually try for a couple hours of walking outside, but it doesn’t always happen. One day, in a later evening than usual for me, I set out for a wander in the immediate neighbourhood.

A reasonable walk away is a small park, run (it is obvious) by the Roman Catholic church. Three park benches, one picnic table, trees and flower beds. There is also a statue of the Virgin Mary in blue vestments. At the foot of the statue are two objects from the Halifax Explosion. One is part of one of the ships that collided and caused the conflagration, the other is part of a church destroyed in the explosion.

Now this is a pleasant place to sit regardless. However, it does hold two connections to my novels. In one novel, I have a significant and spectral occurrence happen at the foot of the statue of a Blue Angel. In another novel, the Halifax Explosion plays its part. I had written both these novels before I ever saw this small park.

So, I sat myself down. I imagine I go there four or five times a year. It is quiet and encourages contemplation. I contemplate. I doubt I have ever seen more than three other people there at any time. I was alone. I assumed that I would remain this way.

I was wrong.

In fifteen minutes or so a gaggle (or a giggle) of young girls appeared. Easily two dozen. None looked older than ten. They were accompanied by four adults. They all held a kite of identical construction. They were let loose to fly them.

A few of the girls were wearing a sash, and a couple more had badges on their shirts. I assumed they were some sort of Brownie troupe. Don’t Brownies fly up? At any rate they all started to run about, encouraged by the adults. If nothing else it was great exercise. It was a windy evening and they had some success with their kites. A handful got the hang of it and kept their kites more aloft than not. Of course, I got hit in the head by one of them. The child apologised. Otherwise I was ignored.

I bet with myself how long this activity would last. I won. Less than fifteen minutes. Then the girls banded in twos and threes and talked. As did the four adults. One girl started to do cartwheels – quite successfully. The girls walked around in groups, talking and giggling. A few sat on the grass. A few did try the kites again, but not for long. One girl somehow got the string leading to her kite caught in her hair. Two of the adults tried to untangle it, with limited success. I heard one of them say they would have to use scissors when they got back to the church. Then, being told to hold hands with their ‘partner’, they all left the park.

I followed soon after. I might not have got my usual bout of contemplation, but my mind was still occupied by other than my usual thoughts. A fair exchange.

DE

To Find Rest In The Graveyard

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I enjoy graveyards, and peruse them with vigour. It’s true I don’t plan to spend the rest of my life in them, but, after that …

So, I have many tales of cemeteries to tell. Hardly any are scary because, contrary to popular depiction, graveyards are not haunted. Unless one happens to die in one (or – worse yet – die after being buried in one), there are no lingering spirits to haunt. Graveyards are a place, however, to go and contemplate those buried there. I am planning for myself a grand mausoleum.

While researching my novel about Franz Kafka, I went to Prague. In those days it was still under communist subjugation, and travel in and out of Czechoslovakia, to say nothing of travelling the country, was complicated and dangerous. I was fortunate to have arrangements to stay with a Czech academic and his nuclear scientist wife while in Prague. They had a social standing which facilitated an easier visit.

Unknown to me upon arrival, the academic was an amateur historian. When he found the major thrust of my visit concerned Kafka, he was full of places to visit. Many of them I did not know about, and others I doubt I would have found on my own. For instance, he took me to the small house where Kafka had lived on Alchemist Lane, which eventually became the setting for half of my novel. Even though Kafka was in disfavour at the time, the house was noted for the fact he lived there, and it was on tourists lists. In a Kafkaesque twist, it was even then a bookstore, but none of his books were allowed on the shelves.

One of the places I was taken was to Kafka’s grave. It is situated nowhere near where Kafka lived his life, but is in a huge Jewish graveyard on the outskirts of the city. It took nearly an hour on the subway to reach the area. And then a walk to the graveyard itself. And then a walk through the graveyard, though the way to Kafka’s grave was signed. I would never have thought of trying to get there myself.

Kafka is buried with his mother and father (though, literally, vice versa, as he died first). It is only years after the fact that I read about the drama of his death, and the drama at the graveside. His young lover, Dora, who had spent the last year of his life with him, attempted to leap into the grave. She had to be restrained by Kafka’s best friend, Max Brod.

I lingered a long time – perhaps a half hour – by the grave. In the Jewish tradition I left a stone upon the gravestone. In my own twist, I also left a pen. And, because there were few about, and I was so moved, I lay down upon the grave itself.

DE

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