The soil was muddy all the way down to the bottom, 18 inches or so. The moisture may have gone farther. In any case, the earth was unusually wet, and the hills were unusually green. The flatlands were also green, but then they had been green since my grandfather pioneered this land 110 years ago; and together with neighbors, brought water to dry land. A few decades earlier the Palliser Expedition had called it a desert.
Pete Reesor had heeded the call to; “go west young man”, and settled on the banks of Battle Creek in this, “dry as a bone” area of the Northwest Territories. When he arrived, there were no roads, no fences, no power lines, no telephones, no telegraph, few neighbors; and the nearest town was a 50 mile horseback ride north, over the Cypress Hills. (Fifteen years before, Sitting Bull had found refuge in those hills from the US army, upset over a battle in Montana that had not turned out well for General Custer).
South of the hills, it was dry, short grass prairie. But Pete and couple of other visionary ranchers hadn’t seen dry, short grass prairie. Instead they saw irrigated farmland, hayfields, feed for livestock, and insurance against drought. Pete had also seen a sort of prairie oasis; with shade trees, and gardens, and fruit trees, and buildings; and a wife and family. And, after decades of digging, and ditching, and planning, and planting; it all came true.
Grandpa had sold land to the Canadian Pacific Railway for the town site, and provided a few acres for a cemetery overlooking the town site and the valley. Fifty years ago, he was buried there in the family plot; followed by my Grandmother, and my Dad and Uncle. A week ago, under blue skies scattered with white clouds – she loved clouds; we placed Mom’s urn in the blessedly muddy soil beside Dad’s; a half mile from the village where she had been born, and a mile from the farm where Dad was born. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust, earth to earth.
But, Mom’s ashes are all that we buried.
We didn’t bury memories, or life lessons imparted, or standards to live by, or the importance of our faith; or, of pursuing dreams. In fact; having our ancestors buried and memorialized in a specific place gives us and our descendants a place to go back to and be reminded of all those important things. Bob Dylan, borrowing from the Apocalypse in the New Testament wrote; “When ya gonna wake up, and strengthen the things that remain?”
Last weekend, we buried what was necessary, and strengthened what remained. It was good.
Going back for our future.
PS – For years I have had the quote above over my desk; ascribed to Lucretius. Jennifer Wainwright pointed out it is by Marcus Aurelius. I do need a good editor! The quote is not meant to imply that I get it right all the time; only that simply being in the minority should not sway you from a carefully, and courageously thought out, and honestly held position.