KILROY IS HERE
I am a naturalist. I care about air, recycle and am not a litterbug. I recently experienced “cognitive dissidence”. This is when one personally held belief conflicts with another.
My son, dog and I walked to a nearby overlook. I recalled that the name of a friend and date had been painted on a rock. Preparing to tell our son the story of the pictograph, I saw the name had been covered. The paint was a monotone version of rock color. Like a bad dye job, the authentic rock appeared an imposter. The hasty rock painter left a faint line leading to what I recognized as the first letter of our friend’s name.
I wanted to tell my son the story of another boy born 30 years before the one now chasing lizards. Perhaps he once found freedom rambling over these foothills. The boy grew and graduated from high school. In the optimism of this time in life, he and joyful companions painted a time capsule on the immortal red basalt. Now near homes, the young people then were in a place far from the scrutiny of adults and overlooking their future. Time passed as did the optimism, replaced for our friend with sadness, dreams unfulfilled, and despair. Falling into the black abyss of depression, he succumbed. I wanted our son to hear his voice, to see his name on something not a headstone, to know a life. The narrative was now obscure.
I had visited this place many times not noticing the inconspicuous signature. Like meaning, it was hidden in plain view. Returning to the rock after the blustery spring funeral, I saw the words. He was here. Perhaps we ruminated over the same things lingering here years apart in time and space, yet together.
I suspect the rock rehabilitator did not imagine the act as covering a human soul. I am ambivalent when it comes to death. When digging archaeological pits, I was ecstatic to unearth remains or possessions of the long dead. But desire no surprises with the more recently deceased. Preferring them located together in tidy gated communities, names and two dates, separated by a dash to represent a life lived, neatly etched on evenly spaced symmetrical stones. It is fortunate early people were messy about telling their stories. But the cemetery concept is convenient for archaeologists.
Herbert Spencer wrote, “A living thing is distinguished from a dead thing by the multiplicity of the changes at any moment taking place in it.” I was witnessing our son’s waning childhood changing to adolescence. A bagpipe cried below. Our friend too set on another path to the soulful bagpipe.
I do not condone tagging. And, I believe that it is human to want our voices heard and known through eternity. When I am long dead, my changing will become imperceptible. And I am part of what was, is, and will be. I will become the rock. I am here.
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