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  • Writer's pictureDavid Carlson

604 in the quiet of these leafless trees, I sometimes hear echoes of people I knew and loved

Day 604 Tuesday, November 9, 2021

in the quiet of these leafless trees, I sometimes hear echoes of people I knew and loved


A few days ago we observed All Souls Day and Dia de los Muertos -- and I thought of apples. There are now none left on the trees. A few, missed in the clean-up, lie on the ground turning from yellow to brown, nestled in the falling leaves. Soon they will decompose and improve the soil to support the life from which they came.

In the house, the fragrance is strong near the boxes of bright red"keepers" we have put aside to eat by the fire. Each apple brings memories of walks in the warm sunshine - from blossoms to harvest time.

At mid-summer, I have a favorite spot in the middle of four apple trees. Their branches almost touch each other. Being in this bower brings back ancient reminiscences of childhood, treasuring places almost secret between the world as I wanted it to be and the one that was.

Surrounded by the apple trees I planted many years ago, I experience, with unexplainable delight and peace, the early leaf, the buds, the bees, green to red fruit, the smells, the breeze, the songs of birds. Now in the quiet of these leafless trees, I sometimes hear echoes of people I knew and loved. We all do.

In 998 Abbot Odilo, a monastic mover-and-shaker, established “All Souls Day" on November 2nd to pray for those waiting in that peculiar celestial vestibule called "purgatory." In actuality this day was simply catching up with the customs of remembering ancestors in most of the world's cultures. Observing All Souls Day rapidly spread across Christendom. In time, Latinx cultures brought it back out of purgatory and again into cemeteries and homes -- a time where those who have been and those who are, touch again.

The cemetery of our Shaker friends at Sabbathday Lake, Maine, has only one tombstone --"SHAKERS."

In their experience, relationships change but never totally fade. A very practical and "both feet on the ground" Shaker brother told me that once when he visited a Shaker village where no Shaker has lived since 1947, he felt immediately surrounded, at home, at peace. Time to dial Psychiatric Services? No, I don't think so.

There are some relationships bound by love which will never completely disappear. We have all experienced something like that but often fear to accept it. The reluctance passes with the years.

That which binds all our experiences together, past, present, future, hope, is a great mystery we will never understand -- some of us are content to use a working-label of "God" for the process.

I had better stop, as I sense Abbot Odilo beginning to raise a few objections to my reasoning. But from time to time let us remember, and listen once again, to ALL souls.

Brother Toby

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