On a breathtakingly beautiful fall day, my husband, Robert, and I decided to take a drive to Camden just for the fun of it. It was a cool day with an enamel blue sky and bright sunshine. The colors of the dying leaves, the blue of the bay reflecting the blue of sky, the sun pouring down the side of Mt. Battie was an experience outside of anything language could accomplish. To share the autumnal landscape between us in silence felt like a spiritual practice.
We decided to take a walk to the cemetery where Robert had seen a gravestone he wanted to show me. We parked by the Owl and Turtle bookstore and walked down the road that leads out of town. Our dog, Wesley, tugged eagerly at his leash, so delighted at all the new scents, and Robert and I talked, the way one talks when there is no phone ringing, no wash to be done, no animals to be fed and time releases its grip on the day.
We pass by one huge summerhouse after another. Curtains pulled, doors locked, empty driveways, chains across the entrance. We wonder about the lives lived in these houses and beyond. Their appetite for big and bigger. This time of year so holy to us in its flamboyant and colorful refusal to go softly into the more subdued palette of winter. What has the power to draw them away from this exquisite landscape? We feel such gratitude to experience all the seasons on our small coastal farm.
The cemetery is surrounded by a stonewall, and we heave ourselves over and begin the walk towards a corner far removed from the rows and rows of ornately carved stones and marble vaults. And then I see it, the small stone set alone in the shadow of yet another manicured summerhouse with its high granite wall and clipped hedges fencing it off from the rest of the world. I read the inscription “Unknown and Unwanted Baby Boy/ Body Found In Rockport Quarry/ April 20, 1940/ Age About 5 Months.” Piled around it are trains and trucks and balls and stuffed animals, a cap, a sparkly wreathe, angels and more. On top of the stone are a small ball and some jacks, a few quarters that those who unknowingly came upon this stone felt compelled to leave to try say the unsayable…that love will always have the last word…that our penchant for random kindness shown by the citizens of Camden who would not let this little soul’s life go unmarked cannot be contained or limited.
We stand quietly, the dog and Robert and I staring at the outpouring of love for this unknown baby boy who someone had discarded. For seventy-six years, citizens of Camden have stood vigil, bringing new tokens when the old ones wear out that honor this short life. And so it is once again that we are reminded that we humans who are so capable of cruelty and violence are also so capable of mercy and love. This is the human condition. Taking one last look at the stone, like so many who came before me and continue to come, I tuck this little life into my consciousness where it will always remain. So once again love has had the last word.