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Archive for December, 2010

It’s always interesting to watch the different things that people do at graveyards.  There were often customs and traditions that could be learned there too, if you watched long enough.

Today Kachina watched as an older man was spending an unusual amount of time tending to one particular grave site.  Eventually, the man hoisted into standing position what appeared to be a Christmas tree.  She was familiar with the signs posted around the graveyard and she wondered how long the cemetery officials would allow it to remain.

She couldn’t quite gauge the man’s age because he was too far away from her but she guessed him to be in his mid- to late sixties.  Kachina continued to observe the gentleman retrieving water for the tree and the other flowers that adorned the grave.  The man then spent several minutes knelt on one knee with his head down.  “Is he praying?” she wondered.

After a few more moments the man slowly rose and stood with his head still bowed.   As he turned and walked away from the grave, his gait appeared tired and his head remained gazing only at the ground.  Kachina continued to watch the sad, aging man as he walked towards a Jeep parked along the nearby curbside.  Then she watched him get in and drive away.  She continued to watch the car until it was out of sight.

Since she had managed to get herself so wrapped up in this display of diligent and extensive care-taking, and being the nosy thing that she was, Kachina opted to walk over and get a closer view of this tree so tenderly cared for and painstakingly mounted.

To her amazement, she found not only the little Christmas tree, decorated with lights and photos, but an entire nativity scene with additional trimmings.  The set-up was even completed with sun-powered lighting!  Gazing at the mock snow that lay on the ground, surrounded by a little white-picket fence, Kachina could only imagine how beautiful it would be at night.

The photos on the tree only confirmed her suspicions — that this had been a husband caring for his wife’s resting place.  The most amazing thing in Kachina’s mind was that this woman had actually passed away more than five years earlier.

“I wonder,” she thought to herself, “if there will ever be a man who will love me that much and feel losing me quite that deeply?”   Emotions pinched at her as she marveled at what the man must surely have been feeling.  She brushed away a seasonal tear, crossed herself, and slowly walked away — oblivious that as she walked, she did so with her head held down.

So, is it Fact or Fiction?

Grave site decorated for Christmas

It is a true story.  Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  I’m sure there are other stories like this one but they don’t always fall right into your lap.  Sorry, I just had to share this.  Sometimes real life actually can be as beautiful and moving as the stories we see on the Lifetime channel.

Merry Christmas!

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The Graveyard Book by Neil GaimanI saw the title and I had to have it!  The title appealed to me immediately, because I’m weird like that, so I had to “Whispernet” myself a copy!  Yes, it’s Kindle-ready!

Well, first thing I did was include this in a Teaser Tuesday over at MizB’s Should Be Reading blog. This is a popular blog meme that I like very much.  I had to share this really cool title over there where I said,

The Graveyard Book is written by Neil Gaiman, who was a mystery to me until now. I would love to know where this thought process came from.  There are some nicely done illustrations that appear intermittently and add to the overall enjoyment of the text.  They are interesting in their own right.  The illustrations are done by Dave McKean who is responsible for illustrating several other books as well.

Now that I am done reading it, I have so much to say that I don’t know where to begin!  I am even more enamored with the book now that I have read it.  But, I still needed to know where he got this idea!  The back of the book lets us in on that.

Under “Acknowledgments,” the author stated that he owed “an enormous debt, conscious and, I have no doubt, unconscious, to Rudyard Kipling and the two volumes of his remarkable work The Jungle Book.”  Gaiman goes on to say that if you are only familiar with the Disney version of The Jungle Book, “you should read the stories.”   I have to confess that I am only familiar with Disney’s Jungle Book version and I have not actually read the books.  Sorry!

In spite of my failure in that area, I can see how the different animals would have added different aspects to the child-rearing in The Jungle Book, in much the same way that Nobody Owens (Bod for short) was reared by dead people in The Graveyard Book.  Bod was educated by the many different people who were buried at the cemetery — all of them coming from different walks of life, and even from different time periods.  They contributed wonderfully to his great, albeit odd, knowledge base.

As readers of The Graveyard Book, we can certainly acknowledge Rudyard Kipling’s impact on the storyline.  While that is true, it is important to point out that we have to send thanks out to Gaiman’s own children — his son for riding his tricycle between headstones at the age of two (why they were at the cemetery I will never know), and his daughter for all of that “wanting to know what happened next” that kept her father writing!  Thanks you guys!

There are wonderful quotes from the book.  There are some that, I swear, are just a step away from becoming part of graveyard lore!

One grave in every graveyard belongs to the ghouls.  Wander any graveyard long enough and you will find it — waterstained and bulging, with cracked or broken stone, scraggly grass or rank weeds about it, and a feeling, when you reach it, of abandonment.  It may be colder than the other gravestone, too, and the name on the stone is all too often impossible to read.  If there is a statue on the grave it will be headless or so scabbed with fungus and lichens as to look like a fungus itself.  If one grave in a graveyard looks like a target for petty vandals, that is the ghoul-gate.
There was one in Bod’s graveyard.
There is one in every graveyard.”

With all my cemetery traipsing, I needed to know this!  You do know, of course, that I will now be watching out for those ghoul gates!

On a more serious note, this book is yet another piece of literature that touches on the topic of suicide.  This seems to be a common, reappearing thread in so many books written for young adults.  Silas (Bod’s “guardian”) finds himself with the duty of explaining the meaning of unconsecrated ground to Bod and the kinds of people who are buried there.  Bod wanted to know if those people buried there were “bad people.”

Silas explained that, “there are always people who find their lives have become so unsupportable they believe the best thing they could do would be to hasten their transition to another plane of existence.”

They kill themselves, you mean?” said Bod. He was about eight years old, wide-eyed and inquisitive, and he was not stupid.
“Indeed.”
“Does it work? Are they happier dead?”
“Sometimes. Mostly, no.  It’s like the people who believe they’ll be happy if they go and live somewhere else, but who learn it doesn’t work that way.  Wherever you go, you take yourself with you.  If you see what I mean.”

Uh huh. Gaiman gives readers another thing to think about when looking at their own lives.  There were several interesting psychological observations drawn from the behavior and thoughts of the characters.  The way Bod would interact differently with each of the dead, and the living, could have been an interesting study in itself.  He would behave just as was fitting for each of the personalities he encountered.

This book is certainly not void of peculiar characters — some more peculiar even than the dead ones.  Bod’s guardian, Silas, is still a mystery to me.  His description made him sound like a vampire, but that was too trite for this plot.  After reading the whole story, I’ve decided to liken him to something more vaguely similar to the angels of Frank Peretti books — you know that’s what they are but it’s not always obvious.  Silas wasn’t dead but he wasn’t alive either.  What he was was strangely endearing.  This and other interesting characteristics of this story are for the reader to discover and decipher.  Some were obvious but some, not so much.

I’m going to put the age for readers of this book as open-ended.  Amazon says 9-12.  I say 9 and up!  There are many things that will grab the adult readers while slipping by the younger minds.  I did find myself relating to the ghosts from time to time.  One of the best things about this publication is that your kids will no longer have a fear of the graveyard!  They, like myself, will want to be there!  It’s magic!

Where does the book disappoint?  Reality bites.  It ended too soon!  I wanted the story to go on!  Even in this story, the child grows up.  Here is where it becomes educational to the younger reader.  There are lessons, trust me.  Several!  Grade?  A-pluses all over the place!  A+++!  Loved it!  I’m not alone with this — it’s a Newbery Medal winner!

I need a follow-up publication to this.  I need to know if Bod remembers his roots or if he loses touch with his “family.”  This is definitely a movie waiting to happen!  I couldn’t help but think of all the things they could do with this — it could become a classic!  Obviously I’m not the only one who thought so — they have already started. (I told you I wasn’t alone with this!)  The note I read said that the screenwriter’s first draft had to be redone because he was too faithful to the book.  I say, “Hooray!” to that and that is very good news!   If that’s the only failure to the first draft, “Bravo!”  Can’t wait!

To be fair, there were a couple of problems with wording and location but they did not interfere with the storyline so I’m not going to make a point of them.  I’m going to go with blaming the editor for that part, not the author.  Aren’t editors supposed to catch things like that?  Besides, I was sure I marked them but I can’t find them for the life of me.  They must have fallen through a ghoul gate!

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