Thursday, December 03, 2009

Crow circles – Highgate Cemetery

Tuesday November 3, 2009:

The sky softly arches overhead as we walk through the park. Beside the lake, ducks quarrel amongst themselves. Overhead, crows caw in the turbulent air.

In the deserted cemetery, we move silently amongst the graves, laid out in rows all around us. Not far past Marx’s tomb, a riot of wreaths is piled high on a newly covered grave. A large hammer and sickle tells us, we are at the right place.


We’re here now because I couldn’t be at the funeral. We’re also here because it’s the full moon and we’ve been working with the issues of illness and death these past two moons.

According to my personal bird calendar, we’ve now entered the time of crow, raven and owl. The earth has turned and, in that time past Samhain, where we move into ourselves, to reflect, rest and be still, it is a kind of annual dying. It is for me certainly a time to die to what no longer serves me.

A comrade has died unexpectedly. His influence has shaped a lot of my public work this last eight years. His life focus on socialism and justice reminds me that my work is not yet done, although his is.


My companion and I circle the grave, casting the circle and calling up the directions. We walk round and round, singing revolutionary songs in his honour.

The trees shake in the wind. The moving air brushes my cheek. A crow circles above and caws roughly. A young woman appears from somewhere and stands silently for a moment before moving on. I don’t know who she is. I stand still and wait in the quiet.

And I am a crow flying above the graveyard. I see the mounds spreading out, row upon row across the hillside. I see the figures by the flower clustered grave. They are very small.

So many dead. All gone. Nothing remains but the plot of land in which they lie. Amongst the well-known dead, this cemetery is the resting place of a number of comrades from my life. I think about my neighbor who died of AIDS. I remember a colleague who had a brain tumor. I remember another whose voice in the words she wrote expressed so much. All have affected me, changed me because they were in my life, deeply, daily, occasionally.

I stand by the grave and breathe in the sweetness of the flowers, and the richness of the recently turned earth. “Thank you”, I say to the comrade who is no more. Our work done. We open the circle and I bow to the grave and we move away.

Walking amongst the graves, we come across George Elliot’s. My companion reads her stone and the inscriptions on the graves around her.

It is late. If we’re not careful, we’ll get locked in as the cemetery is about to close. Hurrying now, we make our way to the gates. , a crow caws as he circles high in the sky above the silent cemetery.

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