Contemplations & Reflections (with Toni Matulis)
Maroon & Gold
Bloomsburg State College (PA) - November 4, 1966
The Light in the Forest Shines on a Pastoral Rest - A Spot for Recalling
There are times when some of the weirdest settings can have some of the most soothing effects upon a person--even when the weird setting is a cemetery.
In the lush confines of Hickory Run State Park, which is peacefully stuffed into the northern corner of Carbon County and the southern edge of the Poconos, lying at a safe distance from the yelling and sunny crowd at the swimming area, the almost-but-not-quite pastoral setting of the camping fields, and the serene park office, is the bank of a hill on the northern side of the principal roadway through this stronghold of Nature. Just barely discernable to a hiker is a footpath across the grass slope, rising to a small plateau that at first seems eerily discomforting due to a low rock wall that acts as a feeble border--stronger emotional deterrent to entrance than anything physically formidable.
Upon taking the fateful step over the low accumulation of rock, one finds himself standing in a shadowed grove, watching the patterns of sun that manage to filter through the overhead foliage playing gaily upon bleached, mossed, and non-resisting tombstones.
At first one is shocked by its very presence--for it seems an intrusion upon the waterfalls, the pines, and thistle-covered forest floor of the park.
Upon taking an unsure step farther into the little grove, the feeling of age caresses one's backbone, forcing him to stop anew and take notice to the condition of the stones-- some fallen and broken, some leaning at precarious angles, and some still standing proudly erect, proclaiming that they are the sentinels to such people as:
William, son of William and Elizabeth Steward, Died Aug. 28, 1814, at 1 year, 4 mos., and 21 days., or of "Two Sons and Two Daughters of Jacob and Elizabeth West, "who "were drowned Oct. 30, 1819." Their names were Diana, Jacob, Ursula, and Scott, 15, 6, 4, and 1 year respectively.
One's imagination begins to take hold, and it is not hard to picture a small, meager farmhouse sitting upon the bank of the nearby stream on a windy, cloud-filled October day. Suddenly a storm breaks and the stream swells. The occupants--the four children--huddle together in fear of the elements while their parents are down the road at a neighbor's. The bank below the house is eaten by the raging waters and the entire building is tipped into the fierce torrent of water, unmercifully filled...
There are as many stories here as there are tombstones and there are some that could not be uncovered even by the most industrious sleuth, for many of the graves are nothing more than a conglomerate stone at the head and foot of the interred person, along a unified row at the southern end of the grove.
But after studying all of the readable stones (for some are too weather-worn to decipher) one begins to realize that they do belong there, with the waterfalls, and the pines, and the thistle-covered floor, for they are old, as is the waterfall, stately as the pine, and they serve as a foundation of Nature as does the forest floor--a reminder, if only to the very few who stumble upon them, that death is a reclamation by the powers that bore us.
There is no more fitting place than a grove in the forest.