August 28, 2003

I usually walk across the old churchyard on my way to work in the mornings. That is, I do it on those occasions when I remember to stop reading and get off the bus early enough. This morning I did, barely, remember; knowing I was cutting it close if I was to make it in time for my massage I thought I’d probably get there quicker if I took the scenic route.

The old churchyard is large, and the graves are from at least four centuries by now (yes, for it is still in use and new plots are being opened). Each time I cross it I walk a slightly different route. When I want to return to some particular stone I rarely remember where it is located. It’s a large place.

As I was striding along this morning, looking, as best I could at the pace I was keeping, at the graves I was walking past, I noticed a commotion in front of me. Two large hares were hopping along the same path I was taking, but sensing me, they increased their pace and turned onto another path, gracefully jumping over a low railing to do so. In one of the large, old trees, a squirrel was sitting at about head hight, also looking at the hares. So intent was it that it never noticed my approach, and finally I was standing so close to it that I could have touched its bushy tail. Even when it turned its head it didn’t notice me or at least not perceive me as a threat. It was probably a young and foolish one.

I could have remained there for a long time, but I didn’t want to be late for my massage, so finally I moved on. As I approached the chapel, a procession of people was coming out from it, slowly and solemnly walking around the church. A choirboy with an incense burner walked first, followed by women carrying a portrait and a priest or probably bishop carrying a staff and wearing a beautiful robe and what looked like a crown. The small group of people walking after were not dressed in black but it must have been a funeral procession. The smell of the incense was unfamiliar; the scene could have been taken from a movie set in the Balkans. It was an intense sight.

I could wax philosophical here and say something about it all being in the road you choose, but that would be pretentious and silly, not to mention untrue, for I have taken the same route, more or less, many times without encountering neither wildlife nor processions. And if I’d remained on the bus and taken some other route maybe I’d have seen something differently wonderful.

And I made it to the massage with minutes to spare.


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