Haiku / Daniel Byerly © 1994
The rain was now falling harder than before. It landed defiantly on my windshield only to be cast aside by the mechanical movement of metal arms. With a battle cry of endless squeaking my worn wiper blades rushed to tarry with the drops of water. The technology of man was again trying to overcome an act of nature.
I turned off the highway and drove under the large wooden gate. The road, no longer paved had now turned into loose gravel. There is a uniqueness to the sound of a car driving on gravel, each rock pushed and moved and crushed by the weight of the tires. Even on a lonely old road such as this, the rocks cried out in pain. The car would dip now and then as the front tires hit a pothole, splashing the dirty water, spraying the black rubber and the bottom of the car.
Driving on up the hill, I began to see them in the distance. Silent soldiers, they stood row after row in near perfect formation. In uniforms of hewn stone they marched motionless on a field of emerald green. The cold mist which rose from the ground was being blown around them, swirling up into the overcast sky like gray phantoms in flight.
I shut off the engine and for the next few moments just sat there. The rain had stopped so I got out of the car and walked off the road. Besides the rush of the wind and the sound of my shoes on the wet grass, I could hear nothing. There were no machines or motors, no shouting or talking; there was nothing human but the sound of my own breathing.
Looking across an ocean of green and gray, the simple contrast in color fixed my gaze on something in the distance. I hurried past the countless lives no longer remembered, stories forgotten and dreams trampled under the passing of unstoppable time. Their weak voices cried out from behind the black and white pictures that hung on the weathered marble. But just as the mist was blown into nothingness, so too did the cries become enveloped by the rushing of the wind.
Out of breath, I stopped and stood frozen, transfixed on the image I had seen from a distance. There at the base of a marble tombstone, beneath the picture of a young child, rested a small dish filled with rain water and rose pedals. The dish was plain and simple, yet had a magical elegance about it. It was oriental in appearance, an earthy shade of green, almost pastel in its color. From where I stood, the light that shone on its outer edge gave it the look of being rimmed in gold. Within the dish were an assortment of rose pedals. They seemed to have been hand dipped into various shades of pink and purple. The pedals were arranged around the dish so that a few rose slightly above its edges. These were so thin that I could see the rim of the dish behind them. The translucency helped to enforce their look of frailty.
Again, the rain began to fall so I turned and hurried towards my car. Once inside I wondered about the dish with the rose pedals. The experience had touched something in me that I could not fully understand. I tried to connect the emotion with the image. I was trying to understand life and death all at once. Yet it was here, in this place of death, that I finally understood. I was nothing more or less than a raindrop on a windshield, a blade of green grass or a floating leaf falling towards the earth. I was part of an endless cycle.
Man celebrates two of the greatest mysteries; his birth and his death. Ironically, it is the life that occurs between them that he often neglects. In nature there is no real concept of individual birth or individual death, just a collective existence based on cycles of change older than we can even begin to imagine. I started the car and headed back down the hill. The gray mist swallowed the road behind me. I slowly passed through the large wooden gate, then turning left I drove on down the highway.
- Haiku / Daniel Byerly © 1994