Pete, who has an eagle eye, often notices things that I miss. Yesterday we got to the ridge and were on our way down when he pointed in the direction of a nearby birch tree. I immediately saw what he was pointing at, and with him, walked in the same direction. We noticed, upon closer inspection, that someone had screwed a rusted metal sign to the tree. The lettering, which was the work of a welder read “David Marden / Husband, Father, Brother / 1959-2003.” A shovel blade and a broken handle had been planted in the ground underneath the tree.
We continued on downhill, and in a fairly random fashion, began articulating questions to one another. We thus wondered – Who exactly was David Marden? Was he a local? What was the cause of death? Were his ashes buried here because he liked this particular spot? Did he often hike or ATV here? Was he a hunter? And who chose to remember him?
More practical questions also came to mind. Like, was it legal to put a sign like this on state land? Was it legal to bury someone’s remains on state land? And did the shovel break in the process of digging the hole?
As of yet, we have no answers to any of the above questions.
I like the idea of having one’s ashes buried under a tree. I think now that I will have this done to me. No sign, just a broken shovel beneath the tree.
The sign sighting got me to thinking – when you die, the main form of remembrance is a marker of some kind. After, you fade into obscurity. What remains is a single or multiple list of accomplishments. But direct memory of someone – it’s gone in a generation or two.
David Marden will now live on, because many do hike the bench trail. That is until the birch tree dies and falls, and the sign comes down with it. We come, we go. Life and death are as simple as this.
Next: 197: 10/9/13: Inside of a Dog