Angels guarding graves. Stone angels. Marble angels. Angels with one arm up, the other down. Angels holding roses, books, garlands of flowers and fruit. Angels with aprons overflowing with stone flowers or trailing grape vines. Angels dressed in free-flowing robes, and angels with bare chests and muscled legs. Angels looking downward while gesturing toward blue skies. Angels stepping out.
On our way from the Post Office, somehow Mr. E and I ended up walking across the lush lawns and rolling hills of St.Mary's cemetery off Pleasant Valley Road just north of Piedmont. This is an older cemetery -- many buried here were born in the 19th century, some here in CA, many in Ireland -- and quiet. We were alone, my little dog and I, wandering about the graves. Mr. E sniffed about hoping to find a ball or a stick; I walked carefully, offering respect to those who lie beneath the grass, protected by these carefully carved angels, barefoot on stone, too heavy to fly but lifted above the grass and mud below.
I'm a creature of the sea -- more a fan of mermaids than angels -- but I love that humans imagine otherworldly creatures looking much like themselves but with great wings that can carry them above clouds, past stars and out into the deep vastness of space past asteroids and cold dead planets so unlike our verdant breathing laughing paradise.
What do these angels have to say to the universe? Do they whisper color, breathe out butterflies and hummingbirds, scatter autumn leaves across the Milky Way? Or when they fly do they leave trails of memories, great piles of jumbled words in their wake?
I like to imagine all those years of void between the earth and Jupiter as not gaspingly empty after all but delicately constructed of zillions of small memories snipped from billions of lives that are no longer remembered here on earth. Stretched between this moon and that asteroid would be the smooth feel of an apple picked green from a tree long gone wild attached to the surprise of grapes squeezed from their skin and then spot glued to the bright green of new grass on a raw patch of land in some 19th century industrial zone, which might in turn link tenuously to a baby's first cry or a hand waving good-by diffused in the scent of baking bread or the aroma of burning plastic. No one would think such attachments strange. After all, every little bit, every scrap, every dust bunny is necessary when constructing an infinite void of muchness.
Maybe I'm just recalling the end of Tony Kushner's Angels in America when Harper, the straight wife of a gay man, leans her head against a plane window, and speaking as much to herself as to anyone, says:
When we hit 35,000 feet we’ll have reached the tropopause, the great belt of calm air, as close as I’ll ever get to the ozone. I dreamed we were there. The plane leapt the tropopause, the safe air, and attained the outer rim, the ozone, which was ragged and torn, patches of it threadbare as old cheesecloth, and that was frightening. But I saw something that only I could see because of my astonishing ability to see such things: Souls were rising, from the earth far below, souls of the dead, of people who had perished, from famine, from war, from the plague, and they floated up, like skydivers in reverse, limbs all akimbo, wheeling and spinning. And the souls of these departed joined hands, clasped ankles, and formed a web, a great net of souls, and the souls were three-atom oxygen molecules of the stuff of ozone, and the outer rim absorbed them and was repaired. Nothing’s lost forever. In this world, there’s a kind of painful progress. Longing for what we’ve left behind, and dreaming ahead. At least I think that’s so.
The net of Indra, the flight of angels, the Rapture. All imagined events designed to organize the chaos of the human world, describe as real the painful progress of a building expanding universe, dreaming ahead and leaving nothing behind. The trees switch from green to red to black; the sky bleeds through, and those of us below keep walking, endlessly walking.