The Sign


I’ve always hung out in cemeteries.

Well, not cemeteries….but in one -- Evergreen Cemetery.

If I had to select my most favorite place, the place I go back to again and again, a place to which I connect instinctively….it would be Evergreen Cemetery.

Although my haunts include several beaches, lakes, walks along the sea, I cannot deny how many times I’ve gone to Evergreen, alone and for most of my life.

I go for the beauty, the ancient trees, the meandering curving dirt roads, the fall leaves and brilliant crowning of foliage over my walking paths, the gray weathered tombstones.

I go for the quiet and the solitude.

I go for the mysterious locked chapel with its arched overhang and cobblestone pavement before the front stoop.

There have been times in my life where I’ve walked the cemetery every week. I walk throughout the seasons….well, mostly fall into winter into spring. In summer, I’m more social and don’t get the solitude to walk as I might like.

It was an early morning solitary walk that I’m reminded of for this story.

It was raining.

I hadn’t seen one other person walking.

The sky was smoke gray, the fall leaves turned to brown but still scattered on the soaked grass and dirt. I wore earbuds, likely listening to John Denver or Sarah McLachlan, my go-to albums for cemetery walking.

For some reason, I looked upward.

I always look right to left; I am forever trying to absorb all of my surroundings when I’m in nature – witness every single detail. But up isn’t a natural.

Up I glanced to see a large owl sitting on a perfectly perpendicular branch, levitating above my dirt path. I’d never noticed that tree or that branch.

I’d never seen an owl in real life.

He stared at me, his head and enormous black eyes unmoving, unblinking. I peeked up without moving my head, wet eyelashes gently shielding my wide eyes – trying to see, but afraid to startle or upset.

He was black or charcoal gray – dark. He must have been 18 inches high, sitting regally on the crooked branch looking like an old-fashioned British professor in his chief-justice-like cloak of feathers.

A sign, I wondered. Is he a sign?

Wisdom was my first thought. Knowing.

Although he was rather ominous, my thoughts didn’t turn toward scary or creepy. I feared he’d swoop, so quickened my pace, my head facing straight on. I won’t hurt you; don’t hurt me. What are you here to tell me? What do you know?

Seeing him captivated me.

Made we wonder at the glory that was him, and made me ponder the sign of what his sitting there, so still, just watching over me, meant.

Because something inside told me it meant something.

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