Magpie Train

sunset in Taos, NM

Just a few now but they keep on pouring in

That’s what they do every evening, the magpies of Llano Quemado, arrive in long lines at the cottonwood tree staging areas before flying up to Miranda Canyon to roost. At least that’s what they do in the summer. It’s February now, so maybe they just stay in the cottonwood trees here all night. (Those aren’t them.) I’ll never know, because no way am I going to wake up before a magpie does and stick my head outside and see. I wonder how they decide these things. Is there a head magpie? Do they use telepathy? A group mind? At least they know what to do, which you have to admit is a pretty big deal these days.

My sister-in-law and her husband in Iowa—younger than I am— know exactly where they’re going. They’ve decided to have their ashes buried in the same small-town country cemetery with her parents and a bunch of other relatives. It’s a peaceful, hilly spot—I’ve been there more than once—and I think that’s a fine thing. Wouldn’t mind it myself, especially if my honey’s there, except that I’ll be dead and past appreciating much. Besides, there’s always a responsible family member somewhere to take care of things like that. Right now, for example, my sainted mother’s ashes are in the storage unit, waiting (?) for me to bury them in Maryland. She died in April, 2012. I’m pretty sure I can find them.

So far so good, at least. And then I found out these same two folks are not only buying a burial plot, but also “planning a trip to Sigourney” (that must be where you go) to pick out their gravestone! Is this an Iowa thing? Could be an enlightened act, although you’d never pin me down like that, such a hopeless eternal boy… What if I get famous before I die and my fans expect a tomb? With benches maybe, so tourists could sit and eat their lunch. There’s a lot to think about here. Wouldn’t want to go off half-cocked.

I already have a burial plot in Maryland, by the way. More precisely, any one of several in a block my uncle purchased long ago, probably around the time his father died. There’s a vertical stone with “FARR” chiseled on it underneath some kind of pine trees where large birds with digestive problems spend a lot of time. I buried my father’s ashes there, just me with an old post-hole digger and a bottle of tequila. That’s where my mother wanted to be. (I don’t know why, they’ll just start yelling at each other.) A few steps away lie my paternal grandparents. A little ways off, my aunt and uncle. Um. You see where this is going, right?

So many futures, so little time. I’m just moving until I drop.

Johnny wants a V-8
someone needs a home
magpies tumble through the dusk
and evermore I roam

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  • Bob February 15, 2014, 3:21 PM

    This reminds me of a story. A former co-worker of mine had a broth-in-law that he couldn’t stand. The offending relative passed away suddenly and my co-worker was tasked with taking his ashes from Colorado to Nebraska be interred. When he returned he told us that the ashes had ridden in the front seat with him. “You know” he said, “that was the only time we’d ever done anything together.”

    • JHF February 15, 2014, 9:19 PM

      That’s a good one. I’m getting lots of experience with ashes. My father died back in the ’80s, so I was able to bring him back from Tucson in my carry-on bag on the floor. Try that today, I might have to dump him out in front of a guard.

  • Leanne Retana April 9, 2014, 7:40 PM

    That photo! Just…WOW!

    • JHF April 9, 2014, 10:15 PM

      They do that every evening. The light isn’t always that good, though.

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