I wasn’t planning on visiting an Indian mound that Sunday when I left for Mt. Gilead, but after seeing the road signs indicating an opportunity, my curiosity got the best of me. For brevity, it’s basically an Indian burial ground. In the past I have always been intrigued with graveyards, the older the better. I would walk through reading the names and dates on the tombstones and wonder what they looked like and how they died. I would walk past the ornate marble monuments and look more closely at the simple stone markers. Sometimes I’d have to pull back the encroaching grass in order to read what was engraved on the flat rock. Hey there “John,” I see you were 38 when you died in 1927. I see your wife and infant daughter over here and looks like maybe you buried them 2 years before you died. Judging by all the dilapidated farm houses along the gravel road I took to get here, I’ll assume you were a farmer. I want to believe you were crushed in a tractor accident but something tells me it was more along the lines of a suicide. I’d ask your parents, who outlived you by 20 years, but they’re buried here too. Accident or intention, it doesn’t much matter … you, “John,” are with your family now.
When I was growing up, I was taught that the dead know nothing. When you die your body returns to the earth and your soul, spirit… energy, just kinda goes “poof.”(Yes, one of a slew of religions) Without elaborating on this theory, let me just say to the theologians; you can rewrite that “Book” as many times as you want but one thing is certain, nothing about the after-death is certain. (Take the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures for example) What is certain is that we as individuals have the amazing capability to believe what we want. The ability to draw from our life experiences and others around us, what we see and feel, gather, absorb and interpret, enables us write our own doctrine. And so what if we never come to a conclusion because conclusion is ultimately death itself. Instead, maintaining an open mind is what drives me to a better understanding. So “John,” your death is alive, as it gave me energy to think about you, and in a way, it helped me understand my life a little better…thanks man.
Ok, getting back to the Indian Mound. As I said, I wasn’t planning a visit here. I’m on a life quest, not a death ride. But knowing what I know about the Indian culture told me I wanted to know more. Native Americans didn’t have an “instruction book” to go by, as is placed in front of us every time we turn around. No, my interpretation is they believed that the Earth was Mother, giver and sustainer of life. Everything on Earth was alive, interconnected and therefore worshipped and respected. The Father, the sky, the stars… was where the soul went after death, the “afterlife.” As with most beliefs, Indian theology is complex, and according to most shamans, not easy, or intended, for the white man to comprehend. When the Europeans first introduced themselves to the Natives, they couldn’t understand this concept and therefore feared it. Typical, what we fear the most is what we don’t understand. Apparently, the Europeans were the ones to call the Native’s beliefs a “religion,” when in reality; it is a process of life. I think the Natives were on to something.
I pulled up to a building that reminded me of a one story middle school from the seventies, institutional like… brick façade, and there might have well been a flagpole to. I parked my car in the expansive, nearly empty parking lot and walked in. “This your first visit?” asked a man as pale as Casper, dressed in Park attire. “Umm…yes,” I replied, half expecting a darker skin tone and period clothing. He entertained me through the rehearsed motions, handed me a “self guided tour” pamphlet and sent me out a back door to The Mound.
I walked the museum like structures, left and returned, with permission, with the travelingchair. I sat in a replicated building on top of the Mound and thought of this:
She took off her spectacles and laid them at her nightstand lined with pewter frames of her past. Before she slumbered off, she gazed into the eyes of one particular photograph, as she did every night, for the past sixty-two years.
She could see her repeated reflection against the glass… leather skin, sunken sockets and toothless kiss.
Called to war, he died youthfully handsome shortly after they married.
She always dreamed of the day they would be reunited.
Death came that evening and gently carried her away.
When she arrived, was he there waiting?
Would he still find her beautiful after all these years of timelessness?
I think the passing of time is just an illusion, resulting in a twisted refection of what we expect to see.