Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Walk in the Cemetery

Day 244 of the "What are you reading, and why?" and Rachael is no longer reading the third book in the Anna Pigeon series by Nevada Barr, because she put it down.  She was reading this series about a Park Service ranger, because 1) she likes books about wilderness and 2) she herself was working with the National Park Service.  She read the first two books in the series, but found herself uninterested in the third and troubled by some factual errors, though not overly troubled, as she understands slights allowances might be made in fiction.

But she felt guilty not finishing a book, until her husband, a great reader, told her it was OK.  "That's what's great about a book.  You can put it down."

You might pick it up later, or at a better time, and like it more, and finish it, as Rachael did with A Walk in the Woods, by Bill Bryson.  She started that one and didn't like what he was saying about what the Park Service was doing wrong, or wasn't doing at all, but then she picked it up again when she was actually working for the Appalachian Trail--the subtitle is Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail--because the Trail people had a big display on it.  She ended up liking the book a lot, and was glad she'd read it.

Rachael is now an educator with the local history museum, and one of the coordinators of the Evergreen Cemetery Walk, so I was able to talk with her today, my last day as Helen Davis Stevenson, mother of Adlai Stevenson II.

As we walked along the cemetery path, she told me her new husband, the great reader, had read 3 books on their honeymoon!  (No joke here.  That's for a sitcom.  This is a book blog!)  Now he's reading Larry McMurtry.  And she will be reading something soon, as she has a gift certificate for Babbitt's Books.

But I also wanted to tell you about a wonderful woman I met in the cemetery Saturday morning.  She was passing through on her way from Champaign, Illinois, to Madison, Wisconsin, and had always wanted to visit the grave of Adlai Stevenson.  When she saw the signs on U.S. 51, she stopped, drove to the monument with the aid of the cemetery signs and arrows, and found the plot, the plaques, the light blue United Nations flag.

And that's where I found her as I approached.  We had a lovely chat, and I was able to show her where the actual bodies lie, Adlai next to his father and mother, his grandfather, the Vice President, set apart under a big monument.  You can see the monuments here, though the sidewalk is newer now, the flagpole out by the street path.

This woman, who is 80, had voted for Stevenson when he was presidential candidate, twice, and was sorry that we don't have people like him in politics anymore.  She is convinced that money runs things now, and people vote to hold onto their personal money.  Sounds about right.

But I see things changing, finally, gradually, some.

And then, just before I left today, I had such a nice talk with a man in a motorized wheelchair, chugging over to see a pile of walnuts.  He lives next to the cemetery, harvests the nuts, and sells them at a local farmer's market!  We talked about the big commercial walnut place in Missouri, about how walnut hulls stain the skin, and all sorts of things.  His wife is buried in the mausoleum, only a few feet away from his house, but he has a new wife now.  People are beautiful!

Well, for instance, here's Nicole Kidman, and the United Nations flag:


seana graham said...

My dad, who was born and grew up in Gurnee, Illinois, was a huge Stevenson fan, Kathleen, and yet I had no idea Stevenson's grandfather had been vice president. No wonder he had fuel for his presidential dreams.

So how did you come to play his mother on the cemetary walk?

JulieK said...

If you see Rachael before I do, recommend Sharyn McCrumb's "She Walks These Hills." It's about the Appalachian Trail from a fictional, kind of folklore perspective and I LOVE THIS BOOK!