Memorial Day

It’s a bit dismal out there today, but at least the temperature has gone down. Yesterday was brutal, and of course we had our barbecue planned for about 4 p.m.  in what was likely to be the hottest part of the day.

The day started out with a wrench: Jim called to say he couldn’t come.  He’d gotten a bad sunburn while working in his garden, and wasn’t feeling up to the trip.  We didn’t blame him, of course, but we did miss him for a number of reasons, not the least of which was that there was no Watergate salad.

We ended up with our next-door neighbors and Charles.  Charles’ wife, Mary, had a bad ear infection and couldn’t make it which was a shame as both Dawn and I were looking forward to having here there.

And everyone brought food!  If you didn’t know better you’d have thought that it was a local potluck.  Grace brought arroz con gandules, which sounds like the official national dish of Puerto Rico.   We were all thrilled, particularly Charles who never runs into Carlos at Home Despot without asking when Grace is going to be making her rice.  They also brought mostaccoli, salsas, guacamole, pico de gallo and a wonderful cake.

We made beef and chicken burgers, shrimp with Old Bay and pork tenderloin in chipoltle marinade, shrimp and apricot couscous salad, caprese salad and lime and coconut granita (A Dawn specialty, and one which may well have won Carlos’ undying affection.)  Charles brought a half gallon of Zanzibar chocolate ice cream and the most beautiful peonies, which Dawn and I split.  She’s informed me that I’m splitting the ice cream, too.  *grump*

What surprised me is that in spite of the heat and humidity, and the fact that it was way past Charles’ bedtime (He conks out about eight, usually) everyone stayed late.  Charles didn’t leave until past ten and our neighbors stayed until past eleven.  The garden was so beautiful.  We had candles everywhere and lanterns, and the lights in the magnolia.  Once we get more flowers in, with their scents hanging in the air, it’ll be amazing.

And today?  Rain.  We need it, of course, but the garden looks kind of sad after yesterday’s brightness.  We did manage to have breakfast out there, though.  Dawn made a Dunkin’ Donuts run, inspired by Carlos walking around with a cup from DD.  So we had iced coffee and chocolate glazed donuts, and talked about the garden until it began to rain so hard even the umbrella wasn’t helping.  We’re planning on taking a lot of our meals out there this summer.  We even talked about getting a chiminea and having Thanksgiving dinner out there if it isn’t too cold.  Yes, we’ve got the garden bug big time.

Finally, back to the reason for the day itself.  Ken M., a Facebook friend, posted a poem by Charles Sorley, a British soldier, killed by a sniper at the Battle of Loos.  The poem touched me and sent me looking for more of Sorley’s work.  I found another poem which also resonated for me, not just on a personal level but within the context of the day, and I’d like to share it:

Such, such is Death: no triumph: no defeat:
Only an empty pail, a slate rubbed clean,
A merciful putting away of what has been.

And this we know: Death is not Life, effete,
Life crushed, the broken pail. We who have seen
So marvellous things know well the end not yet.

Victor and vanquished are a-one in death:
Coward and brave: friend, foe. Ghosts do not say,
“Come, what was your record when you drew breath?”
But a big blot has hid each yesterday
So poor, so manifestly incomplete.
And your bright Promise, withered long and sped,
Is touched, stirs, rises, opens and grows sweet
And blossoms and is you, when you are dead.

—Charles Hamilton Sorley (1895–1915)

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