Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery Reminds us to Eat, Drink & Be Merry.
My third June solstice of Carpesummer arrived without a visit to the Columbia Gorge Stonehenge. On the first day of summer, the second sunny & hot day of the year provided all Portlanders a burst of enthusiasm. We found our sunglasses and dug out our summer clothes from deep within our closets.
Although I’d driven past it 100 times before, yesterday was the first time I realized that the cemetery was the Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery. I had time, so I took a stroll through, and it provided me with a bit of a mental challenge.
Initially, the cemetery met expectations: century-old trees over decaying century-old headstones. We all marvel over the dates and relations carved in stone. We read tributes from husbands who outlived their wives and children who buried their moms. There’s a peaceful, solemn beauty. Within the Lone Fir Cemetery lie many of the names which any Portlander would know: Banfield, Sellwood, MacLeay and Lane, to name a few. These names now designate to a highway, neighborhood, park and county.
Then, I noticed some modern black stones that were larger than the old stones in the corner I had been exploring. As I moved closer, I noticed that faces were etched in the stone: the digital age had reached the pioneer cemetery. Then, I noticed one stone did not use the English language, it was in Russian. And the names on others were Russian-sounding. I noticed several more.
I reacted. Initially, I was shocked by the modern stones in the old cemetery. They seemed out of place and out of character. They broke my mood of browsing through history. Then, I questioned my attitude: Am I prejudiced against Russians invading this very Oregonian place? Did I think that the modern has desecrated the antique?
Some of the old stones were not in English. Many of the old stones marked first-generation Oregonians. I’m the first of my family to live in Oregon. Obviously, the stone in the Russian language honors a woman who was the first generation of her clan to arrive here. She, too, was a pioneer, even if she did not arrive in a covered wagon.
Summer has arrived in Portland. My stroll through Lone Fir Pioneer Cemetery reminds me of the Biblical encouragement to live:
“And behold joy and gladness, slaying oxen, and killing sheep, eating flesh, and drinking wine: let us eat and drink; for to morrow we shall die.” (Isaiah 22:13)
“And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou has much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:10).