Monday, September 15, 2008

Why Are Peacocks in Cemeteries?

I am not sure why I found comfort in the fact, when I heard it, that we were burying my Aunt Judy on the same day that my grandpa died--10 years apart. It doesn't feel like 10 years.

Some of the people I saw this last weekend I hadn't seen since then. Some of them hadn't been born yet. Like my cousin-once-removed, little 4-year-old Gracy. I witnessed Gracy doing something that I wish we could all do in life and get the same response she did. She walked from person to person, saying the same sentence, "I'm leaving," and then doing the same simple act (whether they were standing or sitting)--falling forward into their bodies, hands at her sides. And they always made the same, simple response. They hugged her. It should be this simple to garner a touch. We should all feel so much uncomplicated warmth for each other.

I spent time at my Aunt Judy's visitation hours talking with Don & Bill--the friends of my cousin, Tim, who introduced him to his partner. After sharing stories--about Tim's unconscious introduction of the rainbow flag to me, and how that had a role in the interview that got me my current job--Don asked me if I was a "Fag Hag." I immediately didn't like the sound of it. They laughed at me not knowing what it meant.

I grabbed my Uncle's hand (my uncle who also happens to be gay) and put my face close to his cheek, and said, "Does that mean someone who loves people for whoever they are and who always wants them to feel comfortable being who they are with me?" Because I want it to be that simple. I want my family and friends to feel like they can put their arms at their sides and fall into me and know I will respond with a hug.

But that's not what they tell me Fag Hag means. It means, they tell me, a woman who chooses the company of gay men because she enjoys being around them. I still object. I have family & friends who are gay, but not because I "gathered" them or because I prefer them.

I think people make love too complicated. Love is easy. People walk by easy love. Like my aunt who rejected who step-granddaughters by giving preferential treatment to her biological granddaughters. I don't get it. Loving children and accepting love from them is typically so easy.

Loving my gay cousin and uncle is easy. Loving my cousin's partner is easy. I don't have to think about it or choose to do it. I would have to work at it to reject them, and it would cause me pain. It is much harder for me to love people who talk of entire nations beind damned because of their beliefs.

Some people need rules for loving. Some people need to read and reread the Bible to remind them to love people or to forgive people. I forgive people because it hurts me and makes my life miserable when I don't. I don't need a fear of a hellish afterlife to urge me to love.

My mother cried during my aunt's funeral when they talked of the afterlife and the rules required for seeing those we love again in heaven. She tells me it's hard for those who believe to accept that they won't see nonbelievers.

I don't believe. But her pain, pains me.

So, imagine how I felt when I looked up the question I'd been wondering about, "why are peacocks in cemeteries?" and I found the answer that they are the Christian symbol of immortality. I was looking for something else.

So I kept looking, and I found this on a women's site, and it seems to fit much more appropriately to me.

A literature professor of mine theorized that the reason O'Connor was so drawn to the peacock was because of its dichotomy. On the one hand, the peacock is this beautiful bird, with connections to the divine. On the other, the peacock can be a terribly, terribly obnoxious bird - they emit horrible screeches and can be awfully aggressive. My professor theorized that the peacock seemed to O'Connor a perfect symbol of humanity itself - capable of both the most beautiful and horrible acts imaginable.

Peacocks roaming a cemetery could represent the human dichotomy--our desire for the divine, and our groundedness--the choices we make every day to make each day a hell or a heaven for ourselves.

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