The Town Tomb
It’s a beauteous Dour Hour, calm and free, down at Pandora’s Tavern. The early June sun is sinking low in its tranquility. The windows of the tavern are thrown open wide. I sit near one of them, sipping my beer. The song of the wood thrush drifts in from the big historic graveyard next door. A solemn thought perches on my shoulder.
Not long after the boundaries were established for the graveyard, the Town Tomb was erected there for the “free use of the citizens.” I can see it from where I sit. Its vault once served as temporary storage for bodies prior to burial. That was back in the 19th century. For many years, the Town Tomb enjoyed great popularity. The coffins sometimes were stacked up two or three deep, clear to the vault’s ceiling.
But at some point after the turn of the twentieth century, all that coming and going through the Town Tomb’s iron door ended abruptly. It was as if dying itself had fallen out of fashion. Historians blame it on the funeral industry. With all those tastefully appointed parlors and standardized postmortem cosmetology practices, death, they say, “became de-localized.” Others say that the guests in the Town Tomb were plagued by a never-ending rash of robberies, robberies that were never solved. Whatever the case, the vault now lay empty, its iron door rusted shut. Over the long course of years, the Town Tomb itself fell into decay.
Back now to that solemn thought. It would suggest that somewhere in the mind is a place just like the Town Tomb, where ideas that have given up the ghost are kept in storage until such time as conditions are right for burial. A philosopher has observed—and no doubt others as well—that getting hold of a problem (whatever it may be) deep down is difficult as it is necessary. It must be yanked up by the root. Only then can a new way of seeing begin. At that point the old way, according to the philosopher, simply vanishes.
But that is not quite how it happens, is it.
The old way of seeing must be prepared for burial—its body washed, shrouded, and placed in a casket. If the conditions are not right for burial—and they so seldom are around here, what with the long winters of the mind and a frost line going down to indeterminable depth—the casket must be lodged in the Town Tomb for a while. Prayers, of course, must be offered up, both for the deceased and that the tomb robbers keep their ghoulish mitts off. And it never hurts to throw in a prayer for an early spring.
Funds have recently been allocated for the renovation of our Town Tomb. Well, “allocated” isn’t quite the right word. I should say a collection has been taken up here at Pandora’s Tavern. So next time you drop in for Dour Hour, drop a little something in the old sap bucket sitting on the bar. Or better yet, consider making a charitable bequest to the Town Tomb Restoration Fund.
Finally, I’m happy to report that the solemn thought has flown its perch. And I can go back to my beer.