Spring in the southeast lasts for all of about two weeks. Seasons in Middle Georgia typically divide into summer, less-hot summer, a month of winter weather the rest of the world would call fall, and spring. You know spring has come because you see flowers everywhere, then two weeks later they all die, and you’re stuck in the steaming taint of summer for another six months.
Since spring is little more than a cruel tease in this part of the country, you see people walking everywhere. We’re all hungry to experience this bizarre twilight time when the sun is shining but isn’t simultaneously flash frying us. Cold drinks don’t sweat until you’ve had a few good swallows. You sweat but only after earning it by walking a few blocks.
I make sure to meet my springtime quota by going for frequent walks in the local cemetery. That might sound morbid, but this deep into Baptist country cemeteries are basically public parks with occasional tombstones. The air is rich with the smell of azaleas and honeysuckle, and birds sing like they’ve broken into your speed stash. Artsy college women in sundresses take photos, and married couples walk their dogs while holding hands. The atmosphere is slightly less foreboding than an episode of Arthur.
If you go deep enough into the place you quickly run across graffiti written by teenagers in love. On a huge tomb by the railroad tracks a boy named Dylan once scrawled his affection for a girl named Sarah. In an enclosed area by a local crypt, it’s not unusual to find condom wrappers. Sometimes you even find underwear, tossed into the brush in the heat of passion and lost forever to the dark of the sweaty, grunting night. There’s a tree by a creek, deep into the graveyard, that is covered from roots to branches in carved initials encased in hearts.
I find all this absolutely beautiful. Sometimes people like to pretend it’s strange that anyone would get romantic in the cemetery, because we’re a species of idiots. If you honestly don’t get why a dark space hidden from authoritative eyes would appeal to horny teenagers, then I have an exciting time share opportunity for you to invest in.
I always get sappy when I see all the color and clues of affection out there. Out in the gentle quiet, my thoughts set in time to the rumble of a nearby passing train, I’m hit with the poignant thought that we all need each other, and we’re given only so many years to grope in the dark for each other’s hands. That might sound sad but it doesn’t strike me that way. I get a feeling of challenge at the thought. My heart pounds and my arms tingle. With the challenge comes the prospect for adventure.
I’ll stay until the light begins to fade, and cars turn away onto the main road. Here, paradoxically, there is so much life. Tall flowers shimmer in the breeze. Trees rustle as squirrels build their homes. A teenage couple holds hands. They walk between old tombstones, their footfalls cushioned by young and vibrant grass.