Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Memorial Arboretum

Bishop Rev. Dr. Megan Rohrer asked, "In the midst of the AIDS crisis people found ways to lament, celebrate beloveds and memorialize the magnitude of the disaster. How will we communally grieve all we have lost to COVID?"

She posted a picture of herself, in a mask, walking in an outdoor space amongst pieces from the AIDS quilt.  We are at the 40th anniversary of the realization that we had a new disease, the disease we would call AIDS, that was stalking the gay population, so her picture and her question seems poignant.

My first thought did go to quilts:  gathering frayed fabrics and turning them into a larger, more meaningful creation, one that has a larger purpose.

Here's what I wrote.

I was thinking about COVID, how it robs people of breath. What might symbolize breath, lungs, community, those things lost, appreciation for those things regained? 

I have a vision of an arboretum or a garden in each city, with a place for names, with meditational spots for people to sit and process or simply be with their grief. I see a labyrinth where people who need movement to process life have an opportunity, and a labyrinth seems symbolic of this disease too--we're at different places on the path, we may feel separate and spaced out, but we're together. 

If each community/city across the nation and world created their version of an arboretum or garden, with native plants, we'd help heal the planet in other ways too.

And then I continued to think about this idea.  

I like that this kind of memorial could have spiritual overtones or not, depending on who is there to experience it.  And it would be ecumenical.

I like the idea of large trees, of creating memorial spaces that preserve large trees.  That seems important as a symbol, but also to the health of the planet.  I spent some time on Sunday driving through housing complexes that have gotten rid of all the trees, and how depressing that is.  

I'm also thinking of the newer research that shows that trees are more communal creatures than we once thought.  They are not solitary bulwarks.

This kind of memorial, a garden and/or arboretum, would require some amount of care.  But if we couldn't be sure the care would be there, a community could create a wild pasture/woodland/desert kind of approach--let the natural process take care of itself.

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