My sole day in the Granite City before sailing north to Shetland is an hallucination of sunlight and sleep deprivation. I stumble into lush parks where college students strum acoustic guitars and pass someone in a giant chicken costume. Seagulls circle in cloudless skies over the harbor heavy with the scent of a baking sea. There are Chinese restaurants and off-track betting shops, cobblestones, a mercat cross, and a white palace from the mind of Vance or Zelazny. I pass an old man sketching, his cane balanced against the bench he sits on. I am sun-blind as I glide between cement walls into a small, ramshackle graveyard in the heart of Aberdeen.
This is a familiar sight, all the gravestones, tombs, and crypts cheek by jowl as if the dead might get lonely. Then: A glowing green and purple plant, nearly hidden. I’m no botanist. I needn’t be to understand the metaphor. We know so little of the way we move between and cross over. We make small monuments to trap time and memory in stone that has been sealed with tears. But I think there are signs all around us, like this one, that we are the only ones trying to hold back the departed. Thankfully, in that we are powerless.