By M. Scott Morris/NEMS Daily Journal
I caught this phrase that I hadn’t heard before, or maybe I’d heard it but forgotten.
“An Indian woman told me, ‘Look at your trees. They’re yawning. They’re getting ready to sleep for the winter,’” a friend said.
I’ve noticed a few early adapters have started to yawn, with leaves turning gold and brown, and some drifting to the ground.
The trees are getting ready for what’s to come, a trait they share with a pair of men who’ll be in the Mighty Daily Journal’s Living section on Sunday. These men have had their caskets made.
I was looking for someone who’s building a boat in his garage. Nobody called or emailed about a boat, but one fellow said, “I know this ol’ boy who’s building his coffin.”
That’s a super-powered dog whistle to someone in my line of work. Co-workers heard me on the phone, and their ears perked up, too. I don’t think morbid curiosity was involved, as much as an appreciation for finding an out-of-the-ordinary story.
Admittedly, there is a weird attraction to dealing with death without actually dying or having anyone else die.
We spend a lot of time denying that we’re headed for the same place, and I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
Then here comes a chance to talk to guys who’ve taken concrete – or wooden, as the case may be – steps toward acknowledging the ultimate finality of life’s endeavors.
Tom Stoppard’s play and movie, “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” looked at death from upside down and rightside up, and posed a question.
ROSENCRANTZ: “Whatever became of the moment when one first knew about death? There must have been one. A moment. In childhood. When it first occurred to you that you don’t go on forever. Must have been shattering. Stamped into one’s memory. And yet, I can’t remember it. It never occurred to me at all.”
I’ve learned to tread lightly around this solemn topic. Years ago, I was inspired to write about casting off the mortal coil after someone called to sell me a cemetery plot. The column angered a recently widowed woman. She didn’t care for my flippant tone.
I remember repeating the phrase, “I don’t want to die.” I stand by that line, and the two men who had their coffins built are in full agreement.
But there’s something about their caskets, and my interest in them, that reminds me of those yawning trees getting ready for whatever comes next.
And what about that question from “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead?”
ROSENCRANTZ: “We must be born with an intuition of mortality. Before we know the word for it. Before we know that there are words. Out we come, bloodied and squawling, with the knowledge that for all the points of the compass, there’s only one direction. And time is its only measure.”
Most of us are experts at tricking ourselves into forgetting this most basic truth.
M. Scott Morris is a Daily Journal feature writer. Contact him at (662) 678-1589 or firstname.lastname@example.org.