I once lived in a village in Germany that lay at the foot of a mountain covered in deep forest. A narrow farm separated the houses from the forest, and a cemetery occupied a piece of land part way up the mountain.
Sometimes on my daily walks I stopped at the cemetery. It was the busiest place in town. The steep slope never deterred the widows who busied themselves there in a kind of competitive grave-keeping. Their plantings changed with the seasons: early primroses and pansies, spring bulbs, summer annuals, fall displays of berries and chrysanthemums, winter pots crammed with pine branches and the well-placed artificial but discreet hellebore blossom. No weed dared grow near the cemetery. As the last snowflake dribbled down from each storm, the widows arrived with brooms to sweep the granite and marble and limestone clean; they carried buckets and brushes to scrub their family gravestones and marble slabs.
Suzanne Guthrie, a writer and Episcopal priest, creates a weekly lectionary retreat on her website, At the Edge of the Enclosure. She lives with the sisters of the Community of the Holy Spirit on their farm in Brewster, New York.