Excerpts from “The Inhabitants of the Salt Lake City Cemetery”
I used to only pass through, rather than visit, the cemetery. I used it as a liminal space for my own ends—to move myself from my home to the foothills, and back again, on my frequent runs.
I run for exercise. I run to get away from my mental and physical urban and human life. I run to give my thoughts space to transition outside of myself. Running makes me feel as though I can bridge the urban realm that I come from, and the realm of the wildlife that I encounter in the foothills and the cemetery.
The most frequent sound in the Salt Lake City Cemetery is the call of magpies one to another. The magpies own the cemetery. Or at least the magpies act as though the cemetery belongs to them. If the magpies do think this, I don’t mind. The cemetery certainly doesn’t belong to me, even though I like to think that I belong when I’m in the cemetery.
Usually I prefer to go out just before dark. Just at sunset. That is when the air feels as though it is picking up magic. Standing under the yellow, orange, and pink clouds of the sunset is when I feel as though I too can be magical.
After dark is when I dance in the Salt Lake City Cemetery and no one can see me. I dance for the clouds resting on the horizon in the west. The clouds don’t dance with me, but I’ve never asked them to.
After dark dancing is excusable. If someone sees you dancing in the cemetery at night it can easily be brushed away for reasons of one’s eyes not fully adjusting to the dark.
One feels fancy after dark.
Dancing should be excusable no matter the setting—or especially due to the setting.
After dark is when I usually see Enzo on my way to and from the cemetery. Enzo lives at the gnome home. There are parakeets that live on the porch of the gnome home. The gnome home is red and Enzo is black. Enzo is a cat.
Enzo makes one feel as though one belongs to his club. He runs down his path when he sees me coming. He presses his head into my hand, and I stroke his head and back. He sometimes smashes his head into my face. Enzo’s nose looks as though it has been flattened down onto his face just a little bit.
I have yet to draw a picture of Enzo. I will. I will.
Near the gnome home, on the way to the cemetery, there lives a crow. The crow uses the water that gathers over a manhole to drink and bathe.
I wonder if Enzo has ever noticed the crow. If I could do such a thing, I would introduce them. Though, since Enzo is a cat, he might eat the crow. But I don’t think Enzo would try. Enzo does not strike me as a hunter. But he could be. He has his own life to lead.
I was vegetarian for half of my life because I love animals. I stopped being vegetarian because I felt I needed meat after long runs. I justified my reasons to myself: the animals I love eat other animals I love.
I realize this is a deceptive comparison. The animals I love hunt for the animals they eat. I do not hunt for the animals I eat.
I am not prescribing anything. I reevaluate my decision often.
In the Salt Lake City Cemetery is a mulberry tree. The mulberry tree grows in the middle of a juniper tree. It looks as though they are one tree. The two trees have created a liminal space between the two of them, a transition between one to the other, yet appearing to be one and the same tree. I eat the mulberries. I wonder if the magpies eat the mulberries. Does anyone else?
In early April, while standing near the mulberry-juniper tree, I heard loud honks reverberating through the cemetery. I ran to follow the noise. As I did so, a magpie rushed overhead to investigate the ruckus. We came upon a pair of geese honking while facing north. Never quieting down, the geese up and left heading south, carrying their honks with them.
I wonder if they had heard about the magic of the cemetery and wanted to feel it for themselves. They had honked loudly and continually during their brief visit. Perhaps they meant to announce their presence to the owls and the magpies. I know at least one magpie was stirred, as was I, and as were three humans passing by.
Claire Taylor is an artist and illustrator based in Salt Lake City, Utah. Her work is inspired by ecology, wildlife encounters and experiences of the sublime. She created the painting, “The Magpies’ Pink Cemetery Map,” featured on the cover of this publication. b. 1984