“Upon That Water Without Sound"
by Chet Raymo
“Several women in my family have suggested that my posts have become morbid lately, excessively preoccupied with death. Is that true? And, if so, is it a problem? After all, I have reached the age which is the average life span of an American male. It makes sense, does it not, that I keep an eye on the Grim Reaper. I'm not afraid of death. I've had a good life and I'm ready to go when the time comes. If I am apprehensive, it is not about death, but dying.
If I'm going to go, let it be quick, and not a long, drawn-out intervention of tubes and pills and rubber panties. Just put me in the boat and take me to Amold Böcklin's "Isle of the Dead."
Böcklin was a Swiss artist who painted several hugely popular versions of the above painting, this one in 1883 (click to enlarge). A fantasy isle. An isle of hollowed-out granite, cupping a grove of cypress trees, in a silver lake. A vessel approaches a water gate, the landing place, bearing a coffin. We see hints of a cemetery under the trees.
I don't require Heaven. I can do without the Beatific Vision, an eternity of bliss, streets of gold, the company of saints. Put me in a box and take me to the Isle of the Dead. Stone. Xylem. Water. Wind whispering in the cypress trees. Ripples lapping the shore. Put me in one of those needlessly-linteled sepulchral hollows, groaning with the weight of feldspar and quartz. Not the Otherworld, but this world, this matter, this light, this glimmering embodiment of the real.”