The value of symbols

I can’t think of anything conveying much more symbolism than a suspension bridge over the Ken Water to the graveyard on the bank beyond. We are, each of us, suspended on a kind of bridge between the life that went on before us, and the life that will go on after we are gone.

Of course, you can put any other slant on the symbol conveyed by a bridge between the living and the dead, that you like: religious; Greek myth; Freemasonry; the Underworld in Philip Pulman’s Dark Materials . . . the list goes on. We were charged, this past week, in our writing group to develop a story, with a clearly delineated symbol, in which the protagonist faces any number of onslaughts, yet eventually achieves redemption. For that effort I chose a ladder, which is of course a kind of a bridge. Jacob, son of Isaac, grandson of Abraham, wrestled with an angel before he ventured up to heaven on his eponymous ladder. My hero only wrestled with a cleaning job he was reluctant to engage with!

But there was still a snippet of redemption when the job was finished. If he indulged himself with admiration for the sparkling clean result, that was only fair. But not too much self-satisfaction, otherwise the catharsis would have felt faked, on very shaky ground. The suspension bridge, to return to the beginning of this piece, was rather shaky itself, when I got to the middle.

We could go on and on in these symbolic overtures, but it might be just as well to contemplate the scene, to enjoy the bridge experience, and blithely to walk along to the other side.

I chose to live in the moment, and I sat down in the middle of the graveyard and listened to birdsong, while tiny white blossoms littered the grassy verges around me.

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