Friday, May 30, 2008

A working class farewell for working class royalty

At 11 p.m. Thursday May 29, we returned my father Bruce "Utah" Phillips to the earth.
I truly wish each and every one of you could have been there. It was the most beautiful and yet endlessly sad event that I ever have seen.

Our family gathered at Pioneer Park in Nevada City were a team of strong, Chestnut hued white footed Pusher horses hitched to a simple black Cassion wagon patiently waited for the arrival of it's cargo.

Dad's wish was to be buried in a simple hand made pine box and thanks to master craftsman Stephen Goodfield he was. The coffin was perfect, unfinished, slightly tapered, six rope handles and sealed by 42 square head nails.

The team of horses flanked by the pallbearers exited the park and paced themselves up the hill for the twenty minute walk to Pine View cemetery . We laid dad to rest in the far North, East corner of the cemetery under a native Black Oak.

The service was short and beautiful. Meghan Cefalu, The minister from dads church the Unitarian Universalist Community Of The Mountains Blessed the site and I followed with this prose from Wendel Berry's Jayber Crow.

Back there at the beginning, as I see now, my life was all time and almost no memory. Tough I knew early on of death, it seems to be something that happened only to other people, and I stood in an unending river of time that would go on making the same changes and the same returns forever.
and now, nearing the end, I see that my life is almost entirely memory and very little time.... I began to understand that whenever death happened it to me. That is knowledge that takes a long time to wear in. Finally it wears in. Finally I realized and fully accepted that one day I would belong entirely to memory, and it would then not be my memory that I belonged to, and I went.

Our good friend, Ben Pearl then followed with an amazing rendition of Sweet Briar.

Sweet Briar

The sweet briar and the aurum brush
With blossoms purple gold and red
Are flames that bloom within the bush
And sacred seems the ground I tread.
The golden bees, the golden bees
Mock Memnon's sweetest melodies,
The golden bees, the golden bees
Mock Memnon's sweetest melodies.

In shadow of the wood I lie
Un-waked by dreams of noisy mart,
Where dust and soot soil not the sky
Nor hammers beat on human heart,
Nor shuttles fleet, not shuttles fleet
Weave life into a winding sheet,
Nor shuttles fleet, nor shuttles fleet
Weave life into a winding sheet.

When the pale axman strikes his stroke
And takes the warm life from my breast,
Plant by my grave a sapling oak
And violets of azure crest.
The oaken staff, the oaken staff
My shaft, the flowers my epitaph,
The oaken staff, the oaken staff
My shaft, the flowers my epitaph.

Utah was then lowered into the earth by the cemetery workers, (I only mention this part because one of the fellow workers was aptly named Harpo), and then we took turns casting hand fulls of dirt into dads grave and saying goodbye each in our own way.

Thank you again for all of the love and well wishes, they are deeply appreciated.

I will post something about the rest of the events tomorrow.


Portland Gray said...

The pall bearers on the port side, front to back are: Utah's step-sons Nicholas and Ian and brother Stuart Cohen. On the starboard side they are: grandson Brendan, son Duncan and son Brendan.

Portland Gray

Highlander said...

Though I only knew Utah through his recordings and from attending his concerts, most especially at the Fox Hollow Folk Festival and the wonderful Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs, I have been crushed by his passing. For so grand a light as Utah's to pass makes me keenly aware of my own life, and the unnerving fact that there are fewer days ahead of me, than behind. -But, I suspect Utah wouldn't want a lot of tears and sadness at his passing, though they must certainly fall. So, I'll sing "The Goodnight-Loving Trail" in my concerts and dedicate it each time to his loving memory. I'm certain we will all meet again, one day.

Adam said...

Go to sleep, you weary hobo...

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