I am trying to pry deeper into the life of this community and ask Kizzen about a local cemetery. She says; ah yes! and drives me across a lovely sage and juniper valley. We turn into a small gravel road and here it is: the only outdoor human cremation facility in the United States which—I learn—will perform an open-air cremation, regardless of their religion, with families able to participate. The funeral pyre is a simple concrete and brick-hearth with a steel grate, and a body is usually wrapped in a simple cloth, and then surrounded by logs and covered with juniper branches. Then anything may happen—music? words? tears?—and the pyre goes ablaze. Kizzen says that during the dead of winter—with deep Colorado frost and cold cold winds blowing from the icy ridges—many mourners may come close to the fire and turn their backs to warm their living bodies.
I learn that Kizzen’s close friends were cremated here, too. Some recently, and her eyes tear up. I feel my own tears coming up, too: a companionable grief, a shared sadness. But this, to her and to me, is a great place to bid farewell to people we loved, away from everything but the mountain range now wrapped in fog and the desert breathing in and out. Small copper plaques are the only markers measuring the passage of time, and Kizzen touches them one by one. I see a Polish name, and below a Danish one.
They are world travelers even now, in this great Colorado valley.
— Yva Momatiuk