As we age, our mortality becomes an ever-increasing reality. When one is twenty, the notion of ones death is merely an intellectual concept devoid of any angst. However, as one adds additional decades to those innocent days of yore, one soon realizes the morbid reality that one is finite.

I have reached that realization. Someday, I won't exist. Humbling? Yes. Imagining not being is haunting. What will become of me? Sure, I'll be buried, but beyond that, what will happen to me?

This psychic concern not only gnaws at me on the conscious level, but anxiety also manifests itself in my backyard. In a seemingly inadvertent development, my backyard has slowly evolved into an ecumenical religious reliquary. A visitor to my backyard would conclude that I was attempting to cover all my religious bases.

At the time of this writing, I have a statue of Buddha in my garden; his role is to help me find enlightenment. While my Buddha isn't seated under a banyan tree, a maple does tower over him. At a lower level, day lilies shade Buddha's baldhead. In front of the statue, I have placed a votive candle, which I light on a regular basis. Here again, I hope that the Buddha's light leads me away from path of suffering associated with Samsara.

I would like to say that I have nearly obtained my journey to enlightenment. However, I honestly think that I have a ways to go before reaching enlightenment and at-one-ment with Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. I still feel enslaved to the things of this world. In addition, I am stressed out by the mundane concerns with things of life: taxes, mortgage payments, and my failing attempts at remaining young.

I haven't given up on my quest for enlightenment, but it seems that worries about paying bills and writing informative articles drag my positive karma through the mud of tanha (desires).

Consequentially, I have added another statue-that of St. Francis. While I do teach at the University of St. Francis, it seemed appropriate that I included that venerable saint in my backyard reliquary. He is there to assist me in acquiring a simple life by curbing my desire for the material things of life like money, cars, and a new computer.

Again, the efficacy of St. Francis on me isn't much better than the Buddha's. I am admittedly tied to the things of this world. St. Francis stands in my backyard attempting to hide the wire for my broadband Internet connection. I fear that the real St. Francis would view my desire for an even faster download speed as sinful. Just looking it him, I suspect that the is even irritated at my quest for worldly possession-even if it is the sorted cravings of hyper Internet speed. After all, St. Francis didn't say, "Lord, make my computer an instrument of super fast Internet connection."

The last of my backyard trinity is our Easter Island moai atop its own ahu (platform). I placed the moai in the same position that it would had it been on the Rapa Nui-with its back to the water. On Easter Island, the moais act as a protector of the local village in front of which it stands. Now, my moai has done well. It has protected my wife and I from all attacks from the sea. You may think that this isn't much of a feat since the nearest ocean is 1000+ miles away. However, our moai has also protected us from attacks across the lake.

I realize that my backyard doesn't resemble Tibet, Assisi, or even Easter Island, but it does reflect my mounting concern about the hereafter. I recently took my amoretto latte coffee out to the deck that overlooks my garden reliquary. As I looked at each of the personification of some religious tradition, I wondered about the other possible statues that I could acquire like a concrete Shiva, the Hindu god with four arms. I ran that idea past my wife. She warned me that the neighbors might start talking.

I have been forced to give up any further relics as a religious insurance policy. After all, I really don't believe that God is so parochial and petty that he or she will require flawless theology or a perfect life to provide each of us with grace and acceptance at death.

This article appeared in the Dixon Telegraph on 8/23/04.

Scenes from the construction of my ecumenical religious reliquary garden:

And my wife thinks that I'm anal retentive!