Memorial Day is over, the flowers have wilted or been retrieved and the manicured lawns are looking just a little shaggy again.

That means I can resume my weekly cemetery walks.As a rule, I visit the Brigham City cemetery once a week during the year - except the week of Memorial Day. Then I steer clear.

I prefer to go when things are peaceful and quiet.

The reason is easy. The cemetery is mine, and I don't like visitors.

I grew up across the street from the place, earned summer money there by watering lawns and digging graves. As a kid I played hide-and-seek among the monuments. But a few years ago I began feeling my own mortality, seeing my skull beneath the skin, and since then I've come to see the cemetery in a different light. I see it as a quiet little town full of very, very quiet people.

William Kennedy begins his Pulitzer novel "Ironweed" with this sentence:

Riding up the winding road of Saint Agnes Cemetery in the back of a rattling old truck, Francis Phelan became aware that the dead, even more than the living, settled down in neighborhoods.

William Kennedy knows his cemeteries.

The Brigham cemetery has a "poor neighborhood," for instance - a corner where local paupers and transients were once buried. (Oddly enough, the section will also be the site of the most expensive plots some day.)

The cemetery also has its "city fathers." There's the dominating presence of John Bott. He rests beneath a great block of granite worthy of a Civil War general.

(What did Mr. Bott do to deserve such a thing? He made monuments.)

My parents have their own plot waiting for them now, a nice little space in the "neighborhood" of Doc and Doris Shelton. (One woman was outraged to learn that all the nearby plots were sold and she'd have to "reside" elsewhere.)

Once a week I visit those cemetery neighborhoods and think my strange thoughts. I think how the lilac hedge wilts exactly one week before Memorial Day. No one ever sees the blossoms. I think how the flowers at funerals are as dead as the deceased, though both the corpse and the carnations make a good show at being alive.

I think of the way snow drifts against the word SNOW on Lorenzo Snow's grave.

I think of the black humor of local cemetery workers:

"Well, how many did you plant today, Jimmy?"

"Just two. I now have 7,000 people under me."

"Right. I understand people are just dying to get in here, too."

I feel more alive in a cemetery than I do in a mall.

A few years ago I wrote a juvenile novel about a boy coming of age in Brigham City. Every time the kid needed time to himself, when he wanted to relax or get some exercise, he headed for the cemetery:

He loved the old cemetery. It never frightened him, even at night. When he was 5 his mother brought him here for picnics. He'd ride the gravestones like horses, hurdle them like an Olympian.

He thought cemeteries were just big playgrounds full of huge, funny stones.

When I finished the manuscript I gave it to John Hart in the Church News to show his 12-year-old son. The boy read a couple of chapters, then quit. When John quizzed him about it he said, "The book's too spooky, Dad. The kid in it hangs out in this weird cemetery all the time."

When I wrote the book it never occurred to me someone might feel that way.