March 30, 2008

Amongst the stones

and it makes me wonder

Usually, while Shaggy Hair Boy and With-a-Why are at their music lessons, I read a book, write in my journal, or compose a blog post. Normally, I welcome this time to sit still. But I've spent too much time recently in waiting rooms, and on Friday, the thought of sitting in a chair did not appeal to me. Since the music center is in the city, I couldn't go for a hike in the woods, so instead I took a walk in a nearby cemetery.

Built in the 1880s, this cemetery is what landscape architects call a lawn-park cemetery, designed with carefully placed trees, rolling lawns, and roads that follow the contour of the land. This kind of cemetery contains the naturalistic features that made Olmsted's urban parks so famous. Lawn-park cemeteries were designed for a dual purpose, a place to bury the dead, but also a park where people could go for picnics or walks. But on this snowy day in March, my car was the only one in the parking lot.

Since I've lived in Snowstorm Region my whole life, I have family and friends buried in local cemeteries, but I am not in the habit of visiting individual graves. I do like walking through cemeteries, though, looking at random stones or finding a bench where I can sit in the sun. Dead people don't talk, they only listen, and I find the silence companionable as I wander around. My mother used to say that her father liked to explore cemeteries, and I wonder if I've inherited that trait from him. He died the year I was born.

In my own woods, trees grow close together, so I tend to notice canopy rather than individual trees. In the cemetery, the trees have less competition and each tree can spread its branches into sky without interference, making lovely curving patterns. Spring warmth was melting the snow on the sides of the mausoleums, and I could hear the dripping as I walked. I followed the curving paths and stopped to read the inscriptions on stones so old that I could barely make out the dates.

I walked past crosses and urns and statues, stepping carefully between the stones. In this sacred place, I felt as translucent as the clouds above me. Melt drops from tree branches had formed patterns in the snow, and when the sun came from behind the clouds, the tombstones cast shadows. I'd been feeling so invisible that when I turned to walk back to my car, I was surprised to see my own shadow, and the line of my own footprints in the snow.

as we wind down on the road

14 comments:

Lorianne said...

Thanks for this. I love exploring cemeteries, especially the garden/lawn-park kind. Not only are the landscapes typically lovely, I find it strangely calming to have an obvious reminder of how everything ends up. It kind of puts everything else into perspective.

I hope you & your husband are doing okay.

listie said...

Is this the cemetery behind SmallGreenCollege? I spent an afternoon there last week and found it fascinating.

I hope your husband is continuing to improve and soon all will be well.

Scrivener said...

I really like wandering around in cemeteries too.

jo(e) said...

Lorianne: Exactly.

Listie: No, that's a much bigger cemetery. I go there often with my students. This one is called Woodlawn, and it's over in Eastwood.

Scrivener: Didn't I walk through a cemetery with you in Eugene? Just on the edge of campus?

BlackenedBoy said...

You really are a great photographer.

kathy a. said...

great photos.

lissa said...

great photography, it seem quite serene over there, you've captured the peaceful feeling

Gawdess said...

Sad but beautiful.

chip said...

there's something about cemeteries...

a friend of mine worked on landscaping at that cemetery back when he was in college. many strange and interesting stories about the place.

Silver Creek Mom said...

Peaceful. That it is. But I never thought to sit in one and write. I refer to move and read. Not that I do this often, just when I have the chance.

Beautiful pictures. You should get a Digital SLR...Much nicer quailty. BUT I'm sure your happy with yours.
hugs
Sharon

jo(e) said...

Thanks for all the compliments on the photos.

Chip: We need to plan our next get-together now that the winter driving is (hopefully) over for the season.

Silver Creek Mom: Oh, I'd love a digital SLR. But an expensive camera is not in my budget right now ....

Busymomma66 said...

My dad used to take me to an ancient cemetary behind our church when I was young. To just walk around and feel history.

Once he took me and a friend on a foggy afternoon. It was deliciously creepy, and broke any fear I had of cemetaries.

Scrivener said...

Yep, we did walk around Pioneer Cemetery on campus.

Jacqui said...

This reminds me of a quote by Max Lucado that I came across a few weeks ago.

The situation was quite different, but the sentiment the same. "One is not bold in the presence of the sacred."

From someone who is quite used to being bold, not being so is sometimes a conscious decision, but in situations like the one you describe, I think it just comes naturally. Thanks for sharing.