Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Graveyard Walks and Other Fine Things

When I was in college, my friend Kapoo and I would often walk through town to visit a cemetery.  We didn't know anyone who was buried there, but it was almost always quiet and peaceful (unless it was hell week for the sororities and fraternities and then it could be a little crazy).  It was back in the days before cell phones, and if nobody knew where Kapoo was, I would wander over and find him in his long, black patchwork trench coat smoking a cigar in the moonlight. We spent many an hour conversing and contemplating life and the remains of it under our feet.  At first I was a little creeped out and hesitant to spend time there at all, but came to find the quiet hours hauntingly lovely.  They are some of my favorite memories from Clarion.

In my childhood hometown in Pennsylvania, you can't spit without hitting a headstone.  There is even a stretch of road that has nothing but graves on either side.  When we were children we would play a game where we would count cows in the countryside fields to pass the time while on a road trip.  If you passed a graveyard at any point, all your cows died and your count reset at zero.  My father would always drive home via "Cemetery Road" to make sure there were no sore losers.  Your cows died every time no matter how many you counted.  I mourned the loss of my bovine numbers, but I grew to appreciate the many markers, mausoleums, and beautiful memorials in our town.  Although I didn't visit them at night by myself, I have always been struck by their beauty.  They are a place for the living after all.  A place built of memories.

Just a few blocks from my current Maryland home is a gorgeous cemetery with massive willow trees and stone bridges crossing a stream with dozens of geese and ducks.  There are paved trails that circle the thousands of markers that remember the people of my community that rest there.  I love walking in this peaceful place, and always see something I've never noticed before.

This child fountain looks like an image from a children's book and the water really captured the rainbows and reflected the setting sun in a spectacular way.  This is the kid of thing that begs me to pay attention, even when I am head down with my nose in a book.  I can walk and read here because the cars are few and far between, and it makes a wonderful escape.  At times I just sit on a bench or swing and listen to the water babble at me and the whispering of the leaves.  It's an oh-so-quiet place and yet it teems with sound.  I enjoy poking around and visiting friends I never had the pleasure of meeting.  I'll upright fallen lights or untangle wind chimes or flags that have been neglected.

 Headstones with my last name on it always impress me when I happen upon them.  I wonder they are relatives of my husband's.

 Every now and then a little magic happens.  This light danced and followed me, a purple-orange and silvery glittering in the distance.  It may have been just a flicker of glass from a lantern but I loved the color and the sparkle.  When I walked towards it, it disappeared.  No matter where you look there is beauty.  I am blessed to have such a beautiful place to walk and clear my head.

These stone bridges are my favorite part of the cemetery.

 The walk to and from this place is also a joy.  There are hundreds of flowers, flags, lights, gifts and tiny remembrances left to remember the dead.  I enjoy seeing others remembered by their family and friends.  There is a woman who sweeps her family's markers each week. Someday I will ask if I can photograph her careful work.

               Finally, one of my favorite graven images.  I bet I would've really liked this person in life.  

I will occasionally post more of my walk and read images.  When something touches me, you'll see it.  Much love to all y'all.

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