What is it about cemeteries that draws us to their hallowed grounds?
Yeah, I know, “they just can’t stay away,” and are….
But, really, what is the allure?
Once you get past the well-manicured state of most cemeteries, the beautiful landscaping…what really draws our fascination?
I admit to visiting them. I find them calming. I also don’t believe that when we die, that’s it—in any sense of the word. I believe in quite the active “afterlife.” When I stroll through them I wonder about the all the lives that have been lived—and I’m excited for their souls. In my eyes they are now moving on to other things with the consciousnesses that had once inhabited those “vehicles of life.” Hopefully, I like to think, they have learned something useful from their lives to apply to other lives they’ll live, or move on beyond reincarnational existence (I actually believe in simultaneous lives, but let’s not go there now).
I’ve tried to explain my own curiosity around graveyards to myself, but, in the end (pardon the pun), I’m not quite sure what really got the interest going—maybe it is as simple as life’s “beginning and ending points,” which do fascinate me, or that death really isn’t the end, or how people die as well as how they live—I’m just not quite sure.
And when you get into the “atmosphere” of graveyards, especially the more established and older ones which I prefer to roam, their leafy trees and old, old buried dead, is it all the years of watching spooky movies? We all do seem to have some measure of inherent “joy of fear,” especially for fear that is removed and not really in our faces, as we watch from living rooms and theater seats. Read books we can put down. But where many cemeteries are built, they are usually at places I like to frequent—full of large, flowing deciduous trees tossing in the breezes, they’re quiet. Calm. Lawns are well-kept. Who wouldn’t one like to stroll through such an area, short of the realization you’re walking over, well, many, many, uh…dead bodies….
So, maybe it does have to do with a little or a lot of all of the above. But I do marvel at the lives lived and wonder how they fared…how they birthed…how they died. How they loved and strove. What kind of people were they? Were they kind? Giving? Hard working? Fun loving? Love the artistry in effort, whether a little or a lot, that went into making the headstones. Headstones say a lot about the dead over which they rest. How well liked they were, how affluent they or somebody who cared for them were. What material was available, what skills. “The sign of the times.”
Are they kept up?
Who’s keeping them up?
Some even show a sense of humor…irony:
The above phrase is said to go back to ancient Roman times, and is included in the more modern version most are probably more familiar with:
Remember me as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so you will be
Prepare for death and follow me
And, in all my journeys, I’ve never (to my knowledge) seen any ghosts among the dead—and I’ve tried. Asked for some to present themselves. Never once. Now I have seen ghosts, but not of the human variety, so I know I’m capable of it.
One note: included in the pictures below is a “mummified” human forearm. That photo was taken in a small (at the time) museum in the back of local shop, on the road into Sharpsburg, MD. It was on the left side of the road, as driving up from Alexandria, VA. There was a small article attached to the glass, thought I’d taken a picture of it, but I didn’t find it. What I remember of the article was that the arm was thought to have come from the battle of Antietam, that it looked to have “flash fried” as it was blown off its owner. I forget the rest of the details, or where it was found, maybe when an building was being excavated? Just don’t remember. But it was creepy, and, once again, rammed home the horrors of war.
Okay, originally, I was going to include more photos of other cemeteries, but once I scanned in the set, below, I thought, these look so cool on their own, give off such a great, creepy, atmosphere, I have to keep them by themselves. Like my previous post, all the shots in this post were taken with film, then scanned. I love how they came out. And these are just the ones I could find, I know I have more. I might do another post for other cemeteries, but for now, I’m keeping the “Cemetery Row” work (Alexandria, Virginia, back in 1990), below on its own, with a few from Sharpsburg, Maryland (Antietam Battlefield, same 1990 timeframe) as their own post.
So…what better time to revisit and share some of my favorite cemeteries than during the haunting month of October?
- Cemetery tour (chasingbluebirds.typepad.com)
- Lone Fir Cemetery, Portland, Oregon (SwittersB Takes a Walk) (swittersb.wordpress.com)