Monday, July 7, 2008

A Love of Stones...

I love wandering around old cemeteries. Not only are they peaceful, but the stones themselves have wonderful artwork on them. Some people may find it morbid, but I can spend hours walking about looking at the stones, photographing the art work and reading the colorful epitaphs. Discovering a "new" cemetery to explore is right up there with discovering a new species as far as I'm concerned.

I come by my love of old graveyards honestly. My mother loves wandering about in them too. It's not unusual to hear us exclaim, "That's a great cemetery!" while driving around a new town or sitting at home having one of our graveyard conversations.

In New England we have more than our fair share of old graveyards to check out. Some of the oldest in the country in fact. We also have a number of historical cemeteries, including Sleepy Hollow (Not the one of Headless Horseman fame. That one is in New York.) This Sleepy Hollow is best known for Author's Ridge, final resting place of the Alcott's, Emerson, Thoreau and Hawthorne. Seeing these graves is interesting, mostly due to the ever changing array of offerings left on them, it is the lesser known stones that have the most allure for me. The art work is amazing, very detailed and varied. The epitaphs are short biographies. They really give you insight into a person's life. Unlike today's stones that really tell us nothing about the people who've passed on.

A few days ago I spent the afternoon wandering Sleepy Hollow. While there I was once again struck by the beauty of the various monuments found high atop ridges and low in hollows. As always I was moved deeply to see the various, expressive offerings left for those Great Authors on the ridge. At Emerson's grave a ballet slipper with a scroll tucked inside. At Thoreau's a bouquet of roses, pine boughs, a foreign coin and some pebbles. At Louisa May Alcott's some coins, a flower or two and a missive weighted down with a stone.
While looking at these things I was struck by the small stature of Thoreau's and the Alcott's graves compared to the sheer enormity of Emerson's. Why I wonder are theirs so small, almost small enough to overlook, while his is so large? These things, and more, I pondered on my walk-about as I continued stopping here and there to delight in a detailed stone carving or read a particularly expressive epitaph. And while I wandered peace descended. Supreme balance of mind/body/soul was restored, something that always happens to me an old cemetery. Some feel that a cemetery is a mournful place, but I am not one of them. To me, they represent life well lived, a shared history and the blessing of peace and tranquility. Is it any wonder I like to hang out among the graves when they bestow upon me such perks?

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