Sunday, December 20, 2009

Castle Corfe, England

During our stay in Bournemouth, I took a lovely day tour of some of the places along what they call the "Jurassic coast." Although I didn't find any fossils along the beaches during that tour, I did find a petrified claw on the beach in Bournemouth, so I expect they do find fossils regularly along that stretch of land. We stopped briefly in Corfe and whilst most everyone else paid 5 pounds/$10 American to get in, I decided to wander the village and see what else I could find. I did walk the outside of the wall of the castle ruins and looked longingly at the hill across from it, where i could just make out what looked tombstones in the distance. I knew I'd never make it up the steep hill and back again in time, so I wandered over to the 13th century church and the cemetery not far from it.

I loved how so many spring flowers were just beginning to burst forth from the graves themselves. I wish more cemeteries here would allow for that sort of remembrance, for it seems like a perfect way to celebrate the life of someone who was a lover of flowers and gardens. I also need to find some sources that list the meanings of plants and flowers used in cemeteries. I know that rosemary was often used for remembrance, but I'd love to find out more of about some of the others.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Saint Peter's Church, Bournemouth, England, UK

Several years ago, Paul's job sent him over to the UK to do a project. I was lucky enough to tag along. While he worked all day, I explored the city of Bournemouth and the lovely southern coast of England. One of my favorite memories was walking from our hotel to the center of town, where Saint Peter's church towers over the shopping square. I took tea there one morning, sitting at a small card table right in the middle of the church. I was surrounded by elders, who were gabbling on about pipe organs and other such things.

I wandered out into the churchyard and explored the burying grounds that are in a half circle around the church. It was obvious that it was used as city park as well as a cemetery and people were constantly walking along the pathways that criss-crossed the graveyard. Unfortunately, it was also obvious that people didn't care much about this land. I found lots of discarded trash and the occasionally condom or used needle. The ivy and other plants had overgrown much of the older graves and several trees had fallen. There were some city employees clearing away the trees but I could tell it would take a long time for it to be restored completely.

It was an eerie place. Maybe it was just the neglect or the overcast and gloomy weather. I didn't stay long but I did snap a few pictures.

I loved how these markers were lined up. Many of the names were worn off by time and weather.

Many, many Celtic crosses, all in a row.

A row of grave markers of the various ministers who had served at the church over the years.

Many of the markers were broken or hidden beneath layers of ivy and other climbing plants.

As you can see, this the neglect of parts of this burying ground is quite obvious. Someday I'd like to return and see if it's been restored at all.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Saint Cyriac Church, Lacock, England

The next several postings will be from various trips I've taken to the United Kingdom, specifically England. They span a range of about 20 years of my life and include several regions of England.

When Paul and I visited England for a week several years ago, we took a day trip around Wiltshire and ended up in a lovely little village called Lacock. Although we were not allowed to visit Lacock Abbey, the location where many bits of the Harry Potter movies were filmed (see for some beautiful pics), we were able to visit the small local church dedicated to Saint Cyriac. Although it was built in the 11th century, it was remodeled, reconstructed and restored many times until it's last remodelling in 1902. As is usual in many of the churches I visited in England, the burying grounds spread outward from the church walls and to you must pass through them to get to the entrance. I love the way many off the headstones are as tall as me, if not a bit taller. (I am only 5 foot 2 inches, it doesn't take much.) I also love the way some of the tombs rise up out of the ground, much like little houses for the dead.

I love the older cemeteries in the United Kingdom. There is such a feeling of history. And there is no sense that I've stumbled upon a golf course, which is what so many of the memorial gardens feel like here...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ilwaco Cemetery, Washington

Sometime in October Paul and took a trip to the southern coasts of Washington and Oregon. We had never been that far down the coast before and figured some exploration was in order. We took the RV and spent the night in the campground at Cape Disappointment and decided to head down Hwy 101 into Oregon. Right off the highway, Paul spotted the gate to this lovely graveyard just outside of Ilwaco and of course I wanted to stop. These two stone pillars stood like sentries on the road into the cemetery and all I could see from the highway was a rising hill edged with evergreens and other shrubs and plants. Other than the signs, there was no indication that this was a cemetery. Paul parked the RV just outside the gate and proceeded to check his e-mail while I ventured into the unknown.

The paved road leading onto the property was a bit of a steep climb and there was the constant humming of crickets. Other than that, all was very still and quiet. No birds chattering, no wind whispering through the drying grasses, just crickets. And when they stopped for even a moment, the sudden silence was a bit unnerving. Of course, it was also a bit odd to be walking beneath the graves themselves, which were embedded into the gently sloping hill above my head.

Many of the graves were old but still in quite good condition. It reminded me of something I read in the book "The American Resting Place: 400 years of History Through Our Cemeteries and Burying Grounds" by Marily Yalom and Reid Yalom. She talked at one point about how some schools use the local cemeteries to teach kids history. I thought that was a splendid idea: how else to make history meaningful and real? I wish my instructors had done that. I would have been all over it!

The memorial to the six unknown sailors memorial was really moving for me; I'm not quite sure why. And I thought the headstone for Beryl Brown was very cool. Each side had different images on it and I spent some time wondering what they meant to her in her life. I only had one visitor show up on that lonely hill, most likely a local making sure I wasn't vandalizing anything. They did a slow drive by and then left, not even stopping to talk with Paul, who was starting to wonder if I was okay up there all alone. But I wasn't alone, not really. Not long after I headed back, with the song of crickets singing in my ears and the stillness of that place resonating within.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Machias Community Cemetery

Machias, WA is a small town located just north east of my hometown Snohomish. To get there, you follow winding roads through farmland and horse pastures. It's a lovely drive for a Sunday afternoon in summer, which is when my friend Penelope and I ventured that way.

I had a specific purpose for heading out that way: my Uncle Fred was buried there and I wanted to pay my respects and investigate his place of burial. No other family members are buried there, at least as far as I know, so I figured it might be nice to pay a visit to his grave and tell him all about his new grandson, Gomez.

The cemetery itself is split by a road, the older "residents" on the northern side, while the more recent dead were buried on the southern side. I found my uncle's gravestone towards the most southern part of the graveyard. It's lovely, with the outline of a tree. I sat with him for a moment and told him what's been going on in our families lives, knowing he probably isn't there but wanting to tell him, just in case.
Afterwards I wandered around looking at the different markers and trees planted all around. There is no fence around this cemetery, which always feels a bit odd to me, but all in all it felt pretty peaceful. There is open sky above and fenced pastures on a few sides. I imagine it's quiet there most days, which is nice. The older cemetery has many overgrown headstones and some are so worn from the weather that you can hardly make out the letters and images. There were a few headstones with books on them, which I always enjoy. Though I have to say that this more recent one was my favorite of the bunch:

And so we took that good advice and wandered our way the most scenic way home...

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Roslyn, Washington

One day in August, my friend Penelope and I decided to take a trip to Roslyn, specifically to investigate the cemetery there. I'd heard about it years ago and finally found myself in a car on a hot summer day travelling over I-90 to seek it out.

Mind you, we only had some general directions and ended up wandering around the back roads of Roslyn searching for it. At one point, we were at a stop sign and I started feeling kinda weird. There were trees all around and no signs to point us in the right direction. Penelope turned to me and suggested we drive to the left because "that way felt cemetery-ish." I agreed whole-hearted. Low and behold, there it was. It's enormous. It's actually made up of 26 connected cemeteries, each one dedicated to a certain lodge (as in IOOF, Moose, Elk, etc) or ethnic group. The fact that the town visitor center has a pamphlet and cemetery map should tell you how many people seek this cemetery out. Because there are so many immigrants buried there, I imagine a lot of people come here to seek out genealogy information. It's truly immense and in various states of repair. We only investigated a few sections in the hours we visited and I hope to travel there again one day to explore more.

One of the main reasons I wanted to visit was to see the "Druids" section. Of course, I will admit to some disappointment that it wasn't a dedicated burial place for those of a pagan bent. I discovered this entry, which says:

"The Druids were an Italian Lodge which is no longer exists in Roslyn. This being so, there is no one to care for the cemetery, so it has become and abandoned cemetery, with no records to be found. "

"Until the day breaks and the shadows fade away"

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Saint Mary's Catholic Cemetery, Gilroy, California

When I travelled to California in July, my friend Jon and I chanced upon this cemetery in Gilroy. We were driving back from the San Jose airport and I pointed out the cemetery as we passed. We must have spent a couple hours roaming the grounds. I'm so grateful that I have friends who understand and indulge my quirky sides.

This cemetery is quite large and well contained. It also feels divided, with the more older families on one side while the newer graves take up most of the other. Many of the graves date from the mid 1800's and it's obvious where the older, pioneer families are buried. Most pioneer families had plots and many of the the headstones were quite large. Many of the older graves were lacking green grass, something that a native Washingtonian like me would find strange. The ground was dust and rock and sticky clay where the sprinklers were raining down.

The newer graves had more grass but were incredibly crowded together. They were also quite ornate with lots of angels, Mary and Jesus statues. It was an interesting contrast. The newer section also had a huge statue of Jesus, as well as a shrine of sorts to Mary. I wondered if the older section used to be more secular, for there seemed to be less religious references on that side. In any case, there were plenty of interesting headstones and names to discover. Including a woman named Salome, which made me smile.

I love detailed and ornate headstones.

This grave was quite a contrast to the more sedate headstones nearby.
This cemetery also had a fantastic number of beautiful trees.

I saw several headstones with hands, either pointing upward or to the side. I really need to get my reference books so I can look these things up. I expect I will do a post sometime in the near future about the different ones I've discovered.

This headstone struck me in it's age and broken-ness.

Calvary Catholic Cemetery, Seattle, WA

This cemetery is north of University Village, which is located on the east side of the University District. I had tea at the Queen Mary's with a friend last weekend and we wandered over after a delicious repast. Funny that many of my favorite places have a graveyard nearby. And convenient too.
I'm always astounded at how well these memorials withstand time and the elements. So many of them in this cemetery were unique, ornate and beautiful representations of the love people have for those who have died.
This weeping woman had an unfortunate nose situation, yet she still gave off a deep feeling of loss.
I had to laugh a bit when I saw these too (above and below photos.) They were across the path from one another and I wondered if there was a bit of competition going on, be it between family or faiths or something else entirely. On one side a glorious white marble memorial that would be quite fitting for performing a Greek tragedy or other more pagan rites. Across the way is a truly enormous Celtic cross in a warm reddish marble, complete with sarcophagus.

This photo was a mystery. I almost missed this angel, it was that well hidden. Across the road from the Greek pillars was a glorious weeping willow. It wasn't until I felt drawn to walk beneath it's drooping branches that I discovered a huge cross, complete with what is obviously a Guardian Angel. S/he had a black feather tucked in his/her hand and candle wax coated the inner arm. It's obvious that in the past people have done some sort of spiritual work there. It felt like a liminal place, betwixt and between. I took several pictures before reluctantly moving on.

This photo is the guardian of the section where Catholic nuns are buried. There were many, many, many headstones there. I enjoyed reading the names, though my friend Kat found the best- Dionysus. *giggle* I'll bet she loved that. This guardian statue had a harsh and piercing glare. Very stern indeed. That poor angel at her feet looks like he's hoping to avoid a caning.

And I leave this post with a photo from one of my favorite memorials. About midway through the cemetery I needed a sit down and found a welcoming black marble bench with this lovely beastie guarding it. Although he's asleep, this lion gives off such a sense of well-being that I couldn't help but sit for a while, enjoying the sound of the crows whirling in the trees above and watching the clouds go buy.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Pioneer Cemetery, Santa Cruz, CA

This cemetery is special to me for several reasons. It's one of the first cemeteries where I felt the presences of many different beings: trees spirits, unsettled spirits, guardians and guides and unexplainable things. Here I had my first experience of the air turning frigid around me on a hot summers day. I felt the heavy gaze of watchers who we cannot see, warning me not to stray from the path. To others this might sound a bit cheesy, but to me they are real experiences and I know I'm not the only one to have them. Especially in this place.

The cemetery itself is in seriously disrepair. It's obvious that transients bed there on a regular basis: whisky bottles and drug paraphernalia litter the grounds. At least half of the graves are desecrated and broken, either by the natural turnings of the earth (earthquakes) or by deliberate human actions. Every time I visit I am struck with sadness at it's state. And yet there are the other things that bring a smile to my face. Giant guardian trees. A headstone for a woman named Joy that is hidden beneath and behind a truly enormous cedar tree.

I have to wonder what it would look like if people actually gave a damn about the graveyard. It's obvious that the main promenade was gorgeous in some distant past. I visited it again in July and discovered that sometime recently a woman was buried there. So maybe there is hope that people will be motivated to restore it to it's previous beauty. I certainly hope for it.