Sunday, June 14, 2009

Angel @ Evergreen Washelli Cemetery, Seattle, WA

Many of my childhood memories involve graveyards. There are four of them within a five mile radius of the house of my youth, which happens to be my home now. My brother and I spent many days riding our bicycles along the paths of GAR cemetery in Snohomish or looking at headstones beneath the enormous cedar trees at the Zion Lutheran cemetery just down the street. That was before they took out the "Dead End" sign, which always made me laugh. I was deeply saddened when they took down those trees, for they were glorious guardians of that place.

For me, one of the draws of cemeteries is how full of life they can be. I know it sounds odd, but there is so much natural beauty in these memorial places for the blessed dead. Some of the trees are ancient, standing watch for hundreds of years. The practices of planting roses by headstones or bulbs in the grave itself may have been curbed of late but sometimes you can still find the crocuses and daffodils blooming in a carpet of color in March or April. There are benches for us to take a moment to rest or pray and contemplate our own mortality. I've found headstones lurking amongst lilacs and ivy creeping up the side of tombs. And I've found the sterility of perfectly trimmed grounds that feel more like a golf course than a place of rest.

Of course, all these explorations were done in full daylight. I didn't ever hang out in graveyards after dark. They always seemed places apart and to be respected, especially at twilight. Of course I knew of people who would run rampant in the cemeteries after dark but it never appealed to me. As I've grown in my spiritual work, I've realized it's more than just superstition that keeps me from crossing into those realms after darkness falls. It's because I truly believe that most of the time the dead would prefer to be left in peace. They will tolerate, even welcome the living visiting in daytime but after dark all bets are off. Once the day passes into true nightfall, they have their own business to attend to and would rather not have a human poking a nose (and other body parts) into places it doesn't belong. Of course there are times when I have visited a graveyard after dark but it's always a carefully considered action and I take care to protect myself in various ways, including not doing things that will attract undue attention from corporeal (or non-corporeal beings), such as the police, groundskeepers and/or hungry ghosts. (I leave it for you to decide if which ones are corporeal or not.) But that's a subject for another day.

I've also become quite involved in researching my family lineage, learning the stories of my ancestors and healing my family bloodlines. I will be posting resources, books and links for those sorts of things as well. For a couple years now, I have been using ceremony and ritual to explore the gifts and burdens of my family lines and clearing the "stuck" energy for the good of all my blood relations. It's been incredibly powerful work and I am truly grateful for those teachers, again both corporeal and not-so-much, who helped put my feet on this path.

So yes, I do have a bit of a thing for graveyards and death practices. And I decided I wanted to create a blog so I could share with others who might have a wee bit of a thing about them as well. I've been taking photographs in graveyards for much of my adult life. When looking through photographs of my first trip to England in 1990, I came across the photos I took of the cemeteries in Howarth, where the headstones are taller than me. There were photos from Barnoldswick, where I watched the sheep graze in the local graveyard, saving on parish landscaping bills. In the last couple years I've started paying my respects wherever I find a cemetery, especially if it's one I've never been too before. It's been a fun and interesting way to document my travels.

Whew! Quite an introduction there. I guess that's about it. I'll be putting up some links, books and articles and updating them as needed. If anyone else out there is interested in this sort of thing or has an interesting link or article or book I should check out, feel free to drop me a line.

And because I feel it needs to be said: Thank you ancestors, for living that I might live and for helping me heal our blood. I pray that you find healing, peace and joy on your journeys.