Like a magpie, I am a scavenger of shiny things: fairy tales, dead languages, weird folk beliefs, fascinating religions, and more. (Author’s note)
…she was the one artists would want to draw…She was the one who would someday know a dozen ways to wear a silk scarf, how to read the sky for rain and coax feral animals near, how to purr throaty love songs in Portuguese and Basque, how to lay a vampire to rest, how to light a cigar, how to light a man’s imagination on fire. (p. 24)
It wasn’t a Gothic cemetery; there were no mossy angels weeping miraculous tears of blood, no crypts or curses or crumble. No poets or courtesans were buried here; no vampires slumbered belowground. … Even the dead loitering here spoke of dull things, like the one who worried she’d left the stove burning when she died. (p. 45)
(Goblin Fruit pp. 1 – 55)
Lips Touch: Three Times
by Laini Taylor
Toronto: Scholastic, 2009
Early mornings, when the weather is decent (cool, not too sunny), I like to walk out to the local cemeteries and take pictures. I find this activity calming and relaxing. The long walk to the cemetery stills me. The aloneness centers me within myself. It is a time for me to reflect and take many photos (over 300 the afternoon I spent in St. Andrews, Scotland).
This image is from a Saskatchewan (Canada) cemetery. You can tell it was early morning because of the shadows.
It was a pensive day.
I have not found any cemeteries near my new home to shoot photos in yet. I fear there will be none within walking distance as that is the norm here. There is, however, a park with a labyrinth to walk right on the edge of town. I plan to go walk there after the snow melts.
This is my early state of mind.
The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.
Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you plann’d:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.
Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.
By Christina Rossetti
“And I will show you something different from either your shadow at morning striding behind you or your shadow at evening rising to meet you; I will show you fear in a handful of dust.” (T.S. Eliot)
I was a Cemetery Girl. This was before goth was a thing. As a child, my best friend and I use to wander the local graveyards exploring and reading the gravestones. It was peaceful. It was quiet. It was a pleasant way to spend a coolish Fall afternoon.
It was usually Fall when you would find us in the graveyard. Leaves would be falling and the world’s axis was spinning into winter and long, cold days of nothing to do. Fall is my favourite season. It is cool. School is starting. There is a quietness in the air. Halloween is just around the corner.
Most of the cemeteries we haunted were country cemeteries; the closet one was a block outside of town. The other one we visited regularly was a mile out. We hardly ever saw anyone else there. It seemed a shame. There was so much beauty and peacefulness there and everyone else was missing it.
We come upon an old woman in black, holding an umbrella against the sun, sitting in front of her husband’s grave on an overturned bucket. She speaks to us in her own language, pointing at the face on the black headstone, crying into a hankie. Lisa gives her a fresh bottle of water. (p. 244)
Curtains: Adventures of an Undertaker-in-Training
by Tom Jokinen
Toronto:Random House of Canada, 2010
I still haunt graveyards. I’ve taken pictures of cemeteries all over Saskatchewan, in Scotland and recently in Anchorage, Alaska. I’m always going to regret not being able to get to explore the historical cemetery at Skagway.
Death intrigues me. No, how we process death intrigues me. No, the history sitting around in graveyards entrances me. I am an explorer of the past. I like to explore what use to be.
I also wonder about what is beyond – beyond the shadows, beyond death. What is the next step? Knowing the plan calms me. I like to know the steps, what to do, what ie expected of me at each turn. Don’t surprise me. I hate surprises!
I delight in exploring cemeteries and graveyards. Did you know the two terms are not interchangeable? A cemetery is an area set apart for or containing graves, tombs, or funeral urns, especially one that is not a churchyard. A graveyard is a burial ground, associated with or beside a church.
The latest funeral industry book I bought is Caitlin Doughty’s book Smoke Gets in Your Eyes. Caitlin oversees the blog The Order of the Good Death that I regularly read and has a series of videos about death and the way we (as a society) deal with it. Scroll down this page for the book video.
I am a cemetery girl. I haunt graveyards. Death is my familiar. I fear not.
I recently got back from a cruise vacation. It wasn’t my vacation choice. There are a million other vacations I want to do before ever taking another cruise.
My mother and stepfather paid for my eldest sister and me to go on the cruise with them. They both turn eighty this summer and find it easier to travel with companions. My sister went with them on a Panama cruise a year ago and they all enjoyed it. I didn’t go to the Panama because I loathe the hot weather. Remember, I am not Summer’s child.
We traveled by planes all the day the day before the cruise started and got into Vancouver that Saturday evening. We boarded the cruise ship Sunday around noon. It was a long, tiring process and there were too many cameras around. The cruise company makes sure to get a picture of you just before you board the ship so that they could sell it back to you later. This is the only official picture I consented to – I hate having my picture taken – and thankfully, the photographers were not militant about getting a picture of me.
My mind kept going back over the only two ocean movies that I could remember. Titanic, of course, because we would be cruising some ice fields and the Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russel comedy Overboard which contains the line “it’s a hell of a day at sea, sir.” I’d rather observe the ocean from dry land thank you very much!
It was supposedly an all inclusive cruise but we still had to pay for pop and coffee drinks in the bars. Not my definition of free or all inclusive. Plus, there was the daily tip remittance that was levied to our room ($22 that was divided between all staff on board) so I ended up sending around $200 on board the cruise. Yes, some of the restaurants were included in the all inclusive but not all. I know, I’m picky, picky, picky! Again, not my idea of a vacation.
Plus, the internet was costly and slow, slow, slow so the ten days turned into an unexpected internet sabbatical. It’s not that I’m constantly on the web but I do like to read my comics every morning and to be able to check my email.
Between the (thankfully) brief first day at sea sickness and the constant buy, buy, buy I can’t say I’d ever take another cruise.
Did I mention that it rained for the first half of the cruise.
Picky, picky, picky!
So, what did I enjoy.
The shows were good but corny, ie very family friendly. There was a library but no librarian (just a clerk with a MBA). I did have time to pop into one library (Juneau) doing my time on shore. Mostly, I was busy from morning to evening especially when we had a shore day. There was lots my mom and step-dad and sister wanted to see. I would have liked at least one shore day with no planned activity. It would have been nice to explore the Skagway cemetery and just spend time wondering around town.
So, what did we do on shore (other than not shop – me, that is)!
Tuesday, we went to the Lumberjack show. Burly men chopping wood and throwing axes. As my sister said, this is how men use to look. It was raining a bit and still these athletes put on an amazing show and later made time to pose for pictures. This was our quietest day as we were only on shore about two hours then it was back to the open sea by evening.
Wednesday we went whale watching. This was in Juneau. This was the day I had a chance to explore a little and visited the library. It was another rainy day. We took a smaller boat into Auke Bay but couldn’t go out on deck because it was another rainy day. Thankfully, inside the boat was spacious with lots of windows.
It was a slow start but by the end of the day we had seen three family pods of Orcas, a pod of Humpback whales feeding, numerous bald eagles and a group of sea lions playing King of the Buoy – a sea lion would swim up to the already overcrowded buoy and wait for someone to fall off or get pushed off; there were more lions than buoy space.
I have no pictures of this. The day was too rainy and then we were too busy bustling from side to side spotting the abundant wildlife. Even the tour guide didn’t want to leave the bay. We were out at least an hour longer than anticipated!
Thursday, it was on to Skagway. It was an extremely busy day. We briefly toured the town and then back to the cruise ship to board the bus to take us to our train tour up the mountain back home to Canada then back to Skagway and the cruise ship!
The Whitepass & Yukon Route railway was built in 1898 during the Klondike Gold Rush and is a narrow gauge railroad.
The WP&YR climbs almost 3000 feet in just 20 miles and features steep grades of up to 3.9%, cliff-hanging turns of 16 degrees, two tunnels and numerous bridges and trestles. The steel cantilever bridge was the tallest of its kind in the world when it was constructed in 1901.
It was a scary ride, I’m not a fan of heights, through train tunnels and one thankfully very short, rickety bridge. I sat on the cliff side of the train and avoided looking straight down the many drops along the way. In fact, my eyes were squeezed tight when we went over the bridge.
There was still snow high up in the mountains and we were fortunate enough to see a scrawny black bear heading away from the tracks and up the mountain. After the train landed in Canada where we showed our passports to foreboding custom officials (the United States citizens were disappointed that they were not Mounties) we got out of the train and were bused back into Skagway.
Back in Skagway, we panned for gold. Well we had a tour first of the history of gold mining and then panned for gold. It was a bit tricky, but between the four of us we ended up with $36 worth of gold flakes that went into a charm for mom to keep.
Friday was another sea day. We woke up to a bracing -10 degrees Celsius with a wind chill. It felt like home but we were in the ice fields. The port doors were open just down from our cabin and pea soup was being served on the bow.
My sister spent all day outside enjoying the views. She heard the ice crack off the glacier. I took a turn around the promenade but missed the calving of the icebergs. After lunch, the cruise ship left the ice fields and anchored near Medenhall Glacier for pictures.
When we stopped at the glacier for pictures there was a seagull feeding frenzy. The captain announced that we should not feed any of the wildlife, seagulls included!
By supper time, the boat once again sped up and I lost my sea legs. We had cruised so slowly for most of the day that it felt like I was in a vehicle that had sped from three to one hundred miles an hour in less than a minute!
Saturday would be our last day at sea. I marveled at the kids playing ping pong on the Lido deck. It’s hard enough to play on a steady surface. There were mega shipboard sales everywhere. Mom bought me a t-shirt.
Do I feel spoiled?
Do I feel exhausted?
Am I just another commodity?
I will miss watching the sea with its many blues.
I will miss the quiet library and the crow’s nest bar.
I will miss watching for whale plumes far out in the deep sea.
I see no whales from here where I am 10 stories up high!
A cruise is not something that I would spend money on. I am not the target demographic!
Sunday, we woke and left the ship early. It was on to Seward and Anchorage for three days. There were Tsunami evacuation route signs along the highway. I fell asleep on the bus and woke in Anchorage!
The three days in Anchorage flew by. We visited the zoo and watched the sad animals pacing. We went to the museum. We shopped at the Mall and visited the Alaska Mint. We mostly ate at the same place. We spent an enjoyable afternoon driving up the mountainside through too much rain. Thank the stars I didn’t have to drive. We almost got stuck on a rain-logged side road – my sister is adventurous. We went to a mining town that I would have liked to explore more but the higher we drove the more rain we ran into. We ate at McDee’s where the menu was slightly different from home and the server’s accent mystifying to my ear.
On our last morning in Anchorage, I got to briefly explore a cemetery that if I had been alone I would have spent hours exploring.
They travel best who travel alone.
Though if I did that I do know that I would miss many adventures as it is my family who challenges me to leave my comfort zone.
Happy travels everyone!
This morning I spent an hour walking through a cemetery and snapping pictures.
I wondered, I meandered, I longed for company.
I longed for the sound of children laughing and running.
I longed for the gentle murmur of friends and lovers.
I longed for the quiet solemness of families discussing secrets.
I longed for the sight of lovers now aged and alone in their togetherness.
Did you know that people use to picnic in the cemetery on lazy, Sunday afternoons?
I was not alone.
There was a group of teenagers cleaning up around the military graves.
Some service group (cadets perhaps) doing their duty to the community.
They ignored me as did the three adults supervising.
The teenagers chatted among themselves, somewhat quietly.
They respected the space. They did their duty to the dead.
I’m sure they never once thought that one day they would end up in such a place as this themselves.
The weather should have been foggy and gloomy. The day should have been rainy.
Isn’t that the classic graveyard experience.
Night. Dark. Stormy. Regrets. Ghosts. Terror.
Did you know that a cemetery is a place where the land is specifically designated as a burial ground?
The older term graveyard, often used interchangeably with cemetery, refers to a burial ground within a churchyard.
Graveyards are ancient and haunted.
Cemeteries are modern and clean.
Nobody hangs around either place – nobody living that is. Not unless they have to.
I’ve always enjoyed exploring quiet places.
Places where nobody else ever hangs out call to me.
Maxine and I use to explore the cemeteries back home. We spent hours wandering around and reading gravestones.
We were learning about our home town by learning about who use to live there and no longer did.
We were both slightly morbid children with an odd religious bent.
We use to hang out at the church as well, after school and on Saturdays, when it was empty and quiet.
When it is quiet you can hear the past whispering.
It was the Victorians who use to picnic in the graveyard.
What does the quiet teach?
The quiet taught us how to be safe.
The quiet taught us how to be still.
The quiet taught us how to be ourselves.
The quiet taught us.
What do you learn reading gravestones?
What do you learn about the present by studying the past?
You learn that babies die.
An adopted classmate had the same last name as all those baby graves all in a line in the cemetery.
You learn that families survive.
They survive fire and flood, hope and tears.
You learn who leaves and who comes back.
You learn that love endures.
You learn that love breaks.
You learn about life.
Look at these stones.
How different they are.
In the older cemeteries, there are many styles of gravestones.
They are carved and individualized.
They are written on, words engraved deep so that they would last forever.
They tell us stories of war and disease.
They tell us stories of family, of hope and love.
They shows us generations.
They show us travelers far from home.
They tell us stories.
They tell us stories of the living.
Who carved this?
Who picked out those words?
Who paid for it?
They tell us stories of the dead.
How long did they live?
Where did they come from?
Who did they leave behind?
The graveyard stories we usually tell each other are October stories.
They are Halloween stories.
They are stories of cats, rats and bats.
They show us the dark side.
We played at the gothic, Maxine and I, wandering cemeteries and graveyards.
We were calling out for ghosts.
We wanted to be haunted.
It seemed both were always calling out.
Only when it was quiet could we hear the stories they were telling.
Cemeteries are new, clean, void of substance.
Graveyards are ancient. Old.
There are no straight lines here.
I yearn to go back.
I yearn to go back in time.
I want to picnic in cemeteries and graveyards.
I want to eavesdrop on long forgotten conversations.
I want to be privy to secrets.
I want to be haunted.
Where are my ghosts?
Joy is a full day exploring an old cemetery with or without company.