Christmas Eve, Nashville, TN

Twilight at the City Cemetery in Nashville, Tennessee

Is it weird to seek out a quiet hour on Christmas Eve and find myself in a cemetery? I can see some of you nodding. “Yes, Laura, it is kind of odd.”  I’ve got to admit that when I got in the car and left my family – not in a huff, my family’s great – with Google map in hand, to drive to a part of Nashville I’d never seen,(after twenty years of visiting for the holidays), I wondered a little myself.

But when I found the City Cemetery and got out to walk around, that familiar sense of peace settled over me and I knew that at least for an hour, I was in exactly the right place.

It’s a beautiful, old cemetery with some really interesting stones. Like this one. Does anybody know the story here? The plaque reads, Ann Rawlin Sanders. She was 21 when she died. No, wife-of or beloved daughter.  It was 1836. It would have been quite a feat to move a boulder this huge. It crossed my mind that the rock is a natural feature of the spot, the tip of the iceberg so to speak. But then how could they bury someone under it?

There were three great angels.

Erosion had washed away details on this last one, leaving rather more to the imagination than the sculptor probably intended.

The second shot shows the outline of a wing better, giving the sense of the angel carrying off the dearly departed much better than the first shot – in which I got the wrong idea all together.

This was an interesting marker. It reads, Thomas B. Coleman, Mayer of Nashville, 1842. Really? The mayor with a misspelled,  plain, wooden plank? There’s got to be a story here too.

It’s a lovely place. I would have stayed longer if it hadn’t been getting so late. Stop by next time you’re driving through Music City.

A Tombstone Tourist Does Seattle

Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington.

My vacation itinerary always includes a cemetery or two…or three. Sure, I love checking out the art scene in a new city, historical sites, shopping and eating. I’m a foodie too, definitely. But you see an entirely different side of a place when you visit its graves, don’t you think?

Lake View Cemetery, Seattle, Washington

On my recent trip to Seattle, I did my usual vacation prep and Mapquested cemeteries in the area. There are about six, but with the coffee and the chocolate and the glass museums and the history and… did I mention the chocolate? I only had time for Lake View. What a jewel!

I wondered who left the flower, descendant or art lover.

These gnarly, twisted trees were everywhere.

Lake View was established back in 1872 and sits up on Capital Hill northeast of downtown Seattle. One of those cool, old neighborhoods that just oozes character has grown up around it so it’s a bit of a twisty trek to get there. But worth it! The monuments are a great mix of styles, old and new, East and West.

This one says, “The more people I meet, the more I love my cat.”

I love the name and the calligraphy.

A murder of crows  claims the cemetery grounds and every monument in them. The birds are smart and wary and hard to get a decent picture of, but their raucous chatter never stopped.

Keeping watch over her domain.

He knew his grave would end up being a perch for crows anyway.

So, for a short visit to Seattle, I’d put Lake View, the EMP Museum (AWESOME), the Chihuly glass museum and all the European sipping chocolate you can sample on my list of must-do’s. Anybody have any other suggestions for a Seattle trip? I definitely want to go back.  I know that Jimi Hendrix is buried in Greenwood Memorial nearby. Anybody been there?

Dog Day Afternoon

These two little guys definitely had someplace to be. I spotted them trotting up the road through Walnut Glen Cemetery in Booneville, Missouri this summer.

Note the lolling tongue. It was one of those 104 degree days. Mine was lolling too.

But enduring the heat was worth it. This is a great old cemetery. Aptly named. The towering trees must be at least a century old.
Not sure if it was the dappled shade or the sweltering heat, but unlike the dogs, I was in the mood for a long, slow ramble through the grounds.

There was plenty to see.

Just FYI, I don’t put captions on my photos, but if you hover over them you usually get their location and sometimes a comment. If I ever neglect to tell you where something is that you’d like to go visit yourself, just ask.

If only we had a century long time-lapse of this tree’s life and death growing up around this tombstone. Pretty cool.

Another little side note; I decided to stop here on my trip because Walnut Glen’s the name I gave the cemetery in my novel. It was total chance. I thought I’d made it up.  I’m always looking for my characters’ names too, and mine, friends and family.  Is that maybe a little morbid? Haven’t found them yet, at least not first and last together.

But cemeteries are great places to find character names!

Here’s one of the carved tree stumps Artsifrtsy commented on a few posts back. You’ll find them in almost every cemetery of a certain age. She told me that many were made for members of a service organization called Woodmen of the World that still exists. I had no idea!

This little guy was only about an inch long, but his colors caught my eye. What a beauty! RIP

Mourners and Guardians

Catherine Tracy clings to her only daughter Kate, who died in 1854 at the age of seventeen.

The neglected lichen-covered monument still vividly evokes a mother’s grief even 150 years later. I imagine Catherine coming to stand at the grave when the statue was new, then ten years later and twenty-five. The stone’s forever. I wonder how her feelings about it changed.

Protestant Cemetery, Rome, Italy

Sculptures always get my camera clicking when I explore a graveyard. Some are just gorgeous. Others tug at my heart stings or get me thinking. There are the ones like Kate Tracy’s that are obviously there for the particular benefit of her grieving family.

But I also see many less specific, but no less touching guardians and traditional icons.

And then there are the in-your-face, ostentatious monuments. The only thing they say about the deceased is, I WAS RICH! I like those too.

Ordinary stones are great. Heck, I can get excited just reading the names and dates – Did they lose all of their kids in the flu epidemic? – She died in childbirth. He never remarried? – She may have been poor, but somebody sure loved her….

But sculptures can say as much as epitaphs. Maybe not what the mourners intended. Maybe much more. Take a look at nine-year-old Ryan Allen Scott Vanden Broeder’s guardian. This one astounds me. I know there’s a story here, but no amount of googling revealed it. What do you think?

What a Rush!

My fifteen minutes of blogging fame are over.

Thank you to everybody who stopped to “like” or comment. Special thanks to all of you who decided to follow “I Dig Graves.”

I love sharing my passion for all things burial, but it’s especially great exchanging thoughts with all of you.

My blog’s not only a place for me to show off all the great cemeteries I’ve found, but a place to learn, from you, about other fabulous spots around the world. 

Your comments got some excellent speculation going about why people put little fences around graves.

Marking territory was the most common thought followed closely by fulfilling an impulse to continue protecting lost loved ones. I think both of those are true.

The best explanation for the origins of the practice came from VLS. She postulates that it all started when folks buried their families out on the prairie. “Oh give me a home…where the buffalo roam…where the deer and the antelope play.”

If you didn’t want a cow or bison leaning on the tombstone that you’d put a lot of care and money into, you put a fence around it. This idea made a great deal of sense to me and explained why the practice is most prevalent in the Southwestern U.S. Thanks, VLS!

I’m not a genealogist, though I admire those of you who are up to the challenge. I’m not a photographer. Mostly I just point and shoot in beautiful places. But for reason’s I’ve never been very good at articulating, cemeteries provoke and ground me at the same time.

I invite you to share your fascination too.