I recently told a friend where I like to do my jogging, and the response was, "That's kind of creepy!" It was said in jest, and in context, it was a compliment, but it got me thinking about my choice to do cardio in such a location. Are cemeteries "creepy?"
Dying is creepy. Dying can be terrifying, and often painful, and the majority of people experiencing it wish they had more time. More time to Live, that is. The death of a loved one can also be terrifying and painful for those left behind. Do cemeteries only represent Death? We are buried in them. A stone or tablet is erected to commemorate our passing. Flowers and memorabilia are placed as signs that the ones who are buried have not been forgotten. But can cemeteries also represent Life?
Today, I was in a particular kind of mood. You know, the one where you move slowly, and take the time to really see the world around you. The kind of mood that makes you contemplate the deeper meanings of ordinary "things", not in a sad or heavy-hearted way, but in an acknowledging manner that indicates you have recognized things are not always what they seem at first glance.
The particular cemetery where I go is beautiful. It's quiet. It's very large, and I've never walked (much less jogged!) the entire grid in one session. There are hardly ever any visitors, but when there are, I go in the opposite direction so that we may each have the privacy and contemplation we have come for. Today, I brought my camera with me to the cemetery. I decided to share with you some of the reasons why I choose a place of death to be the place I celebrate my life.
There is something magical about a time-worn path, the broken stones bordered with moss, and not knowing where it may lead. This is a path of mysterious journeys and gallant quests undertaken by otherwordly creatures, heros, and fair maidens. Where would YOU end up if you were to place one foot in front of the other, slowly, so slowly moving forward...
A few months ago, two young teens were playing in the cemetery at the same time I was jogging through. A boy and a girl, whose flirtatious exchanges could be heard echoing through the stones. They were old enough to feel the thrill of attraction for someone who makes your spine tingle, while young enough to still play like innocent children. They managed to climb inside these two trees and mostly conceal themselves amongst the branches. As I started approaching the trees, they became very silent. I knew they thought they were invisible, and being me, I decided to foil whatever plot they were drumming up. I called out, "I know you're in there!" At first, silence, then giggles erupted. The girl called back, "How did you know?" I laughed, thinking of a toddler who plays peek-a-boo with her blankie, and thinks that because she can't see anyone, no one can see her, either. I called to the teens, "Because I can see your sweatshirt!" One of them was wearing a bright red hooded sweatshirt that stuck out like a cardinal on a snow covered deck. They giggled some more, and I giggled too, and we shared a childish moment that the planter of the trees probably never envisioned.
When I was little, I liked to pretend that moss patches were actually tiny forests, inhabited by miniscule Fae. I imagined whole lives for these creatures, and would softly stroke the moss tops, wondering what the Faeries would think of my gigantic shadow passing so near their homes. Personally, I prefer very green moss, but perhaps this particular Fae Forest is experiencing fall foliage...
It may not be true for many cemeteries, but this particular one has the most stunning wildflowers that grow all over the grounds. Last summer, I photographed over a dozen varieties, and there were at least half that many I didn't!
On the southeast corner of the cemetery, the ground drops off steeply, and a small stream meanders its way through turns and curves. It forms a small swamp, and there is a flock of geese that have made it, and the rest of the lowlands, their home. They frequently scold me, and the dog, as we invade their kingdom on our way through to higher ground. The rains have been heavy for the past 48 hours, and the stream has swollen to triple its normal size, as has the swamp.
Am I imagining the beauty of this place? Am I neglecting to see death all around me? Or have I discovered something different...
~The above is a video of Herschel playing games :)~
It is not my intent that you should run to your nearest cemetery and frolic about madcap, although you might find yourself having much more fun that you expected should you decide to do so. What IS my intent is that you allow yourself to experience your surroundings in a way that is beautiful and meaningful to you. Don't allow stereotypes and preconceived notions of beauty prevent you from finding the places that bring you peace, and joy, and the feeling that you are celebrating your life. Keep your eyes open, and you will find your own "Cemetery."