Monday, December 30, 2013

Cortez, Colorado

Doors as Metaphors:  Doors and portals symbolize transition. They are common design elements of traditional cemeteries (rare on memorial lawns). How often, though, do you find doorknobs and keyholes? On this headstone, the focus is clearly on some non-traditional elements of design. What do they symbolize? What is the narrative that goes with them? Perhaps that key hole lets us look into the future: into 2014. Have a good new year!  Cortez Cemetery. [2013]

Friday, December 27, 2013

Hampton, Virginia

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:  Read the Gospel of John and figure out why the Good Shepherd is an appropriate presence in the Christian cemetery:  "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. . . I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep, which are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will hear my voice. They will become one flock with one shepherd. Therefore the Father loves me, because I lay down my life, that I may take it again. No one takes it away from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again."  Parklawn Memorial Park.  [2012]


Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Springfield, Massachusetts

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:   The cemetery is no place for the baby Jesus, but Jesus does appear at other stages in the life cycle.  Judging from the fatherly face, that's probably Joseph.  At his heels is the toddler Jesus, and in the background is a glimpse of the future.  Merry Christmas!  St. Michael's Cemetery.  [2013]


Monday, December 23, 2013

Worcester, Massachusetts

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:   Cemeteries are woven together by narratives of death:  not exactly in keeping with a holy day that celebrates the birth of everlasting life.  That may be the reason why gravestones never feature the infant Jesus, and rarely the boy.  There are exceptions, however.  In Roman Catholic cemeteries you sometimes find the Holy Family and the pre-adolescent Savior.  Notre Dame Cemetery.  [2013]


Friday, December 20, 2013

St. Pauls, North Carolina

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:  A life-size Jesus stands watchfully at the foot of a couple's grave.  They are in heaven, and Jesus is on earth.  Turn back the clock ten years:  Jesus is in heaven, and they are on earth.  Ironic, don't you think?  Oak Ridge Cemetery.  [2012]


Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Marietta, Georgia

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:  It might be rare to find a statue of Jesus dominating a single grave, but it's not so rare to find Jesus, as a larger-than-life effigy, dominating an entire section of private and Roman Catholic cemeteries.  Here he seems to be offering a benediction, a blessing of the type that pastors use to end each service.   Christmas is coming:  you can tell by the color of flowers on the graves.  Georgia Memorial Cemetery.  [2013]

Monday, December 16, 2013

Lewisburg, West Virginia

Jesus is the Reason for the Season:  How do we honor the birth of Jesus?  With religious or secular symbols?  How do we honor departed loved ones in cemeteries?  With religious or secular symbols?  Dialectical tensions in society are often reflected on cultural landscapes.  Here, a dominating white-marble Jesus has been erected to watch over a family burial plot.  What symbols dominate our Christmas landscapes?  Rosewood Cemetery.  [2012]


Friday, December 13, 2013

Xenia, Ohio

Woodland Cemetery:  What principles govern the spatial organization of modern cemeteries? Principle #3: Infants who die (long before their parents have invested in cemetery plots) may have their mortal remains interred in "Baby Lands." They are the saddest spot in most cemeteries. [2013]

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Xenia, Ohio

Woodland Cemetery:  What principles govern the spatial organization of modern cemeteries? Principle #2: Men and women who have served and been honorably discharged from the service often have a section of the cemetery to call their own. It makes for an impressive display, especially between Memorial Day and the Fourth of July when you will find even more red-white-and-blue than at other times of the year. [2013]

Monday, December 9, 2013

Xenia, Ohio

Woodland Cemetery:  What principles govern the spatial organization of modern cemeteries? Principle #1: Husbands and wives are buried side by side and often share a headstone. At least some of their offspring, with their spouses, are buried nearby, perhaps in a distinctly marked family plot or in a group of clustered (though not necessarily contiguous) lots. Headstones like this remind descendants of the life their ancestors lived. Woodland is a first-generation "rural cemetery" that continues to serve the people of Xenia. [2013]

Friday, December 6, 2013

Cuba, Alabama

Signature Landscapes: Her friends and family have created a memorializing microworld in the town cemetery. They have touched every square inch of the burial plot with their love, provided a bench for contemplating questions eternal, and written of their many memories. Above it all, they have placed the signature she left behind. Clay Memorial Cemetery. [2005]

. . . I can’t recall one time I didn’t enjoy myself when I was with you, or couldn’t feel overcome by your lovely personality for the way you were always able to make a group of people feel like family for the way you have always brought people together and for how you always will For all the times from then to now Thank you Jina Michele Moore for all the good times. They will never be forgotten."

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Laramie, Wyoming

Signature Landscapes:  The signature captures the forward motion of the cyclist, doesn't it?  It also captures the energy of grammar schools devoted to teaching cursive.  The influence of Peterson looms large over this headstone, though only those of a certain age will even know what 'Peterson' means.  The problem with the subscriptio is that it's almost too perfect, perhaps font-perfect.  Green Hill Cemetery.  [2013]

Monday, December 2, 2013

Moab, Utah

Signature Landscapes:  We want to make a difference.  We want to be remembered.  We want to put our signature on the world.  Why are signatures so rare on headstones?  In signing our names, we establish our identity.  Just think back to high school:  How many signatures did you try out before you found one that fit?  That's the one that made a difference.  That's the one that should leave a lasting impression on the world.  Grand Valley Cemetery.  [2013]

Friday, November 29, 2013

London, United Kingdom

Books in the Contiguous Zone:  By the grave of George du Maurier someone has left a copy of Peter Pan, a tribute not to the author (who is buried in Scotland) but to the family who inspired the play and novel, the family of cartoonist George du Maurier. Hampstead, now a part of London, is Peter's hometown and a pilgrimage site for people in love with the idea that they will never grow old, an idea hardly supported by a cemetery. St. John-at-Hampstead Churchyard. [2005]

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

St. Simons Island, Georgia

Books in the Contiguous Zone:  Cemetery tourism is almost a sport among the literati. Bibliophiles score goals when they find the graves of favorite authors or the characters who inspired their novels. Rev. Anson Dodge inspired The Beloved Invader. He lost his first wife on a honeymoon in India, sought out a new life on St. Simon's Island, married again, sired and then lost his only son in a tragic accident. How many goals scored here?  Five. The reverend, his two wives, his three-year old son, and Eugenia Price herself. The book? Brought here by literary pilgrims. Christ Church Cemetery. [2009]

Monday, November 25, 2013

Norfolk, Virginia

Books in the Contiguous Zone:  Ever think of leaving a book by the grave instead of a bouquet?  What would the book be?  365 Things Every Couple Should Know, perhaps.  Here, the secular challenges the sacred for supremacy in the cemetery.  In the past, only the Bible would have been acknowledged as the font of everything a couple should know.  Now, for comfort, we turn to popular culture.  Forest Lawn Cemetery.  [2007]


Friday, November 22, 2013

Montgomery, Alabama

The Book of Life:  The Book of Life is the Book of Promise, the Bible. Its presence adds another dimension, an eternal dimension, to a three-dimensional memorial. Read the date of birth and the date of death, along with their introductions: On Earth / Heaven.  Perhaps we do exist eternally and our few years On Earth are just what we see "through a glass darkly" while we are on a much longer journey. Alabama Heritage Cemetery. [2013]

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beckley, West Virginia

The Book of Life:  Here's a book that has been co-authored by a husband-and-wife team.  Their motto seems to be:  In God We Trust.  What a shame the American dollar has claimed that phrase and moved it from the realm of the sacred to the realm of economics and politics.  What a shame the Matherly's great grandchildren will have to ask their parents:  What's a book?  Sunrise Memorial Park.  [2010]


Monday, November 18, 2013

Springfield, Massachusetts

The Book of Life:  The body is locked away in the vault below.  The memories are locked away in the book of life.  It's all rather mysterious really.  No matter how thick our book is or how many prizes it has won, no one will ever read it.  For a while, oral book reviews and a few quotes from friends and family will swirl around in the human world, but time will eventually claim all memories, just as time will eventually claim all the books ever written.  Oak Grove Cemetery.  [2013]


Friday, November 15, 2013

Port Penn, Delaware

Hickory Grove Cemetery:  Here's a cemetery plot that's full of life, thanks to those left behind.  The memorial landscape is a total ensemble of loving memories:  headstone, garden, tree, shingles, bench, treasure chest, words, portrait, and the logos of life.  Trees, as memorials, have roots in the ancient world.  The Scots called them clootie trees, and to them they tied little piece of cloth.  Here, the clooties have been replaced with slate shingles:  on one side they carry a word of respect for the departed, on the other the signature of a friend or relative.  Under the bench is a treasure chest:  Would you need to open it to know what's in it?  [2013]

2 Timothy 4:6-8


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Port Penn, Delaware

Hickory Grove Cemetery:  Memorials often act like mirrors:  they reflect scenes from the environment around them.  Many mallards must the McNally's have watched from their home on the water.  And, many fish must Mr. Smith have reeled in from those same waters.  The Delaware River flows right through this graveyard.  [2013]


Monday, November 11, 2013

Port Penn, Delaware

Hickory Grove Cemetery:  The stodgy old part of Hickory Grove would be totally unremarkable were it not for the nearby light tower, the Liston Rear Range Light. The principle holds: what surrounds a cemetery is just as important as what's in a cemetery when it comes to creating a vivid sense of place. As the cemetery has expanded and old norms demolished, new headstones seem to take their cue from the coastal environment. See the lighthouse on the Hazzard stone? Then, there is the stone obelisk, which is meant to shine an equally bright, albeit symbolic, beacon across the graveyard. The two towers compete to be the first to attract attention. [2013]

Friday, November 8, 2013

White Pine, Tennessee

Palliative Poetry:  Perfect for the memorial.  Like 2Pac, he died before his time.
   When my heart can beat no more
   I hope I die for a principle
   Or a belief that I had lived 4
   I will die before my time
   Because I feel the shadows depth
   So much I wanted to accomplish
   Before I reached my death
   I have come 2 grips with the possibility
   And wiped the last tear from my eyes
   I loved all who were positive
   In the event of my demise
                                  Tupac Shakur
Edwards Chapel Cemetery.  [2009]

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bethany, Missouri

Palliative Poetry:  This poem by an anonymous author is short enough to find its way onto many headstones.
   Those we love remain with us
   For love itself lives on.
   And cherished memories never fade
   Because a loved one's gone....
   Those we love can never be
   More than a thought apart.
   For as long as there is memory,
   They'll live on in the heart.
Meriam IOOF Cemetery. [2008]

Monday, November 4, 2013

Aurora, Colorado

Palliative Poetry:  This poem by Ron Tranmer is frequently found on cemetery memorials.
   The Broken Chain
   We little knew that morning that
   God was going to call your name.
   In life we loved you dearly.
   In death we do the same.
   It broke our hearts to lose you,
   you did not go alone;
   for part of us went with you,
   the day God called you home.
   You left us peaceful memories,
   your love is still our guide;
   and through we cannot see you,
   you are always at our side.
   Our family chain is broken
   and nothing seems the same,
   but as God calls us one by one,
   the chain will link again.
 Eastlawn Memorial Gardens.  [2013]


Friday, November 1, 2013

Summerville, South Carolina

Halloween Goeth:  The eve of All Saints' Day is over, but the holiday itself is here. All over the Christian world, but not in the United States, families will take flowers to the graves today to celebrate the earthly lives of departed souls. Tomorrow is All Souls' Day, the last day of Hallowmas, after which all living souls will turn their attention to Christmas. Summerville Cemetery. [2012]

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Windsor, Connecticut

Halloween Cometh:  There is a direct, positive correlation between cemeteries and Halloween. Right? Not that Americans go to the cemeteries as Mexicans do during this holiday season, but much of the pop culture that surrounds the day comes from the graveyard. Elm Grove Cemetery. [2013]

Happy Halloween
Keep Rockin The Heavens

Monday, October 28, 2013

Springfield, Massachusetts

Halloween Cometh:  For certain holidays, the grave has an especially potent draw of its own.  What would All Hallows' Eve be without cemeteries to fuel our imaginations?  It is a time to remember the dead, and a little humor might just help rekindle cherished memories.  Won't you give this imaginative tableau a hand?  Oak Grove Cemetery.  [2013]
Beautiful Angel
We Will Miss You


Friday, October 25, 2013

Rainelle, West Virginia

Secular Portals ~ At The End of The Trail Cemetery:  Now, there's a name that could be hoisted above any cemetery anywhere.  But, it seems to be an innovation without diffusion.  There seems to be only one End of the Trail Cemetery, so the question to ask is:  Why?  Names like Beautiful View and Oak Lawn proliferate.  Names like this don't.  [2010]

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

State Line, Maryland

Secular Portals ~   Beautiful View Cemetery:   Cemetery names are often used to balance the darkness of death.  'Beautiful View,' sans cemetery, might make someone consider buying a house on property like this.  And, if the psychology works for the real estate market, it should also work for the sale of cemetery plots.  With a name like Beautiful View, you can feel proud of the place where you plant your loved ones.  [2012]


Monday, October 21, 2013

Bloomfield, New Mexico

Secular Portals ~ Municipal Cemeteries:  There was a time when cemeteries were maintained almost exclusively by churches or families. But, as far back as the colonial era, local governments found it necessary to provide land for burials. At first, municipal cemeteries were located right in town, then right outside of town and often on a hill top if one was available. Very often, municipal cemeteries are branded with the locality's name. Bloomfield Cemetery. [2013]

Friday, October 18, 2013

San Diego, California

Home of Peace Cemetery:  Jewish headstones tend to be tidy and traditional.  Rarely do they draw on popular culture for their imagery.  Here are some elements of design to look for:  (a) pictorial symbols such as the six-pointed star and contiguous hands, (b) the Hebrew language, (c) epitaphs tied to the Hebrew narrative (with emphasis here on ethics, loving kindness, and light), (d) a five-letter Hebrew acronym which stands for "May the soul be bound up in eternal life," and (e) a Hebrew "Here Lies" right before the name.   [2013]

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

San Diego, California

Home of Peace Cemetery:  The headstone here finds itself in the middle of a web of relationships: to world history, to languages, to family, and to the arts.  Both made aliyah in the 1930s; they were part of the return migration of the exiles to their 'promised land.' In two languages are they honored: English and Hebrew, the former indicative of loyalty to the U.S. and the latter indicative of loyalty to Judaism. Each was loved by children and grandchildren.  Note, especially, the very possessive our.  Both were recognized as talented artists, but Benjamin's monochrome takes center stage as a bridge between husband and wife.  Do you know why the bouquet of roses fits so well? Shoshana, in Hebrew, means 'rose.'  By coincidence, as well, the historic Jewish neighborhood in San Diego was Roseville, founded by Louis Rose.  [2013]

Monday, October 14, 2013

San Diego, California

Home of Peace Cemetery:  Lots of laws (religious, that is) surround Jewish burials: purification of the remains, rending the garments, inhumation within 24 hours, no cremation, no above-ground burial, and interment only among fellow Jews.  Sometimes, Jewish burial grounds are separate cemeteries of their own.  Other times, they are sections of larger cemeteries.  Home of Peace opened in 1892 when a corner of Mount Hope Cemetery was sold to a local congregation.  [2013]


Friday, October 11, 2013

Texarkana, Arkansas

Voices Silenced:  Respect from a friend as recorded in the ether:  "Larry Kent died in 2003 after a four-month battle with cancer. Larry was the consummate pro, starting here in Texarkana in the early 1960s. He moved back here to run the family music store when his father died. He started his own consulting firm in 1996. Larry was a good friend and one of radio's best."  State Line Cemetery.  [2012]

Radio's Larry Kent