Thursday, August 27, 2009

Monument Design - Welsh Pavilion


Although earlier in the course I stated that I despised the “personal tributes to self” that some people chose to commemorate their life (the Dexter’s, etcetera), but it occurred to me that a monument or gravestone is just that--a tribute to self, rather, a tribute to one’s family. To that end, I created a modern work of architectural wonder to express what my family’s life means to me.

Behold Welsh Pavilion.

I incorporated many themes and ideas that I found appealing during my tenure at Spring Grove Cemetery. The personalization of the interior reflects my family’s interests and values. Many in our family enjoy reading, so I placed built-in bookshelves that are sealed from the elements, but can be opened to enjoy while visiting loved ones. In addition, we all LOVE to take pictures. Slate-bound photo albums while be stored in these shelves, too. The rear portico is meant to be “the memories porch.” While flipping through the photos or enjoying a classic piece of literature, we have a place to relax in peace with scenery unlike any other.

The upper interior, above the bookcases, will house the remains of our family. Sheathed in stainless steel, minimal care will be required to maintain the look of this modern mausoleum. Crypts will hold those who believe in traditional burial, while a cremation alcove will hold whatever urn our family member may desire.

Family is a very important value in the Welsh clan. Although many of us are doing many different things with conflicting schedules, we still find the time to get together and simply talk with each other. This mausoleum reflects those values so that we may extend them beyond this life. Clearly this is not the typical type of headstone, but it captures the essence of what Spring Grove Cemetery has taught me about what it is to live and what it means to die and be remembered.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Final Reflection - The Cemetery

Eight weeks. Yes, eight weeks is the time it took me to comprehend what and why is a cemetery. Spring Grove Cemetery was the proving ground for such a revelation and, although skeptical at first, I have come to enlighten my feelings on what it is to die and what it means to be a cemetery. It is more than a storage place for the dead. Be it in a wall, in the ground, or in an urn, a cemetery is more than an area of final resting. A cemetery is our history. A cemetery holds time. A cemetery summarizes our lives and embodies the definition of an American, of humankind.

To understand who we are, where we have come from, and to find some guiding principle for the direction of our life, we must understand our history, our family. A cemetery is our history. I appreciate the notion that a textbook can be history, but only in a cemetery is one able to physically envelope herself in tangible, happened history. Each gravestone provides intelligible clues to our past. We can read what it is our ancestors believed in, what their character personified, and, shallowly, how much they were worth! We, too, see the trends of history as time has passed. Prospering works of theoretical genius and blunders of entrepreneurial spirit can be found in the cemetery. It gives us a “textbook’s” wealth of information about our history, quite literally, carved from stone. All it takes is a little time to uncover.

Think about time in a cemetery. The only method of keeping time is evident on the markers adorning the deceased. Time has no meaning in a cemetery; cemeteries hold time. Nothing changes here, with the exception of a maturing tree or the addition of a burial site. It is important that the ticking of a clock have no sound, no essence in the cemetery because that is how we want it to be. We want it to preserve, to embalm the memories of our history, of our families. No matter how old we may become or what deadline we must meet, when we visit the cemetery, the practicality of time slows, comes to a stop, then rewinds to that point which we recall the happiness of our past, of our beloved. The absence of time, the lack of temporal movement places a value on the cemetery that one may not fully understand, but no less feels its purpose and distinction. Our nature is sometimes to willingly accept ideas with simply a conceptual understanding. The treatment of our dead, in theory, is no different.

Americans, humans, more generally, cherish their dead. We safeguard our departed in a casket, in a vase, in a…filing cabinet, so to speak. To value life, to place meaning on each soul that roams this planet, we charge ourselves with the unbridled care of the physical body that represents such soulful life. We know that our bodies do not leave this earthly place, but we trust that our conscience moves on to another realm. Some sphere that is eternal and peaceful, the cemetery provides that intermediate space, that medium by which to exchange this life for the next. Humans believe so whole-heartedly in such a place that we have attempted (and succeeded, I think) to remove the gloom, the haze from death and dying. Cemeteries have become a place of natural beauty, skillfully mastered works of botanical art. Spring Grove is such an example, an example of the willing acceptance and splendor of passage into death and the next being. Moreover, a celebration of the person’s life rather than the person’s death is what a cemetery is, what it provokes.

Spring Grove Cemetery and Arboretum is the epitome of what a modern and a historic cemetery should be. It has broadened my view, sparked my indulgence, and challenged my beliefs on what a burial ground truly is and, more precisely, why it is. Words can sometimes be difficult in use to frame an explanation of what something is. Perhaps there are no words for some things. Maybe it is purely a visual stimulant, a melodic tone of symphonic delight, an engulfing smell of a sumptuous plant, the touch of warmth from a new day’s son, or a pleasurable savor across the palate of our mouth. Even so, I must choose some words today. Words so uncomplicated, but deep, more experience rather than definition. The cemetery is times gone by. The cemetery is a marvelous manipulator of occasion, of moments in time. The cemetery relishes memories and is, by very implication, the fundamental nature of life, death, and humanity.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Critical Book Review

After devouring the novel by Peter S. Beagle titled A Fine and Private Place, I had developed rather mixed emotions about the book. It paralleled many of the themes that we have been exploring over the course of our time at Spring Grove Cemetery, but I felt as though the story was rushed. That is, the overall exposition is a little fast, perhaps showing the impatience of a young man to get to the meat of the story (Beagle was 19 when he wrote the novel). However, after learning more about the author himself and being asked to think more critically about A Fine and Private Place, I have discovered varying themes and social concerns along with a great deal of intricacy in how the characters interact with one another.

The story unfolds in a Bronx cemetery where the newly arrived dead quickly lose all sense of themselves as individual people by forgetting the sensations and impressions that composed their lives. As one would infer, the dead cannot leave the place of their buried body or make any physical impact on the world of the living. This is where we find Jonathan Rebeck, our protagonist. He makes it apparent that it is possible to be both physically alive and dead at the same time. On the other hand, Michael and Laura, who are newcomers to Yorkchester Cemetery, are able to remain somewhat alive by constantly reminding themselves of their past experiences and sensations. One can surmise that maintaining an identity and being alive are analogous. We must actively pursue a sense of self to prove we are alive and to be alive is to have proved or established a sense of self. In addition, this shows that an act of will is necessary to propagate life and such will clearly distinguishes it from death.

Beagle suggests that whether or not a character wills to engage in the constant effort of awareness required to maintain life and identity depends on the presence of love. For example, Laura embodied death because she felt that no one truly cared about her and Michael committed suicide because his marriage was failing. However, once these two ghosts developed a passionate longing and love for each other, then they find the incentive to hold onto their identities and inimitable existences by sharing their remembered sensations. In addition, Mr. Rebeck wills the action to leave the cemetery and reenter the realm of the living after 19 years because of his developing love for Mrs. Klapper.

Mr. Rebeck, Mrs. Klapper, Laura, and Michael are the four primary characters in the novel and Beagle places them as equals, as balances for one another versus functioning as separate entities. In so each character seeks to compliment the other three. It appears that Laura and Mr. Rebeck are parallels, as Laura only wants to sleep underground and fade away and Mr. Rebeck has abandoned life to live in a cemetery among the dead. They both have rejected life. Conversely, Michael vests all of his time as a ghost into remembering the past, remembering the sensations to hang on to life. Michael attempts to motivate Laura to do much the same as Mrs. Klapper’s character implies the same with Mr. Rebeck, but in his case to leave the cemetery. It gives the impression that Mrs. Klapper and Michael are both lovers who are attempting to bring life to the dead, and Mr. Rebeck and Laura are the beloved who receive it.

Beagle has attempted a novel expressing life after death, and life during death, and life instead of death using love as the ultimate vehicle to deliver his message. After thinking more decisively about the text and removing my initial dislike for the piece, I have come to respect A Fine and Private Place as a marvelous work of magical realism. The themes and characters are intertwined to reveal a complex notion of valuing everyday life and not to take it for granted. Moreover, it has been a true compliment to our analysis of Spring Grove and the nature of cemeteries.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 8 - Dr. John Tallmadge/A Book Discussion

Okay, so I will admit that the book A Fine and Private Place truly was not as outrageous as I first thought. After talking it over with my classmates tonight, I feel as though I have a much better understanding of what the novel is and how it should be read. Perhaps the key to understanding is group conversation. Dr. Tallmadge, although he did not read the text, provided some useful insight based on simply what we were discussing and relating it to our themes at Spring Grove. However, the question still looms, what is a cemetery? From Peter S. Beagle’s point of view, it is a place to escape from reality, the final destination, a cultivator of love.

I truly wish we could have walked around some more tonight. Although it was a warm evening, the humidity was much less dreadful than usual. I drove to class tonight via the Gray Road entrance. I did not take any route in particular, that is, a white, yellow, or green line, rather just followed whatever made sense. The idea was to see things I have not yet discovered. Ironically enough, I found my way to the front of the cemetery much easier than I would have suspected. Maybe this just goes to show that there is a natural flow, an unconscious plan after all. I still envision Spring Grove as a private garden, a veritable Eden in the vastness of a commercialized, industrial metropolis. Walled and gated in, Spring Grove is one of the few places in the city where one can honestly hideaway and feel enlightened by the surroundings of a truly different place. Although a cemetery, it has become one of my favorite places to come and think, read, eat, and, of course, study.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 7 - The Future of Cemeteries

I felt as though today stood out more than most here at Spring Grove. I say this because when we took a tour of the massive mausoleum complex, I could not help but think about the future of cemeteries. It is common knowledge that Spring Grove sprung up due to the precious real estate needed for development in the inner city, but what is to happen when the area that surrounds Spring Grove becomes much too valuable for “storage of the dead”? I think that this mausoleum tells the tale of that future. Simply witnessing the large number of bodies and memories contained in such a relatively small space gives proof to the future of our beloved past.

As much as no one would like to admit it, economics is the fundamental driving force in everyone’s life. Economics is influencing Spring Grove in such a way. Although they have many hundreds of acres left for traditional burial, the directors have come to realize that, to secure their future, alternatives must be developed. Moreover, it appears that many people, whether or not they realize it, are accepting this inevitability by accommodating the sterile environment of a mausoleum.

In addition, what is more of cemeteries in general? What is it that truly sends us to this ultimate resting place? Why do we seal off our bodies and place them in the earth or in a wall? I am afraid to report I cannot come to a tangible conclusion. I feel as though it would be necessary to experience other cultures and how they deal with their dead to fully understand the nature of American death rituals. Religion is a key figure in the disposal of our dead. We often have elaborate masses to culminate the life of our deceased and many individual levels of mourning that general follow for some time. On the other hand, many people consider the passing of people as a “wake,” or time when their life ends here on Earth and continues in another realm. Personally, I know that when I pass on to whatever comes next, I want it to be a celebration and a joyous time looking at what my life was. At length, I hope that by the time my tenure is up here at this particular cemetery, I will gain an overall sagacity of the dead and dying, and what is means to our culture; why we bury or entomb our dead.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 6 - Further Exploration

Today, we took quite the walk. It was very enjoyable as this was one of the reasons why I took the class—great scenery and exercise! Walking about the grounds is clearly the best way to understand and physically digest the cemetery. Our first stop was the famous Dexter chapel and mausoleum complex. Once I moved beyond its massive appeal and intricacy, I had to ask myself, “Why would they choose this as their way of acknowledging their life?” The name “Dexter” is not of any importance to my personal knowledge today, so one must ask how they amassed such a fortune. Well, like many others here, the development of alcoholic beverages (primarily beer) was their means of income. Like I tried to point out several times throughout this multi-week journey, what is this telling us about our culture? That is, the more prominent legacies of people at Spring Grove are centered on some of the very things that, if not consumed responsibly, will do more harm than good. So then I ponder, should they have honestly said (rather implied) in building such monstrosities, “Hey! Look at me and remember what I did during my life! And if you follow my example, you can have a massive, multifaceted, memory to your name, too! Drink up!” My answer would be a resounding “no”. Oops! I seemed to have rambled off on a tangent about morality and ethics. Okay, back to the topic at hand.

Continuing our roam through the grounds, we came across many “Kodak” moments and very eccentric monuments and markers. When we moved in on the Sphinx, I was actually a bit disappointed. I thought it would be somewhat grander than it was. Nevertheless, it is still a hidden jewel of Spring Grove. I do hope we have the opportunity to go on more extensive walks in the remaining weeks of the term. I find that my more novel and creative thoughts are provoked by the sensual contact of the query at hand. In addition, I LOVE taking pictures!

Friday, July 31, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 5 - Norman Chapel

Today was such a dreary, humid, rain-laden day. How fitting for a cemetery and visiting its chapel, Norman Chapel! The first part of the class, we took the time to share our experiences with other cemeteries throughout the tri-state area. Through my observations, it appears that (1) a lot of people died from the late-1700’s through to the mid- to late-1800’s, and (2) we are moving away from small, sometimes secluded, personable burial grounds to large, manicured, professional (although sometimes impersonal) cemeteries. Perhaps one can conclude that space is becoming more of a premium, therefore it is prudent to condense our dead into a preplanned area. However, one must question if the “personal touch” associated with spending eternity at a small, simplistic plot/cemetery versus a sprawling, multi-acre affair is of such heightened value. After reviewing these smaller cemeteries with my classmates, it is clear that the larger, better managed cemetery (like Spring Grove or Arlington Memorial Gardens) is the logical choice. Visually understanding how quickly these smaller venues fell out of repair is sound reasoning to such a choice. Although these larger cemeteries will fill-up eventually, it should be well after our children’s, children’s death before they fall to waste side like the ones we witnessed, if at all.

On a brighter note, Norman Chapel is quite the retreat. The building itself presents a permanence that should be standing long after the “filled up” occurs. The stained glass wall at the rear of the altar-area is breathtaking. Who knew that colored glass and lead could be fashioned so beautifully? The hand-carved stone accents throughout the structure are truly a work of art. I just kept thinking to myself how dusty it must have been while the chapel was being constructed. I am sure that many a stone artisan (of the few who still actually pursue the profession) can use Norman Chapel as an example of stone masonry at its finest. The massive bronze doors that separate the waiting room and the bathroom area are additional masterpieces within Norman Chapel. Their depictions of religious figures accent the massive mural of glass pleasingly. With all of this beauty it is hard for one to imagine that the need for a jail cell word arise, but I suppose that not everyone can behave in and appreciate such a place as Norman Chapel and Spring Grove.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Colerain Historic Cemetery

  • Located on the North side of Springdale Road, just east of Pippin Road
  • Formally known as “Colerain Township Historical Cemetery West Branch Millcreek”
  • Possibly owned/operated by Christ Lutheran Church, a member of The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, at 3301 Compton Road near Colerain Avenue
  • Most of the periods on the stones give the date of death as anywhere from the early 1800’s up through the very early 1900’s
    o This could suggest that the cemetery is no longer in use
  • The site is very expansive despite only roughly a third of its total area utilized for gravesites
    o The remainder is mowed grasses
    o The South side of the sight faces against Springdale Road
    o The North side borders a subdivision
    o The East and West boundaries are neighboring homes
    o Aside from the South face, the other three margins are heavily wooded
    o Rough measurements: 200 feet by 750 feet
    o Terrain is sloping steadily downward from Northwest to Southeast
  • Common theme on the headstones is to list years/months/days aged versus strictly D.O.D.
  • Some last names are familiar areas/streets in or around Colerain Township
    o Phebe Miles--Daughter of John and Margarett Miles--as in Miles Road off of Adams Road and Hamilton Avenue (appears whole family is buried here)
    o Elizabeth Hughes--Wife of Harbour Hughes--as in Hughes Road off of Struble Road and Bank Road
    o William Compton--Son of John and Hannah Compton--as in Compton Road stretching from Colerain Avenue to Winton Road
    o Harriet C. Stout--Wife of Andrew Stout--as in Stout Road off of Pippin Road and Pottinger Road (North boundary of Northwest High School)
    o The consort of Joseph Struble (Ann Elizabeth) is buried here--Struble as in Struble Road panning from Colerain Avenue to Burlington Road
  • Gravestones overall are in bad shape
    o Quite a few have fallen over
    o Some are completely unreadable
    o A dozen or so stones have broken in half
    o This, too, could suggest the cemetery is no longer in use
  • General facing direction of the headstones is West
    o This east/west orientation is the most common orientation in other parts of the country and world as well. The earliest settlers had their feet pointing toward the east and the head of the coffin toward the west, ready to rise up and face the "new day" (the sun) when "the trumpet shall sound and the dead shall be raised" or when Christ would appear and they would be reborn. If the body was positioned between the headstone and the footstone, with the inscriptions facing outward, the footstone might actually be facing east and the decorated face of the headstone facing west. If the headstone inscription faces east, the body would most commonly be buried to the east of it
  • An interesting fact: The north side of the cemetery was considered less desirable and is often the last part of the burying ground to be used, or one may find the north side set aside for slaves, servants, suicides, "unknowns," etcetera

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 4 - The Tram

I enjoy tram rides as much as the next person, but the one we took this week was rather formidable. It was nice to see the extreme ends of the cemetery; however I felt as though it was a bit rushed and bumpy. I understand time is of the essence, but I would liked to have walked a bit more at the various stops we made throughout the ride. Nonetheless, complaining aside, I did find the overall experience quite rewarding. I was already familiar with the rearmost developed grounds as I have family buried there, but I was missing a great deal of the middle area. It was haunting to see the woodland area during the time of day and weather conditions we experienced. I felt as though I was in some type of horror movie or maybe a documentary about ghosts and the supernatural.

As we rode, I thought about the transition of time as we bounded our way toward the back of the cemetery. Monuments and gravestones went from very aged and unreadable to legible, but weathered, and lastly to highly polished, laser-etched works of modern art. It still boggles the mind to think about the vast sums of money that people must have spent to remember their dead. But maybe this is why they do. Generally when we remember people, especially loved ones, we tend to gravitate toward the good times, the good memories. What better way to physically remember the good in a person than by carving it from stone with floral accents and quirky quotes. Personally, I want a massive complex dedicated to the memory of my family. I imagine something along the appearance of the Burnett, flowing lines in light-colored granite, but with the scale and convolution of the Drexel—a multi-leveled affair situated on an expansive, rolling, picturesque piece of real-estate flanked by a lake or waterfall. I had better start saving now…

Debriefing a Monument - The Becker's

First Image (General Description) - AMELIA BECKER (Daughter) – Born October 20, 1858; died on September 21, 1863 (almost 5), from scarlet fever; interment on September 24, 1863; moved to current lot on September 19, 1879, and to current location on same lot November 16, 1895.

AUGST BECKER (Father/Husband/Owner) – Born ~February 2, 1834; died September 5, 1890 (56), from diabetis and complication; interment on September 7, 1890, @ 3:30PM.

EMMA BECKER (Daughter) – Born ~July 19, 1867; died November 19, 1890 (23), from inflammation of bowels; interment on November 22, 1890, @ 12PM.

MADELINE BECKER (Wife) – Born ~January 29, 1834; died February 18, 1891 (57), from paralysis; interment February 21, 1891, @ 11:30AM.

HARRY W BECKER (Son) – Born January 19, 1850; died January 30, 1897, from Erysipelas (acute streptococcus bacterial infection of the dermis); interment February 1, 1897, @ 3:30PM.
The monument itself is carved into stone resembling stone, or rock, as its foundation. Rock can symbolize steadfastness of Christ; stability.

2 – The cherub can signify divine wisdom or justice. In addition, the recognition of a young child or an angelic characteristic of the deceased, too defines the small winged person.

3 – Victory in death, indestructible crown worn by triumphant Christian; eternity.

4 – Lilies are generally the first flows to bloom in the spring, thus symbolizing renewal and resurrection.

5 – The anchor is a symbol of hope. This idea comes from the passage in the Epistle to the Hebrews 6. Statues of the Virtue of Hope have her leaning on an anchor.

6 – Ivy is associated with immortality and fidelity. The clinging to the cross makes it a symbol of attachment, friendship, and undying affection. Its three-pointed leaves make it a symbol of the Trinity.

7 – The cross is the supreme symbol of Christianity.

8 – In the sense of a scroll, this signifies the law or scriptures. As a banner, it is another indication of victory and/or triumph.

9 – I took this image to be of an under ripe piece of corn still in its husk. Corn symbolizes fertility and rebirth.

10 – The Madonna lily, or Easter lily, symbolizes chastity, innocence and purity; a favored funeral flower of the Victorians. Joseph is often depicted holding a lily branch to indicate that his wife Mary was a virgin. In tradition, the first lily sprang forth from the repentant tears of Eve as she went forth from Paradise. The use of lilies at funerals symbolizes the restored innocence of the soul at death.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Journal Entry - Week 3 - Iconography & Symbolism

Today was an interesting class. I know; such an overused, broad reaching but shallow word. Okay. What about spellbinding? Yeah, that’ll work. I use this word because some of the hieroglyphic items we came across this week looked as if thought they came from a sinister spell or an enchanting, whimsical storybook. The theme associated with gravestone iconography is rather similar and unique at the same time. By that I mean the symbols have very similar meanings, however when several are pieced together on one particular gravestone or monument, they suddenly tell the story of that individual or family. Quite easily one is able to determine what that person(s) beliefs and ideals were or, rather, what they simply wished to be remembered for. What is curious about such symbolism is, at least at Spring Grove, the iconography stems from a definitive religion: Christianity. Perhaps it is the nature of the cemetery here, but is this basis just for other cemeteries in the region, state, country, etcetera?

In addition, I am still awestruck by the scenery here. That is, the rolling hills and beautiful backdrop reminiscent of an English countryside. However, I do find it to be too green. Where are the wildflowers and thousands of shades of color? For a nationally recognized arboretum, I am a bit disappointed. Most of what color there is seems confined to the front-most part of the cemetery. Maybe I should bring some wildflower seeds with me next week and drive around dispensing them from my car…

Posting PowerPoint to via

Hello! I put together this little how-to MS Word doc to provide some direction for posting stuff to the Blogger website. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First Exploration of Spring Grove Cemetery

Here is the presentation Christina and I put together from the walkabout during the first class:

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Some Questions...

25 Questions for the Colloquium

1. Why are some of the graves covered in ivy?
2. Why does Alfred K. Nippert’s headstone read “Eminent Supreme Archon?”
3. Why is Casper H. Rowe’s headstone set back in the brush?
4. What material is the aforementioned headstone made out of?
5. Why is the water so dark and unnaturally green? Is it colored?
6. Why were/are obelisk’s so popular?
7. Some of the headstone’s look like above ground crypts. Are the bodies in there?
8. Some very old headstone’s are simple, small, roundish pieces of stone. Why?
9. There is some type of urn or something on C. Haffner’s monument. What is it?
10. What was the inspiration for the original design of Spring Grove?
11. There is a very crowded section of graves where the headstones all face east. Why?
12. What is the cost of grounds maintenance each year?
13. What does it cost to be buried in the ground? In a wall? In a mausoleum?
14. Where did the name “Spring Grove” come from?
15. How is the cemetery governed? Public/private?
16. Have there been any proved supernatural events? Ghosts?
17. What is the “life-expectancy” of Spring Grove?
18. Does Spring Grove receive any funding (aside from donors and income from burials)?
19. Can we witness an embalming?
20. Some of the headstones have two or more (last) names on them. Why?
21. How popular is cremation? What is its cost?
22. Some of the grasses at the base of some trees are strange (coarse/dark green). Why?
23. Some of the dates on the headstones are ended with periods (like a sentence) and some are not. Why? What dictates the format of headstones?
24. What species of plant are the most unique to Spring Grove?
25. Are there any murderers or anyone of that nature buried at Spring Grove?

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The Cemetery – Feelings, Ideas and Experiences

I have never thought too critically about cemeteries. However, I do have some rational feelings about them. Despite their beautiful surface, what lies beneath is where the darkness shrouds my curiosity. It just feels disquieting thinking of the bodies that exist lifeless beneath the earth and, in some cases, filed neatly above it. Because of this idea of death, I have come to “look” at cemeteries as discomfortingly quiet and eerie places. Perhaps this is due to my personal lack of clarity and knowledge concerning death and the dead, but I cannot bring myself to feel anymore different about them than I do now. I am hoping that our summer colloquium will alter my outlook.

Keeping with this optimistic view, I have some general ideas and theories about cemeteries. Well, rather questions. My biggest question is how/where did cemeteries originate? That is, why do we feel the need to honor our dead with a permanent piece of the ground? Yes, we all can agree that a massive stack of lifeless corpses piled in a corner somewhere rotting away is not the best idea, but who came up with the idea to use land explicitly for burials? In addition, all, rather most, cemeteries seem to follow a general set of guidelines, edict. Who has established these principles and why? Lastly, to narrow the flowing bellow of ideas, obviously Spring Grove Cemetery was not always surrounded by roads and abandoned industry as it is today, so what was it like? Why was this area chosen? Maybe it was far enough away from the city at the time that land was plentiful and cheap, so they just claimed it as a “good spot”.

Speaking of “good spots”, I have some, but limited, experience with cemeteries. I only tend to think about them when I receive the news that someone has died. Of course when I am actually in one, the last thing I ponder is the rolling landscape of manicured lawns and planting beds, and the sounds of nature. Instead, my emotion is tied up in the sorrow and raw, vulnerable state that death suggests. On the other hand, I did visit Spring Grove Cemetery for the simple reason of exploration in the early fall of 2008. For our Orientation to Honors course, we wondered through the grounds speculating about different burial sites and taking in the beauty (although a cloudy day) of the memorial park. This was the very first time I ever thought about just looking at the final resting place as a whole rather than the single site where a loved one will remain for an eternity. It was an intriguing experience and that is why I chose to take this colloquium. There is more to these places than I would have ever thought and Spring Grove is up on the list of national iconic cemeteries. Therefore, I thought it would be prudent to spend my summer in nature expanding and nurturing an otherwise avoided and mysterious personal topic.