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.

No comments:

Post a Comment