Cemetery

By , May 11, 2005

I grew up about a mile and a half from a cemetery. About the time I started high school, I got into the habit of walking there and wandering about amongst the monuments and trees whenever I had any deep thinking to do. If something in my life was uncertain or upsetting, I’d usually find myself able to sort through it while meandering through the cemetery. Even throughout college, anytime I was visiting my parents and had some school issue, career question, or girl problem, I’d hike out to Pleasant Hill and contemplate that which was on my mind.

Cemeteries are possessed of a serenity that is lacking from most other places in this world, and seemingly one of the last places people treat with any sort of dignity or respect. That is, when you even meet another person there, as a cemetery is also a wonderful place for solitude.

Nowadays, the nearest one to me is Oakland’s Mountain View Cemetery. The higher up the hills you go, the grander the markers and mausoleums become, and the more familiar the names become, too. Merritt, Wheeler, Peralta– it’s a veritable who’s who, or rather who was once who, of Oakland history. I sometimes sneak in after closing time and roam about under the moonlight. I’ve spent many nights perched atop various mausoleums, a living gargoyle, motionless except for the occasional movement required to sip from a flask. The Black Dahlia is buried in that cemetery; her grave makes me feel profoundly sad, as though I’ve already outlived my allotted lifespan.

Maybe you are like most of the friends to whom I’ve mentioned this, and you find it creepy or morbid that I like to walk through a burial ground when I need to think, but it’s just something I’ve done for so long that it’s a part of me. To this day, whenever I pass a cemetery, almost as a reflex I momentarily reflect on my life and the events that have shaped me into the person I am today.

In recent years I’ve had a long run of good luck, and I haven’t had much confusion or sorrow to assimilate, but all the recent turmoil in my life has left me with a lot of unsorted thoughts. Yesterday I spent the better part of the afternoon drifting though the vast expanses of Arlington Cemetery.

Seeing row after row of headstones, endless lists of names and dates, and all the loving memories etched into stone, I am reminded that some day I too will be laid to rest in such a place. It helps me put my own problems in perspective, and reinforces the idea that life is ephemeral, and meant to be enjoyed. Whatever task, deadline, girl, loss, or woe looms over me somehow becomes less frightening when taken in that big picture context.

I’ve never been one to dwell on the past, and I tend to look to the unknown of the future with gusto. I’ve been a bit reluctant to do so of late, but I know I have no other choice. As Seneca wrote (though I can’t swear I remember this verbatim) “Fates lead the willing, and drags along the reluctant.” Or something like that. Perhaps more fitting, shown in the picture below, are the words I found etched into a statue outside the National Archives– What is Past is Prologue.

what is past is prologue

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10 Responses to “Cemetery”

  1. AfroLeft says:

    I don’t think that’s weird, although I wouldn’t be able to roll through a cemetary to think. There is a wonderful serenity in graveyards, though.

    One thing I do from time to time is look at the headstones. I often look around and try to find people who lived over 100 years. It’s crazy seeing the stones of people who were born in the 1800s.

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  2. I used to go to a graveyard to smoke pot in high school. It was awesome.

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  3. it seems like the best we can wish the dearly departed is to Rest In Peace.

    i wish you peace of mind :)

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  4. Habitat Gurl says:

    You know, I understand completely where you are coming from. Cemeteries are full of solitude, and when you see a person at one, you typically do not interrupt their thoughts. I didn’t have a cemetery nearby–I lived out in the country, in the middle of the woods. So, I went to a ravine in the middle of the woods; there was a river at the bottom of it. Surrounded by the trees, the smell, and the sound of running water, I could think. And, deer don’t stop to talk. =) I think I worked more things out in my head there than I have in any other place on earth.

    It’s not creepy or morbid that you go to a cemetery to think. It’s just good that you’ve found a place to do so. Since I’ve moved away from home I haven’t been able to find such a place, and it really takes away some sort of peace of mind.

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  5. Winter Apple says:

    haha i was just saying i look ugly and that i want to change :b

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    Peasprout Reply:

    @Winter Apple, :( you don’t need to change anything!

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  6. Winter Apple says:

    a cemetery can be scary~~ (:

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    Peasprout Reply:

    @Winter Apple, Especially when the dead come back to life and try to eat you. But that hardly ever happens.

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  7. Decipher Me says:

    “what’s past is prologue”- is this on your xanga site by any chance? it sounds sooo familiar.

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    Peasprout Reply:

    @Decipher Me, you probably remember reading this on my Xanga blog. The posts there are slowly migrating to their new home here.

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