I took a walk through the Mount Auburn Cemetery today.
That’s not as weird as it sounds. It’s a landscaped cemetery; as much a park or a garden as it is a place for the dead. In general, I’ve noticed a kind of casual acceptance of cemeteries in and around Boston. Within the city itself, you can turn a corner and find yourself walking passed another secluded little graveyard tucked away in some urban corner. The city just grew around them and kept them carefully hidden away.
Anyway, Mount Auburn Cemetery.
I am not a religious man, nor a spiritual one, but I still tread lightly in a graveyard. There’s a certain respect that’s demanded by the almost uncountable memorials. So many names and dates and statues and crosses, rows on rows and, after awhile, it just becomes part of the landscape. You’re just walking in a garden that has a certain obsession with statuary. It’s quiet and peaceful and it’s an easy walk with nothing to really distract you and soon you’re deep within.
And then, midway on your walk, you stop. The only sound you hear is the wind cutting through the trees and a hawk’s cry and the cars and the people and everything else is muted. It hits you that you’re in a cemetery and no matter where you look, you are completely and utterly surrounded by reminders of the lives of people who are now gone. There is no escaping it short of sprinting down the path and down the road and out the gate, ignoring the signs that say no running (or skateboarding, for that matter).
You take a deep breath and you read a few tombstones. A major here, the tiny marble step with a single date on it, the giant cross made from celtic knots and whorls with the lion and the lamb balanced by a cross-legged man; dates and names and sometimes a brief message.
And then, gradually, that freakout ebbs away and it passes and it’s ok again. After awhile, it just is what it is. You walk the long walk out and don’t look back and go to the store and buy hot dogs and go home and let it fade away.