The smog from the cars on a late afternoon, commuter packed highway made me slow down for my lungs sake and look for somewhere better to hike. I was in Atlanta for meetings back in the 90s, I had some time between the last meeting and when we were gathering to go to a group meal, so I was walking. It was still quite hot out for my northern blood and on my right was an entryway to a rather magnificent graveyard. It’s name was Oakland, but it looked more like home, the trees were big, it was cooler and the air smelled so much better once I was a little ways in. Nobody human and alive appeared to be around, just me and the ones immortalized in stone.
The monuments were spectacular. I’m from up north Wisconsin and if there’s one large angel or a series of shoulder-high granite markers, well that’s a lot of stone immortalizing.
Our graveyards are mostly maybe an acre or two or maybe 10 and have remnants of fake flowers and memorial wreathes, but this one was big and the trees, big oaks (go figure – Oakland) and the monuments really big and no silk flowers here. Instead of walking for exercise I started reading monuments, one I walked through – it was like a very large redwood tree with more markers inside the stone trunk. Treelike markers were popular in one section for one period of time. There were Grecian, there were small stone buildings, mausoleums to house the dead above ground, there were angels and there were just large family markers. They came in lots of sizes and in fads, certain kinds more popular if you died in the 50s, different if you died in the 80s. And obviously certain sections of the cemetery were more desirable for wealthy people, or maybe for those that demanded to be immortalized in stone. The oldest ones were white stained rectangular stone slabs with hard to read words, wife/mother, infant, husband/father…
But nobody else was there – no sons or daughters to read the stones. It was a park with no one enjoying it except me and the squirrels. Well, maybe everyone else thought it was creepy. I walked through the tree-shaded black-topped pathway loops for about an hour until I needed to head back to my hotel room to change for dinner. According to their website, now there are tours and tour guides available.
If I had a personal sculptor I would want them to teach me to sculpt in stone, not just do a commissioned piece of/for me.
I am my own personal sculptor and carving out my own life, but not in stone unless we count the calcium I might deposit from my bones and teeth at death creating the sedimentary rock that holds small bits of our history.
No, a stone sculpture is just a sculpture, the meaning is lost and changes as time goes by. It becomes a ‘wow, look at that,’ but the person or family behind it is a forgotten essence unless there is more than rock to remember them by. I do like big trees.
I do like finding fossils. And I don’t mind walking through cemeteries, alone in the coming twilight…what was that?