Rain, Angels, and Pondering Life

This past weekend, I set out on a trip to Rome, GA. I went to school there once…a long time ago. My how the city has changed and grown in the last twenty plus years, and perhaps my memory has faded a bit over the years as well. What I went in search for this particular day was a cemetery I once was shooed out of by a friendly local officer. Why you ask? Well, when a group of college girls go wandering about an old cemetery at night, it is apparently a recipe for disaster according to local law enforcement. We were kindly warned about strange men who sleep in cemeteries at night and attack young girls. I’m sure there was some truth to this warning; however, I am sure it was embellished a bit to scare us away as well. So, what do I do now that I’m nearly 41? Well, go wandering about that cemetery alone in the middle of a thunderstorm of course! I know…probably not the safest thing to do, but where’s the adventure in being safe? Of course, in case of attack, I’m pretty sure this camera of mine would put a pretty good sized dent in someone’s head. In case of lightning, however…well, at least I was already in the cemetery, right? That’s what I texted my husband, anyway. To which he replied, “It gives a whole new meaning to cremation.” Lovely vote of confidence that man gives.

I suppose I should get on with my story now. I dropped the family off at Six Flags (I will spare you the story about why I avoid that place at all costs), and I headed toward Rome. I arrived at Myrtle Hill Cemetery late morning or perhaps around noon (I wasn’t really paying attention to the time). It was looking rather cloudy, and it had rained along the drive. I parked in the empty lot, got my camera ready, and stepped out of the car. Then I felt raindrops. After briefly contemplating whether to risk a trek up the hill or not, I got back in my car, and just in time, it would seem, as a monsoon began. I managed a couple of photos of the rather large and imposing mausoleum before and during the downpour.

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As I sat in my car, I mulled over the fact that rain seemed to stop my adventures way too often. I came to the conclusion that I either need a waterproof cover for my camera or a waterproof camera. I now have a lovely waterproof camera on my Amazon wishlist…emphasis on the wish. After sitting for quite some time, I determined that I was not going to let the rain ruin my trip, and I began to drive. So I found an entrance, and I began to drive up that hill. I waited patiently for breaks in the rain to get out and wander about (never too far from the car, mind you, as the rain could come pouring down and ruin my trusty camera at any minute).

Stepping out of my car onto the narrow path high above the city was just a bit unnerving, especially with the thunder and looming storm clouds. However, the rain had abated for a bit, and I was determined to get some photos. The first scene to dazzle my senses was of the city far below. I didn’t realize just how high that hill was until I was standing at the top gazing at the city of the living far below from atop my perch in the city of the dead.

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Now pay special attention to the center of this photograph. Do you see the clock tower right there in the middle? Good. There will be a quiz later.

Now the next thing I began to notice from my perch high above the city was something very frightening and dangerous. Well, frightening and dangerous if you’re a Whovian like myself. I began to see that I was surrounded. By what you ask? By Weeping Angels. They were everywhere! What is a Weeping Angel?! Poor unsuspecting normal people, you must be educated so as not to be caught unaware. A weeping angel is a being from another world. It’s defense mechanism causes it to turn to stone when it is seen by any other living creature. “So don’t blink. Don’t even blink. Blink and you’re dead.” (10th Doctor quote: BBC’s Doctor Who) If these creatures catch you not looking, they zap you into another time and feed on your time energy.  (Please forgive me my fellow Whovians if I have misspoken something and doubly forgive me for what I am about to do…transmit the image of an angel.) Oh dear, and now the normal people ask why I have asked for forgiveness for this transmission. Well, here it is. The danger of photographing a weeping angel is that any image transmitted of a weeping angel itself becomes a weeping angel (see BBC’s Doctor Who season 5, episodes 4 and 5: The Time of Angels and Flesh and Stone).

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All fandom references aside, I am ever amazed at the intricate detail and craftsmanship involved in these beautiful grave-markers. Some of the most fascinating sculptures I have seen have been in cemeteries much like this one. The statues are so detailed they almost seem to be living beings turned to stone. Their creators were true artists of the time. Throughout the cemetery are many stone figures and intricate scroll-work carved into marble and stone commemorating the life of the one laid to rest there.

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One can’t help but wonder as one walks along and views such masterpieces what the story is of the life laid to rest there. Many stories lie buried beneath the grave-markers, and the stories they hold are as varied as the markers above. Some intricate, lavish, and seen by all, and others simple and less-known. Every life lived and every story left behind it is a fading footprint that has left an impression on the lives and hearts touched by it. Though the stories may fade and be forgotten like the fading names on the markers above, the legacy left behind lives on in some way through those that carry on. It may seem a bit odd to be fascinated by these moss-covered cities of the dead, but thinking of these lives, these stories, and the people who carved their memory-marker makes for a great adventure stroll. So barring no run-ins with vagabonds or restless spirits, a stroll through the cemetery can make for a lovely outing…between rain showers.

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Pop quiz! Do you remember that first photo I showed you? What was in the center of it? Right! The Clock Tower! After leaving the cemetery, I traveled across town in search of Clock Tower Hill. There are seven of these hills in Rome, GA. I only visited two while I was there Sunday. I lived on one of the others many years ago while at school. The other four will have to wait for another day I suppose.  Anyway, so off I went. And you’ll never guess what I saw atop that hill! Well, yes, the Clock Tower of course, but what else? I stood upon this particular hill in the city of the living and peered across the valley at none other than that city of the dead that I had just left.

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Of course my first thought was, what a pretty view. My second thought after looking through my camera lens was, oh cool, I was just over there! So, I garnered a few shots of that lovely view, and if you can’t tell, I was rather fascinated by that church steeple. I actually got a couple more shots of it. Do you want to see? Of course you do.

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Then I turned around a got a few shots of the Clock Tower.

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And of course, I can’t go anywhere without getting a few shots of the flora, fauna, and wildlife.

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So even though there was rain, I wasn’t deterred from my Rome adventure, and I hope you enjoyed the walk through the cemetery with me. Oh, but before I go, there is one more story I would like to tell. As I headed off of the hill of the city of the dead, I was presented with an interesting sight. There before me was a lovely apartment complex. Beneath the name, it said Senior Residence. I just wasn’t sure what to think of that. Now, the cemetery is lovely, but I can’t for the life of me figure out why anyone, especially anyone nearing the end of life, would choose to have this as their balcony view. I certainly understand living near a cemetery.  I grew up with an old family cemetery on our property on the hill above our house. I spent my summers cleaning it with my mother and playing in it with my sisters and cousins. I heard stories of the people’s lives, and a few stories of those who weren’t quite settled in death (leading to avoidance of that area of the property after nightfall). I still reside near that old cemetery plot, and my ashes will one day be laid to rest there, too, but I can’t imagine choosing an apartment near a giant cemetery. All I could think is, “There’s nothing like stepping out onto your balcony and taking in the lovely view of your impending doom.” Okay, so maybe that’s a bit dramatic. My husband, of course, gave it the politically correct term of “progressive living arrangements”. Enough of the morbid thoughts now. I shall leave you with these lovely pictures, my thoughts, and a heartfelt “adieu”.

Savannah (Part 1: Bonaventure Cemetery)

On July 10th, my girlfriend, Dawn, and I set out on an adventure for my 40th birthday. We headed to the lovely city of Savannah, Georgia. I absolutely love this city. It is so full of history and stories and lovely architecture. I took so many photos on this adventure that I decided to make this into three posts: Bonaventure Cemetery, Architecture, and City Life.

The first place we stopped when we got into town was Bonaventure Cemetery. We headed straight for the older section, but of course, I saw so many things along the way that we made several stops before reaching the historic section.

The first thing that caught my attention was a mausoleum in the Jewish section. It was a magnificent tomb. With the Spanish moss draping around it and the tropical plants surrounding it, it reminded me of an ancient tomb in the jungle somewhere (well, actually it made me think of the old tv show Land of the Lost for some reason).

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After taking a few shots of this tomb and a few others, we moved on. It was a beautiful drive with tree lined roads in places and Spanish moss everywhere.

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The next place that caught my attention was a small section of the cemetery with veterans graves in it. Each headstone had a US Flag displayed, and the graves were in nice neat little rows. I thought it would make a good picture to display on holidays like Memorial Day and Independence Day.

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One thing I was curious about, however, were the little stones on all the headstones. I began to notice that they were everywhere. I asked Dawn about it, and she explained that some people believe that you are supposed to leave a gift for the dead when you visit their graves. Having grown up with an old cemetery on our property, which my mother to this day is caretaker of, this seemed very odd to me. I knew about putting flowers or other such memorabilia on graves in memory, but leaving gifts for complete strangers was interesting. So, I decided to research it.

Apparently, this practice stems from a Jewish tradition. Early in history, graves were not nearly as elaborate as the ones we see today. Many times only stones marked the grave-site. Visitors would leave a stone in remembrance and honor of the deceased and help “build” the tomb. Another belief was that the soul of the dead would haunt the grave-site for a considerable length of time, and the stones helped to keep the soul in its place of rest and protect the visitor from any negative emotion from the spirit. So the conclusion I have come to is that the stones represent the number of visitors who have come to honor the dead with a visit. It is a show of love, honor, and respect. And here in this portion of the cemetery, a show of respect for those who have fallen in battle defending our country.

However, apparently the leaving of such gifts has become a problem over the years, as well as the taking of things from grave-sites, so Bonaventure Cemetery kindly asks you to leave the grave as you see it.

After leaving this portion of the cemetery, we headed into some of the historic section. I was immediately struck by how elaborate some of the grave markers were. I determined that some very wealthy people must have been buried here. The first grave we came to was marked by an angel reaching out to put a feather or palm frond onto an elevated cross. (I really must admit that I didn’t necessarily pay attention to who the graves belonged to or know any history about any of those laid to rest here. I was mainly interested in photographing these elaborate monuments to these deceased. After all, I’m pretty sure I don’t know anyone buried here.)

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I was captivated by how beautiful this angel was and how detailed the carvings were, and the inscription written beneath was “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.”

Of course, at the risk of sounding disrespectful, the Whovian in me popped out with the next thought being, “There sure are a lot of weeping angels here. Don’t blink.” Way too much Doctor Who in my diet obviously.

The next grave I came to was that of a little girl named Gracie. Apparently, she died rather young, and her parents hired a local sculptor to sculpt her image from a photograph in memory of their beloved child. This is quite possibly one of the most amazing sculptures in the cemetery. It is as if this lovely child sits still to this day admiring the garden that surrounds her.

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As I began to wander around and photograph these amazing monuments, I was struck by another feeling. It was as if you could feel the presence of old lingering spirits in this section of the cemetery. Perhaps it was a combination of the spooky Spanish moss hanging from all of the ancient trees and the warm summer breeze rustling through the leaves and waving the moss, or perhaps there really were some lingering spirits. After all, when you build such lovely and elaborate homes for the dead, it seems that you are inviting them to stay a little longer on this earth. Not a wise invitation, I am sure, but an invitation nonetheless. Either way, I determined that this would be a very interesting and perhaps a little spooky place to visit in the evening or at night. Maybe on the next trip, I’ll visit a little later in the day.

The next group of grave-sites I visited looked like above-ground stone caskets. Having not really researched what they are, I assume they are indeed above-ground vaults or tombs. Many were adorned with crosses across the top of the “casket”. Being a fan of the old monsters, my first thought upon viewing these was, “There sure are a lot of vampires buried in this cemetery.” I am sure you can see what I mean…

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Perfect way to entomb that old monster, Nosferatu, don’t you think?

And then there were a few beautiful, though a bit spooky, enclosed family sites like these…

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These two tombs caught my attention as I walked by. Not because of any ornate embellishments, but from their stately simplicity…

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And for one last showcase of the spooky quality of this section of the cemetery, I present these photographs…

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I do realize they are angels, but they tended to be a little creepy to me.

The next section that we visited started out as a hunt for an angel. I saw her from the road and jumped out of the car in search of her. As I was on my quest, I felt as though I were walking through a Greek sculpture garden. The memorials here were quite stately and ornate. The first one I came across looked like a doorway, and through this “doorway” you could see the most beautiful landscape. It looked as though you could step through to another world. Perhaps Narnia was on the other side.

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The next memorial I came across was absolutely beautiful, though I didn’t appreciate the full beauty until I was going back through the pictures. From the photographs, you can see that the sculptor was adept at perfectly capturing the details of the hands. The intact hand looks like a living lady’s fingers were transformed into stone. It is quite remarkable in photograph.

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My favorite sculpture in this “garden of the dead” was a beautiful lady positioned atop a raised platform. From afar, she is framed by dangling Spanish moss and vines. Her image is so serene and brings a quality of peace to the area as she rests atop her stones in quiet contemplation.

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The rest of this lovely garden I will simply show you in picture…

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And in the end, I did locate my angel before we headed away to the lovely city of Savannah.

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