Merry meet all,
I live near the Mount Olivet cemetery with its own claim to fame. It is where the Titanic victims were buried. I often visit there, I stroll near the graves down a path littered with tree roots, dead leaves and rotted apples. Apple trees grow on the other side of the stone wall. Though the trees appear to grow in and out of the cemetery.
A brook runs on the other side of the cemetery. The brook gurgles. I like to think of it as a vessel for spirits to travel to the Underworld.
Trees line the outer edges of the cemetery. A crow nest rests in one of the trees. The cemetery is somewhat kept up in good condition. Crows perch on tombstones, ruffling their ebony feathers. They must sense and guide more spirits than we sense. Crows have long held the reputation of guiding spirits over to the Otherworld.
I once saw something that reeked of death and disgusted me. Our society tucks death away into a corner, glossed over, unseen. We don’t like to look at the ugly bare side of Death. We now have funeral homes, morgues and the like to take care of our loved ones when their time comes. We hand over our Elders to caretakers in special homes. We slather creams on our skin, exercise and live in eternal fear of death. It’s not going to happen to us. It is in someone else’s yard. We don’t look at it or acknowledge it. We can dye our hair and trim fat away. We crave youth. Death is real. It is the other side of life. It is inevitable. It skips alongside life from the second we are born. It skips us in our step eventually. We all have our turn. It is a question of when. Every time I see a cemetery, I am reminded of that unalterable fact.
I saw a few carpenter ants on a rotted apple in the cemetery. It occurred the day before the 1st of October. I assumed the carpenter ants were dead. They didn’t move. I studied the tree trunk. It appeared for a moment to be in the cemetery and on the outside of it by the way the trunk was shaped. Sunlight shone on the apple tree trunk. I returned my attention to the apple. Then …. one of the ants moved. I was disgusted. It was the way the ant moved that revolted me for some reason. I stared at the apple, feeling my insides churn. The ants were attracted to the taste of the apple’s fruit. I walked to another spot but I couldn’t forget it.
I don’t know why I saw that. It was in a way an embodiment of that which we most ignore: death. The decay of the body or of the flesh of the apple. A reminder of mortality. It is fitting it was witnessed within the cemetery. Egg shells abandoned by baby birds have a terrible smell. Nature is visceral, organic, raw and untamed.
Tours of the cemetery are offered to the public. There are signs posted to guide people who visit the cemetery about particular sections of the cemetery. Since I live nearby, I hike through it many times as I go to the metro transit to catch a bus. The graves of the Titanic victims are buried in a small plot. A plaque stands near the graves to inform tourists of the tragic tale of the Titanic.
So far I have only explored one side of the cemetery. I have yet to visit and acquaint myself with the other parts. I love sauntering through the cemetery, hearing twigs crunch underfoot and mashing leaves with my shoes. I like the wind in my hair. I like to think of a cemetery as its own microcosm, its own world, other, a city of the dead full of its own web of life. It holds that within.
Do I fear death? Sure I do. But I just have my own weird perspective. I have a fear of drowning too. Every autumn, where I live, there is a lovely birch tree trunk where I see insects crawl up and down it, birds visit it, and cats climb its trunk. But in one corner of the window where I can see the tree, spiders build webs to catch insects. I’ve seen spiders catch struggling moths in its snare. I usually get grossed out then. I think death and nature are intertwined. Spiders don’t eat their prey: spiders drain the blood of their prey. The spiders check for prey when they sense a tremor in their amazing webs. Nature is beautiful and also about death. In the winter, the foliage dies back, the gardens fall under the scythe, the earth rests till spring. It happens without question, inevitable.
I also aid in the cleanliness of the cemetery. I clean up the garbage and debris people leave on the ground. The dead deserve a clean environment for their eternal cold rest. It is disrespectful to scatter garbage everywhere. If people can do that, then it is fair to assume they don’t have respect for the dead.
Get to know the history of your town. A great way to do that is to explore a cemetery or two on your own. It can teach you a lesson about death. Hopefully the lesson will be necessary yet not unpleasant.
Blessings, Lady Spiderwitch )O(