Laying down the stones.

Stairs upcr                                                     “Up Stairs” © TCWPHOTOGRAPHY all rights reserved. 

I’d driven past these pillars and gate dozens of times.  They lie in a busy intersection in the middle of a town nearby.  The traffic light on the corner forcing those caught at a red to glance over, and maybe, if they are of the sort, to wonder who must be buried there, what the stones look like, when the ground was hallowed for such use.  You would think I was of that sort, but evidently I only became that sort after seeing the same pillars and gates for years.  I cannot tell you why the thought of stopping never dawned on me.  I’d been to the very large cemetery in that town, wandered it’s roads and by ways for hours, but this one, no, I’d never stopped.

And then I did.  It was sort of an after thought.  I had been somewhere else, and thought “I’ve some time left, why not see what’s there.”  I parked on the side street and went up the back way as it seemed this gate was locked.  As I got to the top of the hill I was…well..confused.  There was a flag pole.  There was a large granite monument with names inscribed on a brass plaque.  A few other standing large stones, maybe three.  But that was it!  This is a cemetery?  It looked like a wide open park at the top of a hill.  And then I began walking.  Buried in the ground, all laying down, were the stones of ages ago.  Some in pieces, some almost grown over with grass and moss and bush.  It was early spring and a few could barely be seen under the debris of a long winter gone by.

But they were there. As I walked I came upon row after row.  Reading the front monument I found that around 1976 a committee decided to “restore” the old cemetery, I suppose they were the ones who laid all the stones down.  It made me shiver.  I see personas in stones, I see hope and love and pride.  Yes, the body lies down, but the stone rises above, etched for as long as the elements will allow, proudly declaring a name, dates, and maybe a final cherished sentiment. These stones spoke to me of the sadness of loss, the victory of death.  1. Corinthians 15:55: “Oh death where is thy victory, oh grave, where is thy sting?”  I say here, here it is! These precious stones, the last gift from loved ones, the monument built and engraved to remember your name for all the ages to come – lying down in the dirt with you.  Did the folks who made the decision to do this consider the destruction this would cause?  Puddles of rain, acid dirt, roots, snow – all laying on the face now – pushing the heavy stone further into the ground.   I chose to record some epitaphs from this location before they were gone forever;

Azarahcr                                                      “Azariah” © TCWPHOTOGRAPHY all rights reserved 

My friends that live to mourn and weep,

to see the grave wherein I sleep.

Prepare for death for you must die,

and be entom’d as well as I.

Beneath this earthCR

“Beneath This Earth” © TCWPHOTOGRAPHY all rights reserved

Dear Lovely babe repose in peace

Now all thy worldly sorrow cease

Soon is thy mortal journey run

Ere’ scarse arisen sets thy sun.

baby johnCR

“Baby John” ©TCWPHOTOGRAPHY all rights reserved 

Too many of the stones were covered over more than my little pocket knife could cut away, acorns littered the ground everywhere, and filled the gaps between stone and grass in huge gatherings, their decomposition aiding in the demise of the words so long ago chiseled there.

I hope to return soon.  I may place a few flowers.  I may brush away the dirt and debris again. I may photograph more – but in time these will turn to nought but shards of broken memories in the dust.

spring loafCR

Griefly greetings –

Terry

Come in, visit awhile.

wreath 2CR  It was the most inviting gate I’d ever seen.

A winding staircase of stone headed upward on a lonely hillside.  I parked my car with some apprehension.  After all, I’d just driven an hour or more on back roads, going around and around in circles trying to find the place, only to find I had to drive a stretch of gravel that wound itself through a golf course!  I hadn’t driven my old truck that day, I should have.  My 9 year old Chrysler had a low profile, I could hear the stones kicking up and thunking my under carriage.  I almost drove past it.  The golf course road, wide open and every now and again with gaping golfers in their carts staring after me, closed suddenly with dense foliage.  The road went from well ground gravel to dirt.  Uh-oh! A glance to my left showed an opening, small, but there, and then the steps.  Like the General Lee spinning a cloud when in hot pursuit, I coughed up a cloud of my own braking quickly.  There were no sidewalks, no curbs, just trees.  I pulled off as far as I dared, and got out.  Standing there I almost couldn’t believe the serenity of the place.  Hidden, yet up there, on that little rise, proudly enrobed with an old cast iron fence.  I gathered my camera, deciding not to use any tripod or flash equipment, I just wanted this to be an organic experience as much as possible.

As I stepped through the gate, I tilted my head and heard the faint whispers of laughter and song – happiness at being remembered, joy in the visit.

white crosses bwCR

“Un-named White Crosses”  The Lamington Black Cemetery, Lamington, NJ  ©TCWPHOTOGRAPHY  all rights reserved.

A NJ Historical location, the large bronze plaque on the boulder told the short story of the forgotten place.  The gate creaked in due fashion as I swung it inward and stepped gently onto the hallowed ground.  The white crosses took my breath away.  No names.  The front fence the only man made barrier, the land wandered off into the woods as far as I could see.  Bound on either side by heavy woods, a small bench welcomed any company it might find.  An afternoon visit wound itself into hours spent in quiet reflection.  The tinkling sounds of a stream, the up high chirp of a feathered friend, the only breaks in the silence.  When I finally stood, I walked to each, lightly touching the crosses and stone alike – giving a greeting to each, a promise of remembrance, speaking a name carved in rock to echo the memory through the ages.   My camera shutter as soft as my steps.

As I glanced back one more time, reaching out to pull the gate closed, I knew these are the moments my photography would touch my very soul.  I hope in time you visit with me here, in the coming of days, in the viewing of my photos, you are touched in some way as well.

Griefly greetings –

Terry