I spent part of my day yesterday in cemetaries again. Although I had planned to visit Oakland again, I ended up first in a cemetary across the road: St Peter’s Cemetary, or St. Paul, some apostle or other. While Methodists and all other sorts of religions were content to be buried in Oakland, Catholics were buried together on blessed ground across the road from Oakland.
It’s not a huge cemetary; the oldest graves are nearest to the road. As you wind your way to the back, the dates on the graves become closer and closer to the present, ending with straggling grass over newly disturbed earth and the pathetic array of fake carnations. I stayed up front, parking my car in a little side road with deep ruts.
The main road to the cemetary travels down a rather nice avenue of tall trees, splitting to go both ways at the bottom of a hill. At the middle of the fork of the road is a crypt tucked into the hill, topped with tall cedar trees and a grapevine gone wild. At the very top of the crypt is a plaster statue of Christ on the cross. It would look very imposing and solemn if some misguided soul hadn’t decided to paint the stones and the wood door of the crypt a bright teal color.
Being a photographer, of course I gravitated toward the plaster statue. The weathered, cracked plaster was visually pleasing, and the subject matter was a welcome relief from the overwhelming majority of angels. Being me, I wanted close-ups and details. That meant climbing the hill, dotted with tombstones itself, and fighting through the grapevine to stand under the statue.
As I stood there photographing, trying not to fall off the crypt or into an adjoining snarl of poison ivy, I noticed a car coming down the avenue. An older couple, they slowed the car down and gave me the most evil expressions I have ever been favoured with. If looks could kill I would have been popped into a grave on the spot with a tombstone reading: Here lies an insensitive jerk of a photographer.
I’m not really sure why I warranted such hatred. I try my best to be respectful, unlike others who left signs of their presence in discarded water bottles on top of tombstones, beer cans tucked into tree clefts, or worse, destruction of statues and crypts. Even the maintainance guys are worse than I am – they run huge mowing machines with no thought for decorations, depositing weed mats on top of inscriptions.
I guess my presence was a desecration to them. I smiled and kept photographing, and made sure that when they returned I was out of sight. The funniest thing about the whole affair is that they would probably have loved the photograph I took.