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Darwin, the Graveyard, and Me

Darwin and I will happily spend hours in a graveyard.  Drop us in the middle of a cemetary, and we're thrilled.  We play detective, trying to figure out how this person is related to that, doing the math for age at death, looking for famous people, trying to read crumbling gravestones, wondering what each person was like in life.  Every one of them has a story.

A decent-sized graveyard lies not far from our house, and we'd been meaning to get over there and have a look.  The graveyard dates back to the founding of the village (early 1800s), so we wanted to see what we could find.  Finally last Sunday, a gorgeous May day, I said to Darwin that we should explore the cemetery, and he enthusiastically agreed.

The graveyard is actually two graveyards split in half by a major road.  We parked on one side and poked around Side A for a bit.  We found what turned out to be the baby section, where all the graves were for little ones.  That's always the saddest part of a graveyard.  One of the baby graves from the 70s had a huge lilac tree growing on it.  Someone had picked several lilacs and laid them on another baby's grave.

We found another grave that we found poignant.  It was a resin "stone" with hardware store mailbox peel-and-stick letters stuck on it to unevenly spell out the deceased's name and birth and death dates.  The funeral (from the 70s) had probably broken the family financially and they couldn't afford a gravestone, so they made do.

"Can you imagine," I said, "going to the hardware and picking out the letters, one by one, and then sitting at your kitchen table, sticking them on the marker you bought at KMart so your dad or husband could at least have a marker?"

Across the street was the older part of the graveyard.  Here we found the little stone house that, in the days before backhoes, had probably been used to store bodies of people who had died in winter and couldn't be buried until spring thaw.  I wondered aloud if, say, your wife died in January and you had to wait until April to bury her, if you might open the coffin for one more look, especially in an era where pictures were rare or non-existant.

We also found the grave of one of the men who had built the Roller Mill (see Monday's entry), which was interesting, but we weren't able to find the graves of his two partners.

Behind the graveyard, we found another trail leading into the woods.  We had time, so we explored it.  The trail lead into the local nature preserve, so this turned into a long hike.

It was a perfect day for it.  The smells of flowers hung in the air, birds warbled, chipmunks chittered and skittered through the undergrowth.  The river flowed by, carrying ducks.  We strolled down the trails, hand in hand, marvelling at how beautiful everything was and how great it was that we could hold hands in public whenever we wanted, though we didn't encounter a single other person.

Eventually we meandered back to the car.  We'd only explored about a third of the graveyard, but that's okay.  We have to save some for next time!


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