Friday, October 20, 2006

Remember: W. Brown

The Remembrance Series: When I walk among old graves, I think about our voices straining against the grind of years.

Someday not even stone will protect us from being forgotten. Not even our final words will be left to call out to the people flashing by. Yet, we can give these voices a little more life in a way they never could have imagined.

So please take a moment with me to remember...

1844 AGED 75

(This folk art stone is carved from local field stone. Note the guidelines, decorated A's, and inverted 4's in 1844. Surviving stones of this type are uncommon and always draw me when I find them.)

(Hibernia Methodist Church Est. 1841, Chester County, Pennsylvania)


Bernita said...

Wind and water erase memory.We become as sand.
Thank you, Jason.

normiekins said...

the world is a better place because of your rich and deep thoughts.....

Bhaswati said...

I think it's only the human ego that wishes to be remembered for as long as it possibly can be. Does the pine tree want to be remembered? Or the sparrow? I don't see myself as any different from them other than my ability to think and feel more strongly.

But remember we do, and remembrance in itself isn't a bad thing. :)

jlb said...

I can see how this one attracts you - the inscription shows the human-to-human connection more than the clean lines of a machined inscription ever could.

Stephen Blackmoore said...

There's a cemetery in Oakland, at the end of Piedmont, that's been around since the 1800's. Lot of high profile San Franciscans there. Less cemetery than necropolis, the place is overflowing with massive mausoleums along winding streets, crypts built into hillsides, Victorian angels musing over stone books.

There are two areas of it that have always fascinated me.

The first is a mausoleum outside the cemetery proper where countless people's ashes have been interred over the last hundred fifty years in urns shaped like books. Stacked like a library behind glass you can read the names, the dates. Whole families are there. Generation after generation shelved in a maze of corridors and hidden rooms.

Each person has a volume. Remembered by, if not a stone marker, a volume of brass and steel. Pages made of dust.

The other is the unendowed area, a large swath of land that has been allowed to fall into disrepair because no one is paying for it. Lichen covered stones with words worn bare by California fog, stumps of granite with a barely decipherable name. Century old graves forgotten by all but the curiosity seekers.

It's a stark contrast to the rest of the cemetery. Memory and forgetfulness mere yards apart. A proud sign for the Ghiradelli's, a nubbin of rock for some nameless woman. I often wonder who these people are. The forgotten ones, lying in damp earth, soaked in the arsenic preserve of the day. And if anyone will ever find out.

Anonymous said...

Bernita, your words are poetry. You're very welcome.

Normiekins, okay, now I'm blushing. Thank you!

Bhaswati, yes, I do think it's in our nature to want to leave a mark on the world. We want our existence to have mattered.

JLB, what a great point. Yes, I do imagine someone finding this stone and shaping for a friend.

Stephen, you've written such a beautiful tribute. I was particularly struck by the two worlds in close proximity--the forgotten and the ostentatious. Thank you for sharing!

anna said...

Jason, I am always enchanted by your memory photos. They have me haunting the old burial grounds here on the island. Pioneers cleared this land with only a horse. Did these people dance and laugh or were they so busy hauling water and scrambling to feed themselves they had no time to play? I picture the women, alone, away from their mothers, in this strange land full of old trees and gods that only the Indians knew.
Love the photo. Love your words.

Susan Abraham said...

I remember more the stories & the lives lived but thank you for this new and haunting thought, Jason.

Atyllah said...

What a poignant and evocative post, Jason. What a lovely way to stir a memory, to riffle through the ghosts of times past and wonder.

Anonymous said...

Cemeteries can be facinating places. I was amazed when I walked through Père Lachaise in Paris. A small town. Interesting note about cemeteries in Germany. You don't buy a plot, you rent it. In my wife's home town, you rent it for 25 years then another 25 years, etc. When there is no one left to pay, the remains are disposed of. I guess lack of land has something to do with it. Love your post.

beadinggalinMS said...

I am getting caught up on your blog.
The old gravestones are fascinating. I wonder what they used to carve into the rock? The get the letters so pretty.

I am longing for some fall colors. If I get to got to Missouri next month I am keeping my fingers crossed for some red, yellow, and orange leaves.

k l gilbert said...

I am remembering W. Brown this morning. I wonder what he did in his life, who he loved, who loved him, what he looked like. Was he benevolent, humble, warmhearted, shy? Was he valiant, rich, poor, religious? I am wondering how did he leave this world? Here's to you sir, whoever you were in this world.

Thanks for the moment, Jason. I hope someone a hundred years hence will take time to wonder about us and remember that we were here - that we were once citizens of the planet.

Jay said...

Any qualms about the cemetary now that halloween is fast approaching?

Anonymous said...

Anna, you have me intrigued! I would love to see some pictures of a cemetery there.

Susan, I wish we had more stories of lives. We should all dabble in autobiography for our descendants' sakes.

Atyllah, I haven't been doing many cemetery posts lately, and I kind of miss them. Hopefully, more will be on the way. :)

Steve, I've heard of other places where graves are not permanent. I suppose that rented graves, more than anything else, shows that when no one is left to remember you, you are truly gone.

Beady, I hope fall color reaches you soon! Hope you're doing well. :)

KLG, thanks so much. :) I too hope that someone many years from now spares a thought for us.

Jay, I rarely find cemeteries frightening, even at night. If there's any time my nerves are on edge, and I am especially hushed, I suppose it would be on a steamy, summer night when air is thick. For some reason, everything feels close and present on a night like that.