Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Jewish origins of Corpse Bride

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride takes place in 19th century England.  As with most of Burton's movies, the land of the living is dull and dreary.  It's in the land of the dead that the festivities, color, singing and dancing shines!  After a little research I found out that The Corpse Bride is based on a Russian/Jewish tale called, "The Finger."  The following is taken from The Feline Speaks where credit is due...

"Once upon a time there was a young man who lived in a village in Russia. He was to be married and he and his friend prepared to go to the village where his bride-to-be lived, two days walk from his own village.

The first night the two friends decided to set up camp by a river. The young man who was going to be married spotted an unusual looking stick in the ground that looked like a bony finger. He and his friend started joking about this bony finger sticking out of the ground and the young man who was going to be married took the golden wedding ring from his pocket and put it on the strange-looking stick. And then he started to do the wedding dance around the stick; he danced around the stick with the golden wedding ring three times and he sang the Jewish wedding song, and recited the entire marriage sacrament as he danced around the stick, he and his friend laughing the whole time.

Their fun stopped suddenly when the earth started rumbling and shaking beneath their feet. The place where the stick had been opened up and a very bedraggled looking corpse emerged, a living corpse, she had been a bride, but now was barely more than a skeleton held together by shreds of skin, still wearing an old torn white silk wedding dress. Worms and spider webs hung on the once-beaded bodice and tattered veil.

The two young men were aghast.

"Ah," she said, "you have done the wedding dance and pronounced the marriage vows and you have put a ring on my finger. Now we are man and wife. I demand my rights as your bride."

Shuddering with terror at the corpse bride's words, the two young men fled to the village where the young bride was waiting to be married. They went straight to the rabbi.

"Rabbi," asked the young man breathlessly, "I have a very important question to ask you. If by some chance you're walking in the woods and you happen to see a stick that looks like a long bony finger coming out of the ground and you happen to put a golden wedding ring on the finger and do the wedding dance and pronounce the wedding vows, is this indeed a real marriage?"

Looking very puzzled, the rabbi asked, "Do you know of such a situation?"

"Oh no, no, of course not, it's just a hypothetical question."

Stroking his long beard thoughfully, the rabbi said, "let me think about it."

And just then, a big gust of wind blew the door open, and in walked the corpse bride. "I lay claim to this man as my husband, for he has placed this wedding ring on my finger and pronounced the solemn marriage vows," she demanded, her bony finger rattling as she shook it at her intended brigegroom.

"This is indeed a very serious matter. I'll have to consult with the other rabbis," said the rabbi.

Soon all the rabbis from the surrounding villages were gathered together. They went into conference, while the two young men anxiously awaited their decision.

The corpse bride waited on the porch tapping her foot, declaring, "I want to celebrate my wedding night with my husband." These chilling words made every hair on the young man's body stand on end, though it was a warm summer day.

While the rabbis were conferring, the real human bride arrived and wanted to know what all the fuss was about. When her fiance explained just what had happened, she started weeping, "Oh, my life is ruined, all my hopes and dreams are shattered; I'll never be married, never have a family."

Just then the rabbis came out and asked: "Did you indeed put a gold ring on the finger, and did you dance around it three times and did you indeed pronounce the wedding vows in their entirety?" The two young men who by this time were cowering in a far corner nodded their heads. Looking very serious the rabbis went back to confer again.

And the young bride wept bitter tears, while the corpse bride was by now gloating at the prospect of her long awaited wedding night.

After a short while the rabbis solemnly marched out, took their seats, and announced, "Since you put the wedding ring on the finger of the corpse bride and you danced around it three times reciting the wedding vows, we have determined that this constitutes a proper wedding ceremony. Even so, we have decided that the dead have no claim upon the living."

Sighing and murmuring could be heard from all corners, the young bride was especially relieved.

The corpse bride, however, howled, "Oh, there goes my last chance for a life; I'll never have my dreams fulfilled now, it's forever lost," and she collapsed on the floor. It was a pathetic sight, a heap of bones in a tattered wedding gown, lying there, lifeless.

Overcome with compassion for the corpse bride, the young bride knelt down and gathered up that old heap of bones, carefully arranging the shredded silk finery and holding her close, half sang, half murmured, as if cradling a crying infant, "don’t worry I'll live your dreams for you, I'll live your hopes for you, I'll have your children for you, I'll have enough children for the two of us and you can rest in peace knowing that our children and our children's children will be well cared for and will not forget us."

Tenderly she closed the eyes of the corpse bride, tenderly she held her in her arms and slowly and with measured steps she marched down to the river with her fragile charge, took her down by the river where she dug a shallow grave for her and laid her in it and crossed the bony arms over the bony chest, the one hand clasping the one with the ring on it, and folded the wedding gown around her.

Then she whispered, "May you rest in peace, I will live your dreams for you, don't worry, we will not forget you."

The corpse bride looked happy and at peace in her new grave, as if she somehow knew that she would be fulfilled through this young bride And the young bride covered up, slowly, the corpse bride, covered up the tattered wedding gown in the shallow grave, covered it all up with earth, then put wildflowers all over the grave and stones all around it.

Then the young bride went back to her fiancé and they were married in a very solemn wedding ceremony and they lived many happy years together. And all their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren were always told the story of the corpse bride, and so she was not forgotten, nor was the wisdom and compassion she had taught them forgotten either.

Corpse Bride History

Like I said before, the Corpse Bride is actually a Russian-Jewish folktale. It comes from the anti-Jewish Russian pogroms (1880's-1900's) in which Russians following the czar murdered thousands of Jews. Their homes were burnt, possessions stolen, women raped and people murdered in hundreds of Russian towns. Local police and sometimes even the military were involved.

Just as a note, Jews aren't ever depicted as defending themselves until after Israel's formed. This isn't true. Local groups have gathered to defend themselves through history.

[One such group was the] Russian Jewish defense group in Pinsk, early 1900's

The first pogrom started in 1881 when Czar Alexander II was assassinated. Rumor said the Jews were responsible, and they suffered for it. Czar Alexander III blamed the Jews for the riots and set up restrictions for them. They couldn't live in small towns, work in certain professions, or become educated. Only a small percentage (like 3-10%) was allowed to work as a doctor or go to school. Synagogues were closed and Moscow was even "cleansed" of its Jewish population. And of course, the right to vote was taken from them.

Alexander III explained his reason for these actions, "We must never forget that the Jews have crucified our Master and have shed his precious blood." Later it was admitted the government expected one third of the Jews to emigrate, one third to get baptized, and one third to die.

During this time it said Russians attacked wedding carriages or parties and murder the bride so she could not bear Jewish children. There are two stories on why she was buried in her gown. The first says the Russians then buried the bride in her wedding dress in a shallow grave. The second claims of a Jewish tradition I've never heard: burying the body in the clothes in which they died.

A person or family's line ends without offspring, and the living bride insists that the corpse bride be remembered and continued. It's the woman who empowers those lost in the pogroms and carries the Jewish line despite tragedy.

Anyway, that's the whole point of the folktale, to remember the brides lost in pogroms."

Taken from:

Another great information site:

Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Jack-O-Lantern

It's not often I win anything. In fact, I've only won a college paper writing contest three years ago.  I think this win might even be more exciting.  I entered a contest for pumpkin carving at a tattoo studio run by the man that did most of my work.  I won a $25 gift certificate with the pumpkin showed above.

Jack-O-Lanterns have a neat history.  In Ireland and England people often carved lanterns from vegetables.  Turnips were the predecessors of the pumpkin.  They weren't officially called "Jack-o-lanterns" until the early 19th century and "officially" linked to Halloween in the mid 19th century.  The 19th century being the time when most of the Halloween customs we practice were originated.  Pumpkins and lanterns were always considered a part of the Autumn tradition since pre-Christian days due to the seasonal time in which they were harvested.  American author John Greenleaf Whittier wrote the following poem:

The Pumpkin (1850)
Oh!--fruit loved of boyhood! --the old days recalling,
When wood-grapes were purpling and brown nuts were falling!
When wild, ugly faces were carved in its skin,
Glaring out through the dark with a candle within!

The original folklore story of the Jack-O-Lantern is Irish in origin.  Stingy Jack was a lazy, miserable drunk man who spent his days about town playing tricks on everyone...including the devil.  One day Jack tricked the devil into climbing an apple tree.  While in the tree Jack quickly placed a cross at the trunk and prevented him from climbing down.  Jack let the devil down once he promised Jack he would not ever take his soul.  Many years later when Jack died he went to the Pearly Gates.  St. Peter told him he had been far too bad to let into Heaven.  Jack went down into Hell but the devil kept his promise and refused to let him in because he couldn't take his soul.  Jack was terrified.  When told to leave Hell Jack noticed how dark it was. He asked the devil if there was any way to get a light to light his way back to earth.  The devil kicked him an ember from one of the fires. The ember was said to never go out.  Jack hollowed out a turnip, placed the ember inside.  He still wanders the earth today with no resting place using his lantern to light the way. From then on he was known as Jack of the Lantern.

It is said that when the Irish came to America they discovered that pumpkins were far easier to carve than potatoes or turnips and hence the Jack-O-Lantern of modern day was born.

Just take a golden pumpkin
 Of quite the largest size,
Cut all 'round the stem, just so,
 Scrape out the inside below,
And cut two holes for eyes.
 And now fix a nose beneath,
 And such a great big mouth with teeth,
 And you've a jack-o'-lantern!

Then fix a tallow candle,
Just big enough to light,
 And when it flickers, see him blink,
 And when it flares up, see him wink
 And smile so broad and bright.
 This is the jolliest sort of a fellow,
With cheery face so round and yellow,
 This funny jack-o'-lantern.


Thursday, October 28, 2010

Review: The Graveyard Poet by Steve Santini

I spent the last night reading The Graveyard Poet.  The Graveyard Poet is an anthology of the poems of Steve Santini.  Reading the introduction did not impress me. It was not a good way to start.  In the forward Mr. Santini praises himself constantly and his own "biography" seems to be what people expect a dark and disturbed person to say.  "As a boy I was always drawn to horror films and creepy works of art and literature" (Introduction page one). As I came to read later, Mr. Santini praises himself and a poetic talent that is decidedly missing.

The author seemed to try far too hard to sound tragic and morbid. He reaches into a hat and pulls out random subjects he believes with haunt and shock the reader.  It doesn't haunt and shock me.  Most serious poetry readers are haunted and shocked when a writer digs deep down within him/herself and pulls up frightening ideas and thoughts that have no business being inside a  warm human being or speak honestly about how darker emotions affect them. Word-craft is the key. Poems have to pack and emotional punch in a very finite space. Mr. Santini seems to want to fool the reader into thinking he is tragic and disturbed.  While I enjoy end line rhymed poetry and closed form poems, the poems in this anthology are very poorly written.  They, unfortunately are written with a poetic style I expect from my seven year old.

Mr. Santini seems as though he is caught between styles.  It appears that he wants to be an open verse poet yet cannot let go of the idea of structured, closed form which is really restricting him.  He mainly relies on ABAB or AABB rhyme scheme.  I suspect if the poems themselves were better written, holding on to this pattern would make sense; he could make it work. Personally I think he would have a better go at it if he abandoned the hard structure he is currently using.  There are only so many rhymes for "love."  After you use them all, it's hard to continue being original when word-craft isn't your strongest forte. "I am now 30 and my name is Bob/And in my youth I held many a job" (The Sound, lines 1-2) is a line I'd expect to be heard in a Courage the Cowardly Dog episode.  Reminds me far too much of the "Fred" episode (the whacked out barber who is 'naughty').

The author uses cliches far too often which is really a sign of poor creative writing skills.  The poem Spoke the Spiders begins with, "'Step into my parlor,' said the spider to the fly" (line 1).  Line one was not even written by him.  The Spider and the Fly was written Mary Howitt in 1829.  While worded just a tad bit different, this poem begins with plagiarized material.  At least Lewis Carroll had the decency to reword Ms. Howitt's poem as a parody (The Lobster Quadrille). It's obvious that the poet is unable to create his own imagery; falling back on worn out expressions that evoke no imagination.  I'm certain that the evocation of imagery and emotion is high on the "what poetry is supposed to do" list.

On a positive note, the photography in the book is very nice and some of the poems were a little whimsical in a way.  Mr. Santini is a man of varied talents. He is a master escape artist and collects Medieval torture devises. According to my own research he is the real deal.  I have a great respect for escape artists.  What they do is dangerous.  To master even one escape must be thrilling.  I'm sure he puts on quite a show.  Mr. Santini has written books on both subjects.  I have not read any of his other books though am truly interested in those he wrote on escapism.  He is, however, still a poor poet.  There is very little more to say.  I don't recommend this book to anyone. One star out of five...and that's being kind.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A book of interest

I enjoy reading poetry, as you might have guessed.  There are few books that are collections of darker poetry.  You find things such as Mountain Graveyard in anthologies of all sorts of poems or in anthologies of an author's works.  I haven't been able to find a cemetery/death anthology. There was a group of people that were called "The Graveyard Poets."  According to Wiki: The "Graveyard Poets" were a number of pre-Romantic English poets of the 18th century characterized by their gloomy meditations on mortality, 'skulls and coffins, epitaphs and worms."  They included Thomas Parnell, Thomas Warton, Thomas Percy, Thomas Gray, Oliver Goldsmith, William Cowper, Christopher Smart, James MacPherson, Robert Blair, William Collins, Thomas Chatterton, Mark Akenside, Joseph Warton, Henry Kirke White and Edward Young and James Thomson.  Poe is not included on the list, strangely enough, even though he fits the criteria.  I'm going to consider him.  Sadly, no one has anthologized them.  Maybe that'll be a nice Master's project.

I did however, find a book called The Graveyard Poet: Dark Adult Poems of Horror, Madness and Death by Steve Santini.  It looked interesting and I decided to give it a go.  At a glance some of the poems seem a bit sing/songy but that doesn't mean they aren't good. 

I'm considering collecting my own darker poetry and making a small book. 

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fall Frolic

This weekend was my first showing at Fall Frolic Autumn Festival in Milford, PA.  I sold a few pieces but even more fun than that, several shop owners want to put my photography up for consignment.  A friend also told me to that I should ask places like the Hava Java to put them up.  They like to showcase local art.  Best of all, just about everyone who looked at the portfolio said I had an incredible eye.  That made me feel good.  Like perhaps they see what I saw and saw that it was worthy of capturing.

One gentleman said he had never seen children used in this form of photography and thought the way my kids were depicted were stunning (another YAY!).  He said few people like to equate the beauty of young life with the ugliness of death however my photographs show the beauty of both together.  Much coolness.

While I might not have "sold out" of invetory, I think I made a good first impression and was able to start making some contacts.  I feel good.  Now I just have to drive back up Raymonskill Road and hit those hill side Revolutionary graveyards.

Mountain Graveyard by Robert Morgan

Mountain Graveyard by Robert Morgan
Spore Prose

stone      notes
slate       tales
sacred    cedars
heart     earth
asleep    please
hated     death

I am very fond of this poem.  Others that we read evoked responses but this one connected more so than the others.  I find cemeteries to be very quiet but very hard places.  There is really no conversation or stories other than what the markers say and often that is very little.  It could be just a name, a title such as "mother" or short epitaphs.  In my experience, the funny limerick-like epitaphs or poetic epitaphs are very rare.  I have seen very few myself.  Since the markers themselves say very little and are compacted into just a few words (or one for that matter) I thought this poem and its style very appropriate for the subject matter.  It is compact and though says very little using words; it echoes the Spartan feeling of graveyards.  I also like the title.  "Mountain Graveyard" evokes the image of upright gravemarkers jutting out of a small mountain or hill.  Perhaps only one family buried there.  Graveyards often have older tombstones that are decrepit.  It is probably sneaked under trees; perhaps not in rows to accommodate the "cedars" the poem mentions.  I think if the title was "cemetery" or "memorial garden" the reader would imagine something a bit more orderly.  A resting place with statuary, neat rows of tombstones, a caretaker weedwacking and mowing the grass.  A "Mountain Graveyard" sounds wild and unkempt and a place to put, perhaps all the loved ones in a family.  If they are all of one family, they might indeed hate death.  Death is horrible to all, but to go to a graveyard and see ALL of your relatives in one place might be difficult.

Image is from the Worthington Collection; Thomas Chew Worthington III, Maryland

Cemetery Ethics? Ethics of the dead?

There is an old saying that the minute you give up looking for something desperately it will show up.  Well, they did.  I have been frantic lately trying to find the first cemetery photos I ever took.  It was maybe 14 years ago and my ex-husband and I were in New Orleans.  We took the St. Louis #1 tour and found Lafayette Cemetery on our own. We had visited over All Saint's Weekend so the work, cleaning, decorating and visiting was going on strong.  There were also a great deal of fresh graves in Lafayette. (Yeah, that's me 15 years ago at Marie Laveau's tomb). 

So that leaves me with an ethical question of my own and my justification. One our first trip to New Orleans we, as I said, took the St. Louis #1 cemetery tour (and I always put #1 in the title because there are 3 St. Louis Cemeteries in New Orleans).  These are the "Cities of the Dead;" Necropoleis. When visiting the first tomb ever in St. Louis #1 the corner had broken open.  I don't remember if it was natural or vandalism but I took a peak and saw the bones.  The tombs in New Orleans are above ground because New Orleans is below sea level.  Things have a habit of washing up after hurricanes and rain storms and as our tour guide said, it was possible to see "Uncle Fred floating down the street."  The tombs are also above ground because they act as ossuaries.  A family tomb that has three "shelves" can have dozens of corpses.  City ordinance states that a body must be entombed for two years before a new family member can be deposited.  If the decomposition isn't complete and the body can't be pushed back or dropped down onto the ground of the vault then the body is temporarily houses elsewhere until the two years is up. Decomposition is faster in hot and humid New Orleans.

So what would anyone do when they saw a tomb that was cracked open?  Hell, they'd drop their camera in on the QT and snap a picture.  Yes.  That's what I did.  Do I feel bad about it?  Then, not at all.  Now?  Maybe a little.  I don't think it was very respectful.  The tombs themselves are there for the viewing of friends, loved ones, and strangers. The bones themselves are for no one's viewing other than relatives, anthropologists, those in the funerary/cemetery business and the law.  Am I going to post the picture? Yes, I will.  But I will not sell it.  I don't suspect I'd ever do that again but then again I could be tempted...just as I sneaked a peak down into a hole in the dirt under a large flat slab style tomb (it was just a rabbit hole). Hey, I get tempted.  After all, I'm only a lowly "breather." 

“There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.” Thornton Wilder

The Bone Church

For those who don't know, an ossuary is a place to store human remains.  In areas where there is little room for continual burial, bodies are buried temporarily in the ground and dug up years later after they've decomposed to the bone.  The bones, which can fit more compactly, are placed, stacked, organized in ossuaries.  Ossuaries can be buildings, boxes, wells, or chests...of any size.

One of the most famous ossuaries is the Sedlec Ossuary, better known as "The Bone Church."  Sedlec is located beneath the Roman Catholic Church of All Saints in the Czech Republic.  In 1278 Henry the Abbot of the Cistercian Monastery was sent to the Holy Land by King Otakar II if Bohemia.  Henry returned with a container of dirt from Golgotha and sprinkled it all over the cemetery.  Word spread that it was really holy ground and everyone wanted to be buried there.  In 1511 the below ground population was out of control and according to legend, the task of removing and arranging the bones fell to a half blind monk.  In 1870, after numerous rebuilds throughout the ages, Frantisek Rint was hired to put the bones in order.  The Bone Church is the result.

So, aside from it being interesting and perhaps to some...morbid, I think The Bone Church is probably one of the greatest statements about the fear of death.  There are between 40,000 and 70,000 bodies in Sedlec.  While an incredible number, it is the disinterment and decorative use of the bones that speaks volumes.  We try to hide death. We codify it.  We dismiss it.  We whisper it.  Our society no longer considers the words "died" or "dead" polite.  Someone "passed on" or "coded" or "slipped away." You can use any euphemism you can but dead is dead.  We paint our corpses and put them in beds so they look like they're sleeping.  We even put their glasses on even though their eyes are sewed shut.   It's clean.

Sedlec Ossuary puts it right out there in front of you.  You can't escape it.  The bones look at you and you look at the bones.  What do you think they think about you?

Society thinks those who honor or are infatuated with the idea of death are "freaks."  They are "goths."  They are "morbid" and "sick."  We find death rituals from around the world distasteful because most of them either deal directly with the body having no professional mediator, or celebrate those who have died and remember them in what Americans might call "morbid" ways (such as leaving a dish of food on the grave for the dead to eat).  People need to remember that it was not more than only 60 or 70 years ago that we lay the dead out on our kitchen tables and the family would wash down and prepare the body.  Sometimes even taking photos (and I'll talk about Post-Mortem photography later).

Sedlec embraces the fear.  It embraces the morbidity. It makes you look at it directly. It makes you realized that we are all the same on the inside.  We are all going to end up the same way.  As a Catholic Church, I cannot believe that Sedlec leaves the follower unaffected.  It speaks of the Christian God and most likely steels the faith of His believers.  To those not of a Abrahamic Faith it probably affects others in a much different way.  Perhaps revealing personal spiritual questions of the self.  Is there a soul?  Where do we go after death?  I have my theories and beliefs but they are my own.  The only thing we really know is what the body reverts to when it stops living.  Everything else is up to interpretation, belief, faith, debate and reason.  The skeleton is fact.

For more information, please visit the official Sedlec Ossuary.

A child's foot

While putting together my portfolio for The Fall Frolic I noticed that there are quite a lot of children's bare feet.  All of the child angels and the likenesses of children are bare footed.  When I was taking photographs of Madeline I had considered putting her in frilly socks but decided against it.  It wasn't so much to "match" the angels or to create some sort of visual associations.  It has to do with perfection. Children are not corrupted by societal norms.  Why should they wear shoes?  It is not the way they were created and they are all born perfect.  What is perfection and why is it most often used to describe children?  Perhaps it's the Tabula rasa. The idea that all newborns are blank slates therefore in some way smooth and flawless.  If children die without any physical/mental/spiritual exposure they remain perfect.  They remain as nature intended them to be.  They remain shoeless.

I remembered a poem by Pablo Neruda.  It is my favorite.  It's rather long so I'll only post the first and last stanza.  Here's a link to the whole poem: To the Foot From It's Child.

To the Foot From Its Child
By Pablo Neruda, translated by Jodey Bateman
(First Stanza)
A child's foot doesn't know it's a foot yet
And it wants to be a butterfly or an apple
But then the rocks and pieces of glass,
the streets, the stairways
and the roads of hard earth
keep teaching the foot that it can't fly,
that it can't be a round fruit on a branch.
Then the child's foot
was defeated, it fell
in battle,
it was a prisoner,
condemned to live in a shoe.

(Last Stanza)
And then it went down
into the earth and didn't know anything
because there everything was dark,
it didn't know it was no longer a foot
or if they buried it so it could fly
or so it could
be an apple.

Fairview Cemetery: Two Trips

Saturday Justin and I went to Fairview Cemetery.  He was very patient and didn't laugh at me when I had to squat in weird positions to get good shots.  It's a beautiful cemetery.  For those who know the area, this is where General Harry C. Trexler and his wife are buried. 

There are a great deal of angels there but a lot are damaged.  One of the largest is missing both an arm and her head.  One small angel is missing a wing.  A bench was knocked over as well.  I hate graveyard vandalism horribly but then am also torn because these damaged statues provide interesting images.  I just tell myself it is time damage even though I know it is not.

The ground is sinking in quite a few places and at least two slab style graves are starting to cave a bit.  This makes it incredibly important NOT to walk in front of a tombstone where a body is buried.  Most of the old caskets were wood.  As the wood rots it collapses inward.  If you're standing on that area...down you go.  It's not nice.  My foot sank a bit along the corner of the slab grave.  In the morning I'm going to call the caretaker and tell him/her which tombs are starting to degrade a bit.

I took Maddie and Reilley with me on the second visit.  I found a very frilly sort of Victorian child's dress and took some shots with her and some of the angels.  It may seem morbid but I am drawn to the children's graves the most. Perhaps because of my own past.  Maybe because such care was taken to remember these souls that were only on this earth for such a brief moment; not even a blink.  Looking at the names, the dates, the ages, just the ones marked "Our Baby" with no name gives them immortality.

"The weight of this sad time we must obey;
Speak what we feel, not what we ought to say.
The oldest hath borne most: we that are young
Shall never see so much, nor live so long."
- William Shakespeare, King Lear, 5.3.325

My six year old and I visit a boneyard

This will probably bore most but Maddie and I had such a good time this morning I wanted to share it.  We left early so we could have the morning light and so it was cooler.  Oddly enough, Maddie was excited to see the graves.  She knows about "death" in that the body stops working.  We bury the body for "rest" and the soul goes to where it's happiest.  She read a good deal of the stones (names, wars, etc...) on her own and loved the statues.  She knew not to step on the stones and to try and avoid stepping on the space in front of the stones.  She picked little flowers (wild cornflowers, dandelions, clover flowers) and put them on really old graves because they didn't have any and no one comes to visit them.  She also helped pick up some random bottle and garbage when she saw it (she pointed it out and I picked it dirty hands for the kiddie). We also repaired a Civil War marker.  It unscrewed and the flag fell.

 We met the caretaker.  He was a nice man named Bob and he shared a good deal of history with us.  There is a section for the children who died of a died of an influenza epidemic.  He told me where to find the first grave dug in 1856.  He showed us where the only Congressional Medal of Honor recipient was located.  He gave permission for grave rubbings but he asked that if a grave is in really poor shape to use my discretion.

 It was a really nice morning and I want to do it again.  I really need to go back because you can't investigate every gravestone with a six year old that has had enough.  You can only look at so much in an hour and a half and my camera ran out of batteries before I could finish.  I need to go back and do macro work.

A little poetry

I figure I'll share death poetry to those who visit my blog.  I think some of the poems concerning death, dying, punishment, reward and burial are the most emotional I've ever read.  It exposes the writer's fear and awe as well as their resolution about death.

This is by William Butler Yeats and the only poem I have ever memorized for no reason other than it affected me.

“Hell is the place of those who have denied;
They find there what they planted and what dug,
A Lake of Spaces, and a Wood of Nothing,
And wander there and drift, and never cease
Wailing for substance.”