Friday, November 22, 2013

The abandoned cemetery



"Do you think it is ok?" I turned to Remi, hesitating. "I don't know, it is Toussaint..." "Oh, don't worry," he responded reassuringly. "By the looks of things, they will be happy to have a visitor or two."

Toussaint, or All Saint's Day is a serious affair in France. There is nothing of little ghouls begging for candy, no. Instead, families come together to remember and respect. We were on our way to a tiny village outside of Chablis to take flowers to the graves of some of Remi's family when he glimpsed something surprising through the rain and pulled the car over swiftly to a stop.

An abandoned cemetery. The gate was unlocked. A path of grass had been cut back for the occasion but the tombs...the graves...I had never seen anything like it. Nor had Remi. "And we never will again," he added.

Waves of emotion rolled over me as I carefully threaded my way through this forgotten world. My hands trembled. But Remi had been right. I did feel welcomed and not haunted at all but rather deeply moved.














So many lives, so many stories.


There will be one more post in this series. I realize that they are not everyone's cup of tea, that this is a complex subject. And yet it felt important for me to share...especially today when mourning is on many of our minds. By all means, feel free to come back later next week...
With my Best from Arles, Heather

32 comments:

  1. Seems sad to think that the cemetery has been abandoned and the loved ones who were buried it seems forgotten. Makes me wonder why was it abandoned, what happened to the deceased loved ones. Have a great weekend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Me too Michel, certainly as the village nearby is still active...?

      Delete
  2. This post gave me chills, Heather. In a good way. Last night I went to hear author Ann Patchett in conversation with Seattle Librarian All Star Nancy Pearl. She said that life is change. That someday the places and people we love will be gone, that the moment we are in right now is all we have. This long lost graveyard seems to emphasize this to me. The transient nature of our time on earth. Beautiful but fleeting. Heavy thoughts for a Friday! XOXO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is a truly beautiful sentiment. And a Buddhist one too. I have been trying to be more aware of it as I grow older. You will see too in my next post...

      Delete
  3. We once stopped at an abandoned cemetery in England and found such a draw to the place, and an amazing beauty, although much was overrun, broken or fallen. It had such a quiet sense of peace there and I wanted to respect those who have gone before us and to commemorate them - and still revel in the here and now and how very important it is to share our lives with loved ones each and every day. Thank you for the beautiful photos and the remembrance on this important and sad day in history.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It looks as though you and Jeanne were on the same page in your reactions to this, Judi. I am very moved by all of the responses, actually.

      Delete
  4. To "I dream of" - I am very envious of you hearing Ann Patchett address your group. She is one of my favorite authors - I think Bel Canto is one of my favorite books.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey "Judi"....you're right. Anne Patchett is just......a stunning writer (and a damned fine person, to boot...listen to some of the interviews available on the web).
      ---david terry

      Delete
  5. Well, Heather, I can never quite determine (not surprising, given your background) what you know and what you don't....but perhaps you don't know this poem. I'm leaving out great parts of it (it's a longass poem, to say the least), but it is lovely.



    Weirdly enough, I had someone here (in this 220 year old house) about a year ago who hugged herself and nervously (not to mention stupidly) asked "Do you think anyone ever DIED here?". How silly, I thought (what I said was "Well, DUHHHHH?????..."



    In any case.....here's a fine poem for you (and thanks as ever for your fine photographs). I once wrote an article on this poem that was about 100 times longer than the poem itself (which is to say that the poem is fine, and my "scholarly" article was gratuitous):


    "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard"
    By Thomas Gray 1716–1771



    The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
    The lowing herd wind slowly o'er the lea,
    The plowman homeward plods his weary way,
    And leaves the world to darkness and to me.


    Now fades the glimm'ring landscape on the sight,
    And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
    Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
    And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds;



    ...Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
    Where heaves the turf in many a mould'ring heap,
    Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
    The rude forefathers of the hamlet sleep.



    ....Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
    Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
    Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
    The short and simple annals of the poor.


    The boast of heraldry, the pomp of pow'r,
    And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
    Awaits alike th' inevitable hour.
    The paths of glory lead but to the grave.



    ....Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
    Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
    Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
    They kept the noiseless tenor of their way.



    As you might guess?...Thomas Hardy (on whom I wrote my dissertation) also read this poem.




    David Terry
    dterrydraw@aol.com
    www.davidterryart.com

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, if I have read this poem (and I believe that I have) it was many moons ago and means something else to me now. Thank you, as always for these little gifts.

      Delete
  6. Oh yes, so much mystery and so many stories to be told here. We have many old cemeteries here in Concord and they are all open to the public. I feel there is much life and wisdom buried in these places that we can never know about.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey, Judith...We done got ourselves three cemeteries (18th throughgcurrent centuries) at every end of this old street here in Hillsborough. Bascially, I can't walk the dogs more than six or so houses without having to worry that they're pee-ing on one of my long-established neighbors' ancestor/s.

      no kidding,

      david

      Delete
  7. I have walked through and photographed old cemeteries and they are always sacred, special places. I must say however, these photos go beyond any I have ever seen. Beautiful imagery Heather, a fine tribute to this abandoned place.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I am glad you stopped to explore this mysterious place so you could share these fascinating photos with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am glad that Remi reassured my initial resistance, it was quite an experience...

      Delete
  9. Heather, these are some of the most stunning and moving photos I've ever seen. Thank you. It is sad, yes, but isn't it really what will happen to us all eventually? Your photos ca help us to embrace that truth.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What a very fine compliment. Thank you so much for that.

      Delete
  10. Hi Heather, how wondrous to find this resting place. It does make you wonder about the many lives and how they lived.

    xoxo
    Karena
    The Arts by Karena

    ReplyDelete
  11. Absolutely beautiful...and sad to know that the lineage of these individuals has been lost based on the condition of the gravestones and markers. So beautiful...and so well loved at one time.... (sigh) Where are they now?

    ReplyDelete
  12. Such beautiful photos. I love your honouring of the abandoned graves. If that were my grave I would have sensed your gentle presence. I feel sure you laid a loving hand on a stone or two. One of my favourite poems/blessings is by John O'Donohue "On Passing a Graveyard" http://www.johnodonohue.com/words/allsouls I think it explains why we can experience such peace in a place like the one you and Remi found.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, I will go look that up. Thank you Ann!

      Delete
  13. One of the last places to say goodbye and once a year, honors. A meeting place for the souls.A sacred place though there should not be a separation of the sacred and the profane.

    I think your photos capture beauty in an unexpected place.

    I remember reciting the "Elegy" in high school.

    ReplyDelete
  14. oh what a lovely timbre.......but we could feel how cold it must be already......many layers of cashmere being sent virtually your way.....beautiful shots, truly. *deepthoughtfulgazeathescreen*

    ReplyDelete
  15. I have an strong affinity to cemeteries ...don't know why. Going there gives me so much inner peace and happiness.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Dear Heather, The most beautiful and thought provoking photographs you have shared with us. Thank You.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I think that these pictures are beautiful! So e of the most beautiful I have seen for some time..........please, I hope that you have more.

    ReplyDelete
  18. ABSOLUTELY STUNNING!That root covered tombstone!!!!Thats a piece of ART!I adore cemetery's…..what a find.Your photos are beautiful.Do share MORE!!!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Looking forward to the next segment - it is a beautiful, touching series of photos and emotions that you provided us today!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Every now and then I stumble across abandoned cemeteries too. They are mostly plague cemeteries. The sad think is that they mostly consist of unmarked graves.

    ReplyDelete

Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com...