Walking on Graves

While I was in Boston this past weekend, I went to Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.  I love to go there in the fall to see the autumn colors, but I was too early to see the changing leaves this time.

Leaves just beginning to change this past weekend

I will be going back with my husband in a couple of weeks, and we’ll see if we get treated to a show.  Since this summer in New England was unusually hot and rainy, the leaves will not be yielding up their glorious display like they did two years ago, my first trip back in autumn since we left Texas.  The colors were so amazing, it brought tears to my eyes.  I had missed it more than I realized.

I remember that drive up the Eastern Shore.  My husband does all the driving on our long trips north, giving me the gift of writing time.  I had my notebook and pen handy and jotted down some thoughts and feelings:

Conflagration of the hills
Envious evergreen
The story of Moses and his burning bush must have been set in New England in late October
Ribbon of blue cutting through banks of grey cirrus clouds
Van Cliburn hammering out Paganini‘s theme
Trees who flamed out early and now regretted their lifeless limbs
Bare white birch trunks stark against the hillside color yet beautiful for all their starkness
Narcissus admiring his own reflection in the pond

When I went to Mt. Auburn with my sons and daughter-in-law, they told me that they had taken a friend there who was visiting from California.  He did not like it at all.  In fact, he found it kind of creepy, walking on people’s graves.  I don’t know why that bothers some people.  I have always liked walking through old cemeteries, reading the gravestones, wondering who these people were, what their lives were like.  It keeps them real.  I want people to walk across my grave and say my name so that when I am long gone, my name will still be spoken in this world, reminding it that I lived and mattered.

As I walked along Mt. Auburn’s paths and witnessed such beauty surrounded by solemn gravestones, stirring up the musty pungency of fallen leaves like fragrant death, I wondered how many of these residents laid here had walked these same paths, awed by the same grandeur.  How many of them flamed out before their end, reawakening to a spring I will one day see?  Walking on graves in autumn somehow makes me see life more completely.

Here are some of my pictures from that amazing autumn trip two years ago:

Shelton, Connecticut
On Brattle Street in Cambridge
Entrance to Mt. Auburn Cemetery
Resting in the shade at Mt. Auburn
“Sleep, my child, and peace attend thee…”
View from a hill

About Coming East

I am a writer, wife, mother, and grandmother who thinks you're never too old until you're dead. My inspiration is Grandma Moses who became a successful artist in her late 70's. If I don't do something pretty soon, though, I'll have to find someone older for inspiration.
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37 Responses to Walking on Graves

  1. Jenny says:

    I love fall and your pictures are beautiful! I also love the stories cemeteries hold.

  2. yen says:

    wow, beautiful photos! I’ve always wanted to go to the US to see the colors of fall.:)

  3. E.C. says:

    I’m in awe of your beautiful photos. The colors are magnificent. 🙂

  4. Spectacular photos! Wow, they are gorgeous. I love going to cemeteries, always have since I was a kid. I bring my kids with me every fall to visit my father’s grave and it brings me comfort and peace. Thanks for your beautiful pictures and words!

  5. Ann says:

    Great pictures with beautiful colors! That’s all I miss about Connecticut is the fall. Not the winters or anything else.

  6. Leah says:

    I’m in awe of those photos. Beautiful words and photos to accompany them.

    • comingeast says:

      Thank you, Leah. I know we won’t find the same colors when we return in a couple of weeks. Some years are awesome; others, not so much. We just hit it just right two years ago.

  7. gaycarboys says:

    They are really magnificent shots. I’ve only been to boston once but loved it. There is something about the northeast in autumn, The colours are just fabulous but funnily enough my favourite shot is the graves. There is something about taking the photo down low to the ground that just looks sensational. I’m a bit wired aren’t it?:)

  8. Fall in Connecticut! I cannot tell you how much I miss it. Oregon is green and lush and wet like you would not believe, but autumn simply isn’t the same here. Your pictures make me happy and homesick all at once.

  9. Gorgeous. Just gorgeous! Thank you for sharing. I loved that you mentioned Van Cliburn…I hope people remember him, a prodigious talent from Kilgore. I too have no problem walking through cemeteries. My mother-in-law and I walked through one that was not perpetually cared for once. It was like the earth had churned things around. It was the cemetery where her mother and father and other family members lay in Central Texas. She righted some of the tombstones and I’ve wondered if they stayed right. Our daughter and son-in-law bought a home down the street from a cemetery. They rather like it as it is on a peaceful road.

    • comingeast says:

      Thanks, Georgette. And it means your daughter and son-in-law have quiet neighbors! Everyone who has commented so far also have no problem with walking on graves.

  10. Absolutely beautiful post. Beautiful writing, beautiful photos and a beautiful tribute to my favorite season. Thank you for this.

  11. Patti Ross says:

    Great shots, thanks for sharing. I, too, love old cemeteries. As a birder, I know that cemeteries are a great place to appreciate life–those who have passed, those who attending them, and all the life scurrying around–the squirrels and birds and such. The added beauty of the surroundings is just an added bonus.

    • comingeast says:

      Thanks, Patti. I took a great shot of a chipmunk on a gravestone at the cemetery, but I didn’t put it in because I didn’t want to put too many pictures in.

  12. judithhb says:

    Lovely post Susan. I too love the old graveyards and try to imagine the lives of those who’s lives are being remarked by the headstones.And those are truly gorgeous photos. thanks again for sharing.

  13. Amy says:

    I agree, the gravestones ”keep them real” and have visited a few old graves. I’m so moved by the last part of your post. It’s beautifully written… I share your sentiment, will read again and again.

  14. Lovely! Just a great illustration for why fall is my very favorite season. Oh, and by the way, I too like walking through cemeteries and imagining those lives that were lived before us.

  15. Beautiful pictures! I am drawn to Walden Pond as the leaves change in the autumn. I love to see the leaves and trees in their brilliance reflecting on the water. I too am intrigued walking through a cemetery building mental characters as each name is read. I like the idea of the reading of the names as a form of remembrance and immortality. I do not find cemeteries “creepy.” The local cemetery near my home has such beautiful gardens and landscaping that it is a “must visit” for bridal and prom pictures. Thank you for sharing your snippets of notes reacting to the sight of the autumn. Thank you also for the mental imagining of “How many of them flamed out before their end, reawakening to a spring I will one day see.” I love that…

  16. Beautiful post, and very timely around here. Our 83 year-old neighbor passed suddenly yesterday (the one who feeds my husband’s dog cookies) from a heart attack. Her own mother lived to be 100, so I think everyone assumed she would hang on a little longer, considering her fine health. Lovely shots, too.

  17. BEAUTIFUL photos!! I love this post! I’m afraid to say that for us, here in Maine, it is not shaping up to be that beautiful a fall — maybe it’s just too early to tell — but it was a dry hot summer and the leaves look a little shriveled up to me… “peak” color is usually mid October, so I’m still hoping. And here’s hoping that your trip to Boston/Cambridge is a beautifully colored one!

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