Friday, January 4, 2013

Rest in Peace

Not too long ago, a friend of mine in Louisville told me a witch was buried in a cemetery near his house. I was curious. It took some convincing, but I finally talked him into exploring the historical site with me yesterday.

Louisville is an old city and old cities are full of beautifully aged graveyards. This particular one is located in the Highlands. It is where the "poor" of the 1800-early 1900's was buried and sits directly next to the resting grounds of the more well-to-do.

While we were searching for the stone he remembered seeing almost 20 years ago, I took out my camera and starting snapping pictures of some of the ornate stones. My friend's eyes bugged out and he said, "It's illegal to take photos in a cemetery!"

I glanced up at him to see if he was joking and I realized he was not. I chuckled and told him I thought someone had fed him bullshit at some point. I told him I would check on this, but that I was pretty sure taking photographs in a cemetary was perfectly fine. I mentioned that there were a lot worse things you could do illegally in a graveyard than take a couple of pictures*.  The rest of the visit he had me laughing to tears at his avoidance of walking on the graves (I had to tell him that the front is not always where the casket was placed in reference to the stone). He was superstitious and somewhat creeped out by the soggy ground and old dates.

For me, I have always love graveyards. I've been exploring them since I was a child. My parents had a lake house in a rural part of Indiana. During the summer I would disappear into the depths of the nearby woods. I had discovered an old, overgrown cemetery hidden in the tangles of elms and nettles and thorny flora. I spent hours there, clearing away the vines and dirt from the faded stones, constructing stories about the people buried beneath them. In my mind, time spent in a cemetery is a way of honoring the dead, an acknowledgement that these were people who laughed like us, maybe coveted chocolate or oranges, read books and kissed their babies goodnight. In college, one of my favorite undergrad projects was a population study we did using the dates and sexes on gravestones. When I walk up to a stone, it is to look better at a name and the dates. I do it as a respect and courtesy to the deceased. And, I do it because I am curious about these lives.

Later, over vegetarian burritos, I mentioned again I had never heard about the legalities of taking cemetery photos (I was thinking about the 100's I have from cities I have visited over the years). He looked wistfully away and said: "Maybe someone just said you could capture a spirit by using a camera in a cemetery."

*There is a horrible back story to this particular graveyard, but it does not involve a witch or a camera.


chelsea said...

Hopping over from the Awesome Blog Hop. Great photos. I love exploring graveyards too. And I really hope that taking photos in them isn't illegal! Some of my favorite photos were made in them...

Gina said...

Thanks for visiting and commenting!

Rae - Say It Aint So said...

i love going through graveyards too. i think it is nice to pay them a visit and admire the beautiful old headstones. that is the reason people put up such beautiful monuments.
(can you tell i'm really behind in my blog reader? geeze!)