Saturday, February 25, 2017

A Quiet Place

As I've mentioned before, I'm working through Kim Manely Ort's book Adventures In Seeing with a group of online photographers. The adventure this week had us looking for and capturing the essence of a place. I had a hard time wrapping my mind around that until I read this definition of essence. Essence is the "attribute or set of attributes that make an entity or substance what it fundamentally is, and which it has by necessity, and without which it loses its identity." The last phrase stuck with me. I began looking at places with the question "if this or that were taken away, would it change what this place is?"

Wandered through an old cemetery, I began to think about it's essence. What makes it what it is? Of course, the obvious is that a cemetery is a place of burial, but the not so obvious is what keeps me interested in early cemeteries. They have characteristics that are not found in modern ones.

As I entered the gates of the cemetery and gazed around, my eyes first noticed the shapes and sizes of the markers. The size usually depends on the wealth and status of the deceased in their community.

I was intrigued by the symbols that had been chosen to be engraved on the markers. Symbols can tell about the person who is buried there. It can tell of their marital status, religious beliefs, whether they are a mother, father or child, and sometimes even their occupation. Clasped hands are very common which can stand for a man holding a woman's hand, indicate marriage, or a symbol of farewell. The mansions in heaven are often depicted showing eternal life. Wreaths speak of victory in death. Three chain links that stand for friendship, love, and truth can be found on markers provided by the Grand United Order of Oddfellows. They provided burial plots and markers for those who could not afford their own. Four-petaled flowers represent the dogwood blooms which means resurrection, sacrifice, and eternal life.

I found grave markers trimmed with simple things such as marbles, rocks, or shells. Other markers were so weathered or covered with lichen that they were impossible to read.

Many graves were outlined with concrete. Sometimes items such as rocks were placed in the concrete or the concrete was carved with names. Some plots, mostly family plots, were enclosed in ornate fences.

There were markers to honor veterans from the War of 1812, the Civil War, and both World Wars.

Wandering through old cemeteries leaves me with a sense of peace. It's quiet. Usually the only sounds I hear are the birds and the rustle of leaves beneath my feet. I can reflect on those who are buried here, the lives they may have lived, the sorrows they endured, and I can whisper a prayer of gratitude for those who served our country.


  1. I like the symbolism of the Four-petaled flowers represent the dogwood blooms which means resurrection, sacrifice, and eternal life. So interesting too the different carvings in your fourth photo. Black and white images are perfect for this posting on the essence of cemeteries.

  2. I love wandering in cemeteries, the older the better. I enjoy the quiet, and try to imagine what the lives of some of those people might have been like. Your black and white images have a timelessness that feels just right.

  3. i did not "get it" until the last phrase, then it kicked it. your images are amazing - you really "got this" and your pictures as well as your narrative were needed in this exercise!!

    i really appreciated what you put in to this, well done. i do not like cemeteries and have a hard time walking around in them. i can't get past the death part - the sadness part, and that ruins it for me!!

  4. I love the way you captured the essence - black and white sets the perfect mood!

  5. I really enjoyed this post, Cathy, as I love exploring cemeteries (well, in the daylight, that is!). Love the way the shadows are captured in your black and white photography!

  6. I like these B&W photos which help give essence to the photos of the old cemetery. I like to wander among old tombstones - they have such a story to tell with their carvings and quotes.


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