Thursday, February 16, 2006

another cemetery

If I gave a list of my hobbies right now to someone who didn't know me, it could be quite a weird experience for them. Top of the list is taking photos of cemeteries and angel gravestones. I found a new, huge one today... or should I say an old one because it is one of the major old cemeteries of my city. When I say old, I mean New Zealand old, which is like: people who died at the end of the nineteenth century. It's right near the graveyard where Mum is buried, which is relatively modern and rather boring with row upon row of black oblong gravestone. But at this one, they're all the old style grave, with concrete 'beds' (for lack of a better word) and huge impressive headstones, some sculptured, all a little different from the next one, and some derelict, overgrown with wild flowers or grasses and broken. It surprised me that there was only one angel gravestone in the entire cemetery, as far as I saw.

Because it's an older cemetery, they have a few signs up showing where famous people in Christchurch's history are buried--like Robert McDougall (actually am not quite sure what he did but there's a beautiful art gallery building named after him!), Bishop Julius, Arthur Dudley Dobson (who was the first white man to discover Arthur's Pass, a way through the mountains from the east coast to west coast of the South Island, and a place where I have spent countless holidays)... So that was quite interesting. In the tiny little cemetery near my house, where the angel in the post below lives, there's the grave of John Cracroft Wilson, who was one of the very first settlers here, and settled in the area my old house was in. He was a rich merchant who had been in India, I think, and they say that he named the area (Cashmere) for Kashmir. There's something quite cool about seeing the graves of people I've heard of in history. It could be called morbid, but I think it would be amazing to visit the graves of people like Jane Austen or Lenin or Louis the somethingth (the only French king whose grave was left standing by the revolutionaries in 1775) or someone like that who you hear so much about, and to consider that they were actually real. Because it's really quite hard to believe in historical figures, and imagine they had hands and feet and flesh just like us. It's kind of like believing in God sometimes.

The photo above: this gravestone stood out for me because it looked slightly newer than any of the others there, and then I realised why. James McCormack died in 1925, aged 26--but his wife Marie died in 1994, aged 99. Never remarried, buried next to him almost seventy years later, still 'beloved wife of'. That's what I like about cemeteries; if you look closely enough, you notice the smaller details of people's lives that make them seem really personal and imaginable and poignant to you.

No comments: