A GRAVEYARD DANCE

The year I was fifteen, I started my senior year of high school. That September (1962), while I was sitting and watching television, I found a rather big, hard lump near my right ankle. I checked the other leg. No lump there. It was a painless lump. Mom had me visiting a surgeon just a couple of days later.

It turned out to be non-malignant, what is called an osteochondroma. It was, however, pretty big. Big enough so in the short time between seeing the doctor and getting into the hospital, it more than doubled in size.  It had thoroughly wrapped itself around my fibula and the surgeon had to remove a piece of bone and replace it with a pin. I was in no mortal danger, but I was going to be on crutches for at least half a year.

Jamaica High School was (is) huge. Five stories including the basement (swimming pool level) and top floor — the tower where the choir and chorus rehearsed. There were no elevators. No handicapped access. It was also extremely crowded, no place for someone on crutches.

High School, really

Thus I came to be assigned a home tutor. I was not her only client and for reasons of her own, she decided to introduce me to another of her clients.

Mary was older than me, 18 years old. Which, at 15, seemed very mature from my perspective. She was a schizophrenic at a time when the drugs to control schizophrenia had not been invented. She was not at all violent. In fact, she was wonderfully sweet, a brilliant artist … and her view of the world was, to say the least, unique.

She loved cemeteries. Especially at night. One night, we went to see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which had just been released.

“Would you like to go?” she asked.

“Sure, why not.” I was always up for a movie. But this one, I didn’t much like. I still don’t. Just … not my cup of tea. Too creepy.

But my night of creepiness was far from over, because after the movie, Mary invited me to visit one of her favorite place … the local cemetery. Through which she happily danced, kissing each of the stones while declaring that these were the happiest of all souls.

Thus began my interest in cemeteries and tombstones. And the end of my brief relationship with Mary. I’m pretty strange in my own way, but that was a bit much for me.

We have great cemeteries here in New England. Old ones with wonderful tombstones, amazing old inscriptions. Come visit some time.

IN HONOR OF HALLOWEEN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

A Halloween Special

Photography by Garry Armstrong

Poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


Photo: Garry Armstrong
Photo: Garry Armstrong

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A PSALM OF LIFE


WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

THE DEAD DON’T RIDE …

Photographs by Garry Armstrong

“Dead men don’t ride roller coasters,” said Gill Grissom on CSI.

I turned to Garry. “How would he know? Has he been talking to dead guys?”

“Well,” said Garry, “I haven’t been chatting with any dead people.”

72-Cemetary-OIL-Autumn-Uxbridge-GA_049

So I got to thinking. If I were  dead, what would I want to do? Would I be inclined to haunt the living? To take revenge for insults real and imagined? To repeat activities in death I loved in life?

72-Cemetary-Autumn-Uxbridge-GA_028

Would I want to travel the world, to see it without airport security? Pass eternity in the great libraries of the world, absorbing all the knowledge I missed in life? I haven’t the slightest idea what a dead person might want to do, assuming anyone gets a choice about post-life activities.

I believe — without a trace of evidence to support my belief — that whatever one does after death is not a choice. It’s a mandate. Whether it’s God or the Devil or Karma or absolute nothingness, it’s not a multiple choice quiz.

72-Cemetary-Autumn-Uxbridge-GA_051

You reap what you’ve sown and, you don’t get to return to tell your friends what happened. On or off the Internet.

AND THE GRAVE IS NOT ITS GOAL: A HALLOWEEN SPECIAL

A Halloween Special
Photography by Garry Armstrong
Poetry by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882)
A PSALM OF LIFE

WHAT THE HEART OF THE YOUNG MAN
SAID TO THE PSALMIST

TELL me not, in mournful numbers,
Life is but an empty dream ! —
For the soul is dead that slumbers,
And things are not what they seem.

Life is real ! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal ;
Dust thou art, to dust returnest,
Was not spoken of the soul.

Not enjoyment, and not sorrow,
Is our destined end or way ;
But to act, that each to-morrow
Find us farther than to-day.

Art is long, and Time is fleeting,
And our hearts, though stout and brave,
Still, like muffled drums, are beating
Funeral marches to the grave.

In the world’s broad field of battle,
In the bivouac of Life,
Be not like dumb, driven cattle !
Be a hero in the strife !

Trust no Future, howe’er pleasant !
Let the dead Past bury its dead !
Act,— act in the living Present !
Heart within, and God o’erhead !

Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time ;

Footprints, that perhaps another,
Sailing o’er life’s solemn main,
A forlorn and shipwrecked brother,
Seeing, shall take heart again.

Let us, then, be up and doing,
With a heart for any fate ;
Still achieving, still pursuing,
Learn to labor and to wait.

REQUIESCAT IN PACE


Daily Prompt: Happy Endings

by michelle w. on February 1, 2014

Photographers, artists, poets: show us THE END.

Tombstones

The beautiful old tombstones at the Revolutionary War cemetery downtown mark the resting places of heroes of every war plus the regular citizens from mill workers to mill owners. In this last piece of earth they inhabit, all are finally at long last, equal. R.I.P.

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Dancing among the tombstones

The year I was fifteen, I started my senior year of high school. That September (1962), while I was sitting and watching television, I found a rather big, hard lump near my right ankle. I checked the other leg. No lump there. It was a painless lump. Mom had me visiting a surgeon just a couple of days later.

Uxbridge Cemetery

It turned out to be non-malignant, what is called an osteochondroma. It was, however, pretty big. Big enough so in the short time between seeing the doctor and getting into the hospital, it more than doubled in size.  It had thoroughly wrapped itself around my fibula and the surgeon had to remove a piece of bone and replace it with a pin. I was in no mortal danger, but I was going to be on crutches for at least half a year.

Jamaica High School was (is) huge. Five stories including the basement (swimming pool level) and top floor — the tower where the choir and chorus rehearsed. There were no elevators. No handicapped access. It was also extremely crowded, no place for someone on crutches.

Old cemetary Uxbridge

Thus I came to be assigned a home tutor. I was not her only client and for reasons of her own, she decided to introduce me to another of her clients.

Mary was older than me, 18 years old. Which, at 15, seemed very mature from my perspective. She was a schizophrenic at a time when the drugs to control schizophrenia had not been invented. She was not at all violent. In fact, she was wonderfully sweet, a brilliant artist … and her view of the world was, to say the least, unique.

She loved cemeteries. Especially at night. One night, we went to see Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? which had just been released.

Cropped screenshot of Bette Davis and Joan Cra...

“Would you like to go?” she asked.

“Sure, why not.” I was always up for a movie. But this one, I didn’t much like. I still don’t. Just … not my cup of tea. Too creepy.

But my night of creepiness was far from over, because after the movie, Mary invited me to visit one of her favorite place … the local cemetery. Through which she happily danced, kissing each of the stones while declaring that these were the happiest of all souls.

Thus began my interest in cemeteries and tombstones. And the end of my brief relationship with Mary. I’m pretty strange in my own way, but that was a bit much for me.

We have great cemeteries here in New England. Old ones with wonderful tombstones, amazing old inscriptions. Come visit some time.

Dark Cemetery

dark cemetary

It’s remarkable how color or the lack of it changes the mood, the texture, even the meaning of an image.