My Favorite Cemeteries – How and Where Do You Bury Your Characters?

A Facebook friend recently asked what my/our favorite cemetery was. Ooh. Cemeteries. There are too many to narrow down to just one. But here are my top five I’ve been to:

5. An unnamed cemetery on top of a hill in southern Ohio, where there are about twenty graves, all related. I nearly died myself getting to it, as a man in his 20’s agreed to drive my mother and me up there – to the spot near where the old still worried the children when Mom was little. We cleared the fence posts with about an inch on either side of the pickup, going about thirty miles per hour, through the fields and woods where if I’d stuck out my hand just past the side view mirrors, I wouldn’t have a hand as we whipped by. The wooded lot was on top of a hill, twined with poison ivy, “and keep an eye out for rattlers.”

4. Concord Quaker Cemetery near Colrain, Ohio, where numerous relatives and ancestors of mine are buried, including Josiah Fox, designer of the U.S.S. Constitution, and Julia Berry, who was born around the Civil War, but has an unmarked death date on her gravestone. Julia never married and was buried with other Berry relatives, under a very huge now and messy berry tree.

When our boys were young, Jeff and I took them here. Jeff was quiet and respectful, especially of seeing Josiah’s grave. The boys, on the other hand, were a little restless. There’s only so much of interest in a cemetery to little kids, after all. I pointed out that since Julia didn’t have a death date, she might still be alive at well over 100 years old. We then started joking around (not something I’d recommend in a cemetery), saying, “Juu-l-ia? Oh, Juu-l-ia? Where are you, Julia?” When suddenly the cemetery metal gate swung wide open. There was no breeze. Not in the least. The three of us scurried (quite disrespectfully) over the graves of the dead to reach the safety of Daddy-Hubby Jeff.

This cemetery also holds the unmarked graves of many runaway slaves, who had made it to the safety of the Ohio Quakers, only to die of sickness. I always say a prayer over them when I go there.

3. Mount Moriah Cemetery in Deadwood, SD, where sheriff Seth Bullock, Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried. There is also the Chinese section with a stone oven. Not only is this cemetery a historic wild west resting place, but just getting to the cemetery is an adventure – driving up a nearly vertical road, then climbing up and up and up through the cemetery to reach the highest grave, that of Seth Bullock.

2. Author’s Row in the Concord, MA, Cemetery, where the likes of well-known authors have been laid to rest, like Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorn and Henry David Thoreau.

1. I realize there are numerous European cemeteries, like within the walls and floors of Westminster Cathedral, or under St. Martin’s on Trafalgar Square in London where you can eat lunch in their basement overtop of tombstones. Both very cool. But I made Jeff take me on a cemetery side trip not far from our hotel: Highgate. There is a wide paved path going through the center, but it’s the off-the-beaten-path ones I *liked* the best. The gravestones in these areas are generally overgrown. But more. You may even happen across statues of stone angels, who, if you blink, you’d swear they moved a step closer to you.  (If you know the answer to this spine-chilling-as-I-write-it reason, please dare to comment below.)

So where is your *favorite* cemetery or cemetery experience? Have you buried any of your characters in a similar place?

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Oregon Trail – Register Cliff)

Tomorrow – yes, tomorrow – is our National Parks’ 100th anniversary. (And all National Parks are free admission for four day. Happy birthday!)

Although not part of the National Parks System, I felt the need to include in this series some shots of Stu Patterfoot along the Oregon Trail in Wyoming. Because it’s history. Because it’s Stu. And because it’s so interesting.

During the mid- and late-1800’s, wagon train emigrants stopped overnight along the nearby North Platte River, and many recorded their names and dates in the soft limestone bluff, which has come to be known as Register Cliff.

Registration Cliff is a rock face where travelers could record by carving into the soft rock that they had made it that far. But today if you try to record that you, too, have passed that way, you’ll be arrested for vandalism. So acknowledge the history, sense the history, look at the history, but don’t touch. The near-barren landscape (trees only grow because of the nearby river) gives one a desolate feel of what early emigrants may have felt.

Most impressive (to me) at this spot was the worn rock made from thousands of wagon wheels heading for a new life further west. The sides of the prairie schooners must have scrapped the walls as they passed through here, with each wheel cutting deeper into the rock.

There are also thousands of cliff swallows guarding the wall. (Look above Stu’s head on the Register Cliff sign.)

As you write your stories, visit your settings. See the flora and fauna, and smell the history. Gather hundreds of ideas for future stories. Keep on writing.

 

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National Parks Birthday – 100 this month! (Mount Rushmore National Memorial)

Back in March I mentioned in a blog post the up-coming National Parks’ 100th birthday on August 25 (only three days away now). I showed a photo of Stu in front of Mount Rushmore. We lived about thirty minutes from there for about ten years. The scenery and wildlife of the Black Hills of South Dakota is stunning.

History: Many years ago a tourist was horseback riding in the Hills and asked his guide the name of “that mountain.” The guide said it didn’t have a name, so the tourist named it after himself. Fast forward a few decades and a visionary sculpture, Gutzon Borglum, saw faces in the bare cliffs. He designed and started the long process of creating the four US presidents seen today on Mount Rushmore. Can you name the four presidents? One had to be started over during the carving. And the original design was to be full busts, not just faces.

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National Parks Birthday – 100 This Month! (Cumberland Gap National Historical Park)

In celebration of our national parks 100th birthday this month, here is Stu at the historic Cumberland Gap (National Historical Park).

This is a natural break in the Appalachian Mountain Range giving early American frontiersmen (and women, and bunnies), a Wilderness Road to “the West” (i.e., Kentucky and beyond). It is located near the conjunction of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia.

(Also, naturally, American Native Indians lived in the area long before the white man showed up in history, and were familiar with the gap’s secret.)

Cumberland Gap also played a part in the US Civil War, but alluded any battles.

Today you can hike the old Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap, but the wide and long tunnel for cars makes the journey far shorter.

As a writer, merely sitting in locations where I know much history took place is inspirational. Where are your inspirational spots?

 

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