Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Combating Irrational Fears, One Graveyard at a Time

I do believe in confronting one's irrational fears. With this belief, I try to combat my fear of the undead, mentioned in my previous post, by going into graveyards to take photos. I go alone. I still find myself avoiding the areas right around headstones and such, just in case.

Personally, I have no interest in being buried. My request, once dead, of course, and, one which will not be granted by any of my loved ones due to its unseemliness, is to be driven out to an outer lying wooded area and left. Not buried, not covered or encased in an expensive box, just left, en plein aire. Why not? It's economical and adventurous. This is not, I repeat, not how my mother saw it when I suggested it to her during one of our “you are going on vacation and therefore, it is possible, that you may die and I need to know what to do with you and everything you own before you leave” conversations. I love my mother. She plans for everything.

After the last big snow storm in Chicago, I ventured out to Graceland Cemetery. The cemetery is beautiful and old. It has a charm that most “newer” cemeteries do not (is there really a “newer” cemetery? Haven’t they all been around forever?). This is the cemetery where Burnham and Sullivan were buried- Remember the stories of the White City? Yes, this cemetery.

I still find most of the monuments and mausoleums eerie. The same holds true for the ultra serene landscape found while promenading through the rows and rows of dead.

Because on this visit there was snow on the ground, I found myself hopping through the snow drifts trying to get close enough to the shrouded statues and angelic marble guardians of the dead all the while trying to avoid stepping too long in any one place- one must move quickly where there are dead below. Each remained quiet, undisturbed by my gazelle like movements across the smaller headstones buried under winter’s icy blanket. Each protecting their safely tucked away booty, six feet underground or so- many of them peacefully slumbering away the century.

Many of the names found here caused me a moment of pause- men of great importance resting forever there. Pullman, McCormick, Palmer, Field, Armour- each man having left lasting legacies- each creating this Chicago. And me, the closest I will ever be to the historical great of this city- standing amongst their places of internment. Still, not wanting them to reemerge from their resting places and so, I moved on, in my own jerky jumpy fashion through the snow, across the layers of earth separating the dead from the living. Maybe I am the one I fear to see "unfresh" and roaming the cemetery grounds in slow jittery movements searching for brains. If anything, the brains sought, would not be of the living, but of those below.