Living by the Cemetery

When we bought a house by a cemetery, I made my share of jokes about haunting and zombies. Truthfully, I have never thought of cemeteries as creepy places. I loved taking night walks through Athens, OH cemeteries when I was in grad school. When I mentioned that fact to Leslie, she told me that she has always thought of cemeteries as "adorable" because they are huge, impractical monuments dedicated to humans remembering each other. It's true. My office window faces the cemetery and three times now I've seen someone park, get out, pick leaves and weeds from a loved one's grave and then just stand or kneel with a hand on the stone. One, I think, was praying. One just knelt there and seemed to be chatting. One left fresh flowers. Occasionally, I see these visitors look around half-embarrassed to be doing something clearly intimate in a public space. Living next to a cemetery ranges from adorable to moving to contemplative. I am not a religious person, but it's hard to deny my own associations between burial and the sacred. The association isn't necessarily about the dead. It's more about the living and seeing ritual at work, ritual in a very basic form that seems rooted in thankfulness and love. It's also about people grappling with the impermanent and employing hard stone as a barrier against transience. I've always felt like cemeteries are special and living next to one is really prompting me to examine why. The only places I've ever felt a "spiritual" connection to are wild places outside of civilization. The cemetery next to me is also an arboretum. It's an interesting mix of wilderness and structured religious practice. It's a peaceful, thoughtful place and so far I enjoy sharing a fence with it.