Monday, August 06, 2007

A Damp,Thoroughly Modern Cemetery

Your Monday Photo Shoot: Take a picture of, or in, a cemetery. Your local cemetery is good, but if you've been to, say, Paris, to see Jim Morrison's grave, or took some arty shots of an ornate headstone elsewhere, something like that works, too.

I've actually taken and posted lots of cemetery photos in past entries years ago, mostly in October 2004 when I was on a pre-Halloween death kick, but also in a few 2005 entries, all in my old AOL journal. You can find the links to some of them below. I recommend the two Tombstone/Boot Hill entries; I posted a number of fun shots of that historic and picturesque (not to mention picaresque) cemetery.

Grave Matters (with lots of Boot Hill photos)

More on Tombstone and Tombstones

Memorial Day, Then and Now

East Lawn Palms. My mom's grave is in the foreground somewhere.

Even so, I do have new photos for you tonight. I hadn't visited my mom's grave since Mother's Day (for about two minutes), so I headed over there at lunchtime. I don't go there much anymore, because I don't believe for a moment that a cemetery is a better place to think of my mom, honor her or talk to her than here at my computer, or at the grocery store, or any of the other places that remind me of her. But I've already ranted that rant at least once, so let's move on.

Like other modern cemeteries in Tucson, East Lawn Palms is designed largely for ease of maintenance. Only a few small, expensive sections allow statues, or upright markers instead of flat ones flush with the ground. Other than temporary displays for major holidays and such, the only flowers allowed are plastic ones, mounted in metal vases that fold down to accommodate a lawn mower rolling over them. The grass is thick, hardy and not especially pretty. There aren't a lot of options if you want a carpet of grass to grow in the desert; even the local ballparks have difficulty with this. But my mom's grave in particular was a bare, muddy mess for the first year and a half, and I had to keep complaining until they realigned the dirt around the marker to prevent pooling, and replanted grass until it finally took hold. Actually, I've ranted that rant, too.

Standing water, about four inches deep, but only in one spot

It rained overnight and this morning (Tuffy nervously alerted me to this fact at 6:30 AM by jumping on the bed and standing on my hair), so I was curious to see whether there would be any flooding at East Lawn. There was, but not on the lawn, only in one or two places on the network of looping drives.

As I drove to the back of the property, seeking a good shot with the mountains and maybe some statuary, I found this new stretch of lawn (left). I'm pretty sure that wasn't there the last time I explored the place. Beyond that wall on the left is an older cemetery, which doesn't seem to be part of East Lawn at all.

The presence of a canopy and a couple of blue-shirted guys means there was a funeral in this section today. There's also some kind of little green tractor-thing, probably preparing the ground.

There was also a big yellow bulldozer. I suppose that means they don't employ gravediggers anymore, at least not guys with shovels.

I feel the need to reprint a poem I wrote a few years back. Here it is.

Visiting the Stone

It rained last week, but the grass is dry,
Faded, almost white, waiting
For another season, or
Better, artificial rain.
It's thick and sharp, hardy,
Ugly grass, meant largely
To keep the dirt in place.

The stone is dry and clean.
No mud, no blown dirt,
Hardly any leaves of grass cover
Name or dates, notes or masks,
Scroll or colorless rose, or
The nine engraved words, sung
So many years ago.
I sing them again, softly,
As she did before she died.

I don't talk to her, except
For an embarrassed "Hi, Mom."
I pause, and get
The long-handled-brush
From the back of the car.
I brush away the few stray leaves,
And then I drive away.

KFB, 1/26/05

"So don't be sad; there's nothing more to say."--RAJ, circa 1970

"Why does everything you write have to be so gloomy?" - Mom, circa 1974.


My mom's Find A Grave page


Gerry said...

I just had to comment on your poem as well as your photos. I did not participate in this photo shoot as I felt uneasy about the cemetary becoming my home! Nice poem! I hope my kids write such lovely poems about me when I am there! Gerry

Gerry said...

Lovely poem. As well as photos.