On Saturday I went over to a friend's house to help her trim the hooves of her two goats. (I grew up on a goat farm. If you want stories I have dozens, all embarrassing.) I knew from previous trips that she lived near an old cemetery, one that I've been itching to photograph for over a year now. There's an old gate that makes the entrance look like a castle:
But more intriguing is the vault. You can almost see it from the road, and it's magnificent.
Walking up to the vault gave me a hollow feeling at the base of my throat; the weight of all the lives and time that have passed was palpable. I only walked through the front of the cemetery, and I could have spent hours in that tiny part.
Every time I changed position I saw another beautiful scene, another macabre sight that caught my breath. This was one of my favorite shots. I wasn't sure it was going to turn out; I was already at my car when I noticed the top headstone. It wasn't until I zoomed in with the camera that I noticed the broken marker in front of it. It's going on a card for sure.
All our fears are represented in a grave yard. There are families buried together. Children's tombstones, marking lives cut far too short. Stephen King was right when he said that there is really only one thing we are afraid of. The Dali Lama was right, too, when he said that in order to live fully we must accept this fear, and the reality of our own demise.
Walking through a place with so much history and so many stories always makes me a little contemplative. I felt the same way in this little farm town cemetery that I felt in Westminster Abbey: a mixture of awe, fear, despair and joy. Because we all end up in the same place, eventually, but parts of us linger for awhile. And if we're all headed in the same direction, then what is the point of all this violence and war? Why should we be cruel to others when we are the same at the deepest levels? Why cause others to suffer and shed tears, when we could all be making cookies?
I went home and hugged my little family. We made cookies whose heads kept falling off. We ate too much sugar, had lots of fun, and talked about learning to play the guitar together (again) this year. And while I may never be famous, and I may not be able to make a lasting mark like Gandhi or Elvis, I can enjoy the time I get to have. I can compost, I can make gifts for people I love, I can recycle and laugh and speak out and live according to my ideals. I am lucky and happy, and even though I still share that one big fear we all have, I'm living with it a little better these days. I couldn't ask for any more.
I wish you plenty, and peace, and good fortune in the coming year. Most of all, I wish you the best kind of cookies: the kind that have heads that fall off.