I have written and spoken often of my love of photographing in old cemeteries. Well, let me take that back – they don’t have to be old, but it helps. Why do I love it so much? I can think of several reasons:
- I love the peaceful quietness of the cemetery;
- I find myself growing pensive about life as I wander among the tombstones and I believe the reflection that I experience about life is good and positive;
- I find the words and sentiments carved into the stones to be fascinating;
- I am drawn to the artistry of the monuments and sculpture.
On the eastern edge of the village of Cloverdale, California, tucked into the wine country of Sonoma County’s northernmost edge, is the Cloverdale cemetery, known as Riverside Cemetery because of its proximity to the Russian River, directly east of the cemetery. The earliest markers there date from the 1860’s, pre-dating Cloverdale’s incorporation by twelve years. I’ve wandered that cemetery several times taking photos. I’d like to visit it again.
Today’s photo is of one of the sculptures that stands atop a burial plot. Look at the detail of the sculpture – how the hair sweeps in ripples over the ear; the intricacy of the nose, lips and eyes; the pure child-like skin of the hands without wrinkle or blemish. This visage is not an angel – there are no wings on the sculpture. I don’t recall the tomb itself or who it was for, but I can’t help but wonder if it was supposed to be the likeness of a grieving mother, wife, sister or lover, or if it was to be the likeness of the deceased, now transformed into eternal youth, gazing downward where the mortal remains sleep? Her robe folds easily and loosely around her as her right arm embraces a cross. It appears that the cross is what upholds her – but is it in her hopes for the beloved or for herself – or both? Could it be that the longing downward gaze is just waiting the rising of the departed and she refuses to take her eyes off the spot where she looks for fear of missing the first movement? Though the stone and marble may be mottled with time, there is still something timeless in the expression of the face and the hope pictured here!
Ah, cemeteries. What magical places to ponder life, meaning, death – and love. It is my belief we’d all be a bit wiser about how we live life if we spent more time wandering among those silent cities!
TRIVIA FOR TODAY: pieces of bread were used to erase lead pencil markings before rubber came into use.