Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Dia de Los Muertos, Dia de Los Angelitos


Today and tomorrow are Dia(s) de Los Muertos, the Day of the Dead. It coincides with the Catholic All Saints Day and All Souls Day. This is the day to honor the dead-the gone, but not forgotten. Now some say that today is actually Dia de Los Angelitos-the day to remember lost children and that tomorrow November 2nd is the day that adult souls returen- Dia de Los Muertos..

I have long been a taphophile. And what is that you ask. A taphophile is someone who loves cemeteries and funerals. Well, I'm not big on funerals, but I love nothing more than walking through cemeteries, reading the headstones and looking at all of the mausoleums. Even as a teenager my friends would want to go to the Quaker Church cemetery in my town. There were gravestones there that dated back to the 1700's. They wanted to go there to "mess about". I wanted to go there and read all of the upright tombstones and just be there.

I have neve quite figured out what it is about the upright tombstones. I just find them more comforting, for lack of a better word, somehow than the flush-to-the-ground stones.

There was an article in the October 26, 2005 Guardian about "Dark Tourism". Dark tourism is visiting sites where tragedy has occurred or visiting cemeteries. The article is interesting and names some popular cemetery destinations.

The other night I watched a special on cemeteries that was actually called A Cemetery Special. This documentary was done by one of my favorite documentarians Rick Sebak. He also produced and narrated the Hot Dog Program, Sandwiches That You Will Like and An Ice Cream Show.

The latest Sebak documentary tkes the viewer to rural garden cemeteries, the famous Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, and the Historic Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia. This much-visited cemetery sold it's last family plot in 1884, but volunteers are working to restore this cemetery to it's once Victorian grandeur. I think my favorite was the Birch Hill Cemetery in Fairbanks, Alaska. This cemetery has a mixture of native and non-native graves. Because of the frozen ground they don't dig graves in the winter. If you die in the winter you are put into cold storage until the spring thaw and then you are buried. Often there are homemade wooden markers and visitors leave a lot of personal objects and mementos atop the graves.

I think my favorite cemetery in my area is Rock Creek Cemetery. Depending on what way I go home from work, I pass it twice a day. Rock Creek Cemetery has a lot of noted folks buried in it's vast acreage, but the cemetery is most famous for the statue most commonly known as Grief. The actually name of the statue sculpted by Augustus St. Gaudens as a memorial to Henry Adams' wife Marian Hooper "Clover" Adams is The Mystery of the Hereafter and The Peace of God that Passeth Understanding.

My dream is to visit Colma, California. Colma, California is about 50 miles from San Francisco. The town actually has more dead citizens than live. It has 17 cemeteries-16 for humans, one for pets. Colma became the location of a large number of cemeteries when San Francisco, the town's powerful neighbor to the north, passed an ordinance in 1900 outlawing the construction of any more cemeteries in the city (mainly because of increased property values making the cost of using land for cemeteries prohibitive), and then passed another ordinance in 1912 evicting all existing cemeteries from city limits. (A similar scenario prevails in New York City's borough of Manhattan, where only one active cemetery still exists — the Trinity Church Cemetery and Crematory, at the intersection of 155th Street and Broadway, on the northwestern edge of Harlem). The relocation of cemeteries from San Francisco to Colma is the subject of A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco's Lost Cemeteries, (2005) a documentary by Trina Lopez.(from Wikipedia)

I always think that we should always remember those that have gone,and carry them in our hearts, but to also remember those that are stil here, that make our lives a little bit better on a daily basis.

"Be happy while you're living, for you're a long time dead".
-Scottish Proverb

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