Monday, November 4, 2013

Memento mori...

Click here for more on
Resurrection Blogfest II.
A memento is a remembrance, or a reminder, of something. I'm using it in two senses for this post, the first: a reminder to all that my Resurrection Blogfest II is this week, on November 7. Folks who've already signed up, make sure you've got the badge up on your sideboards—if you don't, you're not eligible for the random drawing/an Amazon gift card. For a refresher of the hop's rules, and for those who've not yet signed up, but would like to, click here.

Mori is Latin for "die" or "death." Thus a memento mori is an admonition that death comes for one and all. This is the second reminder, one which hit me, hard, when I went to snap the pic for the badge.

On a day off, I betook myself to a rather largish cemetery in Manhattan. It occupies at least two whole city blocks, with Broadway cutting through the middle. Banners hung in several places, proclaiming it an "active" cemetery, which made me second guess my decision to go in and snap piccies of headstones. Or at least wish I'd brought a machete with me, or somethin'.

Anyway, a tall stone wall surrounds the place, so unless you've been there before, you've no idea what you'll find once within. The neighborhood was absurdly quiet. As I approached the open gate, with maybe 45 minutes to spare before the place closed up shop for the day, I felt my first serious misgivings. It was a beautiful, sunny day. I could see the Hudson River from where I strolled. But I was about to enter a city of the dead and, even though I had a clear purpose, I suddenly questioned what the hell I was doing there.

I went in, nonetheless. Another internal stone wall blocked the view as I made my way up the circular drive. All was silent but for birdsong, and then I turned the corner. Gently rolling hills and leafy trees met my eyes, several railed stairways led to points up and down, and tombstones, statues of mourning angels, and mausoleums dotted the lush green grasses. I paused to turn 'round, take it all in. My omnipresent tinnitus seemed to ring louder in my ears than even at bedtime. Every atom in my body seemed to riot, screaming at me to get the fuck out of there, what was I, crazy???

But I needed a blogfest badge, and I'd trekked all the way the hell over there so, damn it, I wasn't about to leave without some pictures. Almost panting from the heebie-jeebies, I decided to head past some of the mausoleums, which were up a slope, and remember feeling grateful for the blacktop pathway. Didn't want to tread on the grass and inadvertently disrespect another's remains. And then I felt as though I did that anyway, just by virtue of being alive, in this sacred place, on this gorgeous indian summer day. I took breath, I moved my legs and swung my arms, surely that in itself was an affront to those made dust by time. I began to fancy that if a horde of those yet undusty were to arise to expel me from their home, I wouldn't blame them. Sure, I'd screech myself into a stupor, but I wouldn't blame them.

That symbol is IHS,
a Greek abbreviation of Jesus.
I got some pics of the mausoleums, told myself that the air I sucked in through my nose did not smell strange at all, why should it? Then I backtracked till I was closer to the entrance. I checked my phone compulsively for the time, wondering if groundskeepers typically cruised through the joint to check for (living) folks before closing up the main gate. I finally ran into someone, a handsome young security guard, who told me I should've signed in when I first arrived. I checked my phone, saw it was 20 minutes till closing, and was about to argue the point but then shrugged and followed him down a hill and into an office building. It occurred to me that this was exactly how a horror movie might begin, with an unsuspecting idiot following any old dude in a uniform into the "office," only to get dunked into a tub of embalming fluid. I signed the guest book, allowed him to lead me back out, and finally decided to get the hell out of dodge, as my poor beleaguered nerves really could take no more.

I hiked up a long-ass flight of steps and then scurried along the winding drive, the security guard not far behind me, until I exited via the main gate. Within moments, I heard it clang shut behind me as the young man locked up for the day. My heart racing, I made for the nearest bus stop and waited, wishing desperately that I'd chosen some other point in my life to have quit smoking.

That visit yielded me an acceptable image for my blogfest badge, but left me in a rather shell-shocked state. I boarded the M5 and cruised down the Upper West Side, music blaring in my headphones and thoughts racing through my mind. One thought beat out all the rest and settled deeply into my being, and it was this: ultimately, we don't really know what there is at the end. All we can know, and all we can truly ever have, however fleeting, is a spark of love. Given to us, perhaps, by some divine being, we shelter its easily doused light for a brief time, then pass it on to another. You give it to a lover, your flesh and blood, or to a stranger who gets in your way but you let by, rather than knocking past him with an elbow to his kidney. All we can ever truly have is that love, and we don't have it for long. It seems the only thing we can do, really, is be warmed by it and then warm others with it, while we can.






20 comments:

  1. I'll be participating too. And I also have a cemetery post prepared ;-)

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  2. When you first mentioned the guard and having to go sign in, my first thought was "No! Don't go down there!"

    Love the pictures.

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  3. It is how horror movies start. And you survived! You could call the movie, "The Badge."

    Pop on over to my blog today for something a little special. ;)

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  4. Are you that scared in all cemeteries or just that one? I could spend hours and hours shooting them here. I love old cemeteries! The oldest one in my hometown (dates to the late 1600s) has a permanent musty smell that hangs over it in all weather. Even if you walk by on the street you can smell it.

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    1. I dunno that it matters, JoJo - I think any place housing the deceased may wig me out. As to your local cemetery with the musty smell: ick. :-)

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  5. I'm not fond of cemeteries either, but more because they bring sad memories. The tombstones and memorials can be amazing though.

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  6. Greetings human, Mina,

    I did me a lil' ol' resurrection shuffle and headed on over to your blog. Don't let the heebie-jeebies get to you. I can dig this article and no grave consequences will be had with such an undertaking.

    Although my human and I would rather be humiliated in the public square, than pawticipate in a blogfest, we shall duly pawmote your pawst. Yes, even on 'Farcebook', or 'Farcebark', as I call it.

    Pawsitive wishes,

    Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet superstar! :)

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    1. Aw, thanks for all the pawmotions! ;-)

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  7. There's just something about graveyards...nice pics, glad you got your badge.

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    1. Yah, me too: I'd hate to have gone through all that and NOT gotten a badge! :-)

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  8. So I'm taking it you don't visit cemeteries often - unusual for a Goth chick - this post was really rather profound and moving in places although I did think it was leading up to some line that you turned around on the M5 and a dead body had followed you out or something macabre. :) - and rather spookily the power on my laptop died the second I wrote that re a dead body...hmmm

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    1. You have to remember the "Lite" in "GothMomLite." ;-)

      And thanks. The experience was equal parts sickening and moving for me. The bits of humor notwithstanding, the "message" I took away, I felt so strongly that I wanted to pass it along.

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  9. I've walked through graveyards just to look at the headstones. They're pretty small, and some places are pretty creepy. The old graves are fascinating. Your trip sounds super creepy, though. LOL. *I* was creeped out just reading you post!

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    1. Well, maybe I'm just easily creeped out, when all is said and done. :-)

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  10. Fantastic pictures!!! I love visiting cemeteries too. Some of them have amaZing headstones!

    Hugs!

    Valerie

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