Since I had made a preliminary trip a couple of days ago to find where the cemetery was, getting there was easier and quicker this go-round. I had gotten off to a slightly later start than I had planned. Driving up to the open gate, I pulled onto the cemetery property a little past 3:00 PM. That gave me a good hour and a half.
As I slowly drove between the black wrought iron posts of the entrance gate, I decided to start in the front section to the right. I knew it was going to take me a few trips to see everything there in my usual scrutinous manner. I never rush. The 'Grove' didn't seem to be as big as the Bonaventure, but the plots...I can't even begin to guess how many graves cover it. The plots are many, and they are full. "Laurel Grove" is so named because of the Laurel trees that dot the property. I am not sure just how many, but a lot of graves date back to the American Civil War.
Hanging a right down the first gravel drive, I passed some small buildings that appeared to be garages of some sort. By the equipment around, I figured it to be where the grounds crew kept their tools. Pulling past, I drove up on the grass at the side of the crunchy, rutted road, and started to explore. As I climbed out of the car, I noticed a sign on the land by the fence that ran around that front section. It said "Stranger Land". There wasn't any description other than that. I figured it meant that the unidentified were buried there...the 'John' and 'Jane Doe's'.
I scarcely knew where to begin. I can spend hours in an old cemetery, but I didn't have 'hours'. I decided to scope out for areas that 'jumped out' at me, and hop-scotch my car along my path (the road). I could hear the thrumming of a lawnmower in the distance, so it appeared that the grounds crew were at work. They obviously had just gotten their start because the area I was in was at least up to mid-calf.
Grave markers peaked out from under grass and dirt. Grave stones stood at off angles, the writing on them in various stages of wear, their edges nicked and worn. Some had the dark browns and stark whites of different types of lichen creating mottled and lacy patterns on them. Various types of trees, many old and a number of those in various stages of decrepitude, stood crookedly, shrouds of moss blowing lightly in the breeze that whispered by. Other than the aforementioned sounds of a lawnmower, there was silence peppered with the occasional chirrup of birds, and the rustle of a squirrel skittering past. Any distractions I had carried in with me were gone. Any nagging voices were quieted. This was not a place of chaos like the outside world, this was a place of neutrality. A place of calm.
As I made my way slowly along (get out of the car; walk around some; get back in the car; drive up a little and park), I caught up with the lawnmower. Another guy with a weed-whacker was working a little farther down in a dense collection of stones and mausoleums. Other than a quick moment of eye contact, we didn't really acknowledge the other's presence. I made the effort to stay out of their way, and they didn't get in mine. There were a couple of times during my trip that a ding-ed up pick up truck came driving by, always when I was in the car on my way to the next stop. The first time we met head-on, and I pulled quickly to the side, the driver flying past in a cloud of road dust. Our eyes connected for a moment, his face stoic but observant. The moment made me think of old horror films where the caretaker watches the unwanted visitor with curious judgement. The other times he passed, I was on foot. I'd hear the growl of the truck's engine as he wheeled past on his way to who knew where.
My only other encounter with the 'living' was when I got out of the car to get a closer look at a large mausoleum, huge in comparison to others. Throughout the areas I had visited there are road sized paths down between the rows of plots that are filled with grass and weeds. They appear to be rarely traveled. As I passed one of these paths, I felt eyes on me. My gaze, as if pulled by a magnet, went to a heavily shadowed spot along the path's edge under a palm tree. It took me a moment to see who my observer was, but looking back at me from around the base of the tree was a big furry black dog. He stood still staring, his wide pink tongue hanging out in the heat of the day. I said hello to him, but he didn't move. I moved on to snap my picture,and a few others. When I passed the area again, the dog was gone.
Today was a good day. Although hot, the heat wasn't to the same extremes as weeks past. The cool breeze helped. The humidity was high, but bearable. I hadn't felt that calm in awhile. Getting philosophical...waxing poetic...I think I did a little of both. Although cemeteries represent death, they also represent life. For me, they are a rest stop between...lives? Worlds? Planes of existence? Cemeteries are places for burying the shell, the vessel. The form that carried the essence of the person(s) being remembered.
The following are some more shots I took today. I'm looking forward to my next visit, which will be in the not too distant future.
(A mausoleum with a front porch...I have never seen one like it before. A part of me was dying to go up there and shoot my camera through that hole in the door, but I couldn't muster up the guts to do it. When I take photos in a cemetery, I try to act with some respect...try not to walk over any graves if it's avoidable. Climbing up there for a shot felt a tad disrespectful to me. I am still curious though...
This is the mausoleum I was walking to when I encountered the dog.)
(There was a lot of wrought iron in the cemetery, much of it in the form of fences around family plots, etc. Wrought iron work is big business here in Savannah. The picture on the left is an example of the white lichen I mentioned earlier. There was quite a lot of the iron work that had a lovely patina to it...shades of brown and green. Other fences were past the patina stage and deep into the rust stage. Brilliant shades of pumpkin and clay coated some fences, the rust devouring them in spots.
As for the picture above on the right, I know nothing about the meaning of this emblem. It says
"K of P" at the bottom. Judging by the helm, shield, etc. in the design, I assume it means "Knights of..." something.)
(This mausoleum was really beautiful. I love the fence.)