Saturday, January 21, 2012

Laurel Grove...North & South...


I weathered the night per my regular state of wakefulness.  Most of my mornings are filled with a lethargy that permeates everything I do...or everything I can muster up enough energy to do.  This morning would be different.  I was filled with a bit of wanderlust.  I was feeling an intense need to "go out among them" (as my father would say), to put in some much needed time engaging in my favorite form of therapy.  Taking photographs in a cemetery.  The moment the thought of an excursion entered my mind, I knew I wasn't going to be able to shake it.  I didn't want to.  The time was so ripe for a trip to one of my 'favorite haunts', it was bordering on spoilage.  No question. After grabbing the camera and some extra batteries, I stopped by Mickey D's for a hot mocha, and headed to parts relatively unknown.  A cemetery I still hadn't visited.  The southern portion of one of my favorite graveyards, the Laurel Grove Cemetery.

Laurel Grove was created around 1850, to deal with the growing overflow of the other old cemeteries in Savannah as they reached full capacity.  Named for the Laurel Oak trees native to the area, from the beginning Laurel Grove was created as a segregated cemetery, and has two distinct sections:  The northern half which is the 'white' section, and the southern half which is the 'black' section. This is the deep south, and unfortunately that was a nuance of life at that time. The southern half is the one I hadn't visited yet.  I was feeling rather excited about exploring what was a new section for me.


SOUTH

Having lived here in Savannah for a few years now, I feel a bit more comfortable about finding my way to places without Googling detailed directions.  Since I have already visited the Northern half of the cemetery on a few occasions, finding the southern half wasn't difficult.  As I pulled through the main gate, it was immediately noticeable that this half was not as grand or maintained as well as the northern half.


Many of the headstones were quite beautiful, showing their age with wear and discoloration.  Many of the dividing walls and wrought iron fences were in disrepair, bricks laying strewn about and iron rails hanging half off poles, ornate in design and covered in a green hued patina.  The only statue I came upon is the one in the photographs at the head of the post.


There was quite a bit of space between the grave markers that were visible, but I'm sure that there are a number of unmarked graves below ground in many of the open spaces.  As I drove through the yard, I passed some recent burials as the cemetery is still in operation today.


Although a tad understated, it is a beautiful cemetery.  The tall moss covered trees, now devoid of greenery for the most part, really added a mood that was lovely.  As I explored, I kept thinking about what a shame it is that this southern half of Laurel Grove isn't maintained as well as the northern.  There is a lot of history there, as well.  I hope that things change.

One constant when I exited the car to walk around, were the dry and prickly Sweet Gum balls that covered the ground every direction I looked.  They look more formidable than they actually are...


Exploring the southern cemetery didn't take as much time as I predicted before actually seeing it, so since I was in the area and there were still a few hours before gate closing time at 5:00PM, I decided to visit the northern cemetery again.


NORTH

Having been there on other occasions, I thought I had seen about all there is to see in the more ornate and more full world of Laurel Grove north.  I was to prove myself wrong.  My other visits found the cemetery fairly empty, and this visit was no exception.  There were a few workmen in a couple of spots around the periphery (not sure what they were doing, but bulldozers were involved), but that was it.  The majority of the area was mine to explore.  As I gradually made my way toward the corner farthest from the entrance, I started noticing the 'ghosts' of traffic in lesser traveled drive-throughs.  I have an Audi TT, so maneuvering these much narrower paths wasn't a problem.  I suspect they are more for maintenance purposes, but using them instead of the main drags added so much to my experience.  There were graves literally right against the edges of the drives.  It felt like being in another world.  The traffic and homes that sat just on the other side of the fences surrounding the cemetery ceased to exist.  It was incredibly peaceful.


By driving down these less traveled roads, I discovered a lot of new and beautiful things to photograph.  Wrought iron fences, orange with a rusty patina; beautiful and old headstones clustered among the majestic, moss covered trees; statues hidden inside cocoons of brush.  


The majority of that portion of the day was overcast, so when the sun started to peak out and shaft down, I decided that was my signal to head home.  What a perfect day...I definitely won't let so much time pass before my next visit.






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