Category Archives: tomb stones

Haunting by the Riverside

The second day of December is not yet winter, with traces of muted versions of the fall colors lingering, especially in the trees and grass of an old cemetery, almost forgotten.  On that date this year, Yang and I finally got to visit the Riverside Cemetery in Waterbury, Ct.  When passing by on the highway, we would always look down on the Victorian Gothic chapel and monuments to those lost in death, leaving us fascinated by its haunting, melancholy beauty.  Finally, we managed to make a trip there to explore.  We  were not disappointed.

Of course, we stopped first in Seymore for tea at Tea with Tracey, where I enjoyed a delicious fig and cherry tea and Yang took pleasure in a nice green tea.  The array of tea sandwiches was yummy, and soon we were well fortified for our expedition into the past of Waterbury through its monuments to the passed. The day was appropriate, with grey skies and a nip in the air.  As you entered, you are greeted with an exquisite monument to the Elton family. The bronze has turned a soft green, but the female figures flanking either side of the memorial urn are beautifully articulated.  On one side is a shrouded figure of grief at death and on the other a hopeful one looking upward serenely.  The execution of the figures is graceful and feeling.  Interestingly, the handles of the urn are cherubs, somewhat menacing in demeanor. I think it’s kind of neat that the man’s name is John Elton. Reverse the order and you have . . .
You can find the actual grave of the Elton family deeper into the cemetery. Clearly this was one of the leading families of Waterbury in the 19th and early 20th centuries.  I heard that there was even a highly regarded Elton Hotel in the town quite some time back.  What has happened to them since?  I can’t tell you. Perhaps there are some Waterbury historians reading this blog who would like to take that one? I’d love to know!
There were several others who were clearly prominent in the town, indicated by the plaques on their graves or the imposing nature of their monuments.  One interesting sort was the Civil War veteran John Lyman Chatfield.  This plaque tells the story of his wounding on the battlefield and subsequent death back in Waterbury.  The bronze statue of him in uniform further attests to his history as a Civil Warrior.  The Chatfield family must have been one with tremendous clout in the city to be able to leave such an imposing monument.  Any local historians want to fill us in on more about him?

 

 

The Spencer family also must have been amongst the movers and shakers of 19th-century Waterbury.  Witness the tall monument with the carefully carved likeness in relief.  This guy must have worked awfully hard for his money and position because he does look rather cranky, don’t you think?
Here we have a doctor who must have had a great deal of success and done much good.  The description of his work helping children reveals his value to the population.  Perhaps that’s likely the reason for the sleeping children on the corners of the face of this elaborate tombstone.  They are a little creepy though, don’t you think?  I guess that’s why they’re so Victorian, the era of photographing your dead all dressed up to remember them by – if you were upper middle class.
And of course the BPOE was a force to be reckoned with in those days as well.  If you were a high-antler and did a lot of good, then you’d certainly be properly memorialized, so check out this monument.  I don’t remember of the chap honored here, unfortunately, but I had to get several shots of this elk.  How does he compare with the elk in the Edson Cemetery of Lowell’s ?  Click here for an earlier blog to make a comparison.  The one in Lowell does have the advantage of being cleaned and returned to its original bronze glory.  Anyway, I can’t help providing you with several shots of this wonderful statue. It’s so cool how his base is shaped as a rock crag and is set on the hillside, so that he presides over the rolling slopes of the cemetery.

 

And roll those slopes do!  I think navigating that terrain is half the reason the injured ligaments in my knee haven’t healed yet! You notice that geography immediately on entering the cemetery, with mausoleums banking upwards to a bleak late autumn sky, almost as grey as their stone. I want to share images of the slopes of stone rolling  through the cemetery, topped with trees whose mostly denuded branches scratch across the grey sky, the grass rusty brown, and an occasional shrub or tree bearing the maroons or dark orange of late fall.  Definitely the perfect setting for a mystery or a tale of terror.  I just have to work this place into a novel, too!
Of course the statuary revealed the entrancing work of inestimable craftsmen.  There were so many haunting statues of women.  For example, regard the deep feeling of this woman who guards the entrance to one family’s mausoleum.  Is this an actual likeness to a wife or mother of the N.J. Welton family who preserved that family’s secure home?  Was the truth of that family portrayed in this woman’s intense devotion, or are any conflicts whitewashed here for posterity?

 

 

This statue of woman and child from another branch of the Welton family seems to portray a sad loss.  Did mother and child pass when both were young or are they immortalized as eternally young in the next world?  The child seems afraid, burying herself in the comforting lap of her mother, who has one arm  around her but raises her hand hopefully, while the other holds a book and looks into the beyond. Is she holding the Book of Life or the Bible?  Her steadfast stare and gentle but firm hold on her daughter  indicates her guidance of her family toward redemption.  This seems a statuary representation if the Victorian Angel in the House.

 

It’s hard to select which other statues to show you,  there are so many beautiful, poignant ones, so I’ll try to select the more unique. I was fascinated by the bronze cast of this woman, whose plaque celebrated her firm virtues.  The photo doesn’t quite convey how massive the bronze form is. Her hair style, dress, and sandalled feet portray her as a Roman matron.  so, clearly, she was a powerful force in her family, devoted to her duties there and preserving them.  Again, the book she holds indicates learning and wisdom, though perhaps only in religion if it’s a Bible.  More knowledge of the family and this woman might indicate she was actually learned in areas outside the woman’s domestic sphere.  Anyone know something of her?
This statue was particularly intriguing, for the base was not a smooth column, but in the shape of a cairn, with the information of the family’s deceased inscribed on the individual stones. I’m fascinated by the creativity of the masons who contributed to the Riverside Cemetery.  Their statuary is amongst the most unique I’ve encountered in my explorations of cemeteries.

 

Now this statuary tremendously intrigued me.  Coming upon it from behind, both Yang and I thought it was a spectral figure in a shroud, a figure implying the mystery of the world beyond this. However, as we came around the front of the monument, we realized that what you saw from the front was a partially  draped urn.  This leads me to wonder if the artist intentionally played with our perceptions, implying the ineffablity of pinning down or defining death.  Was he, perhaps, implying our thoughts of ghosts and spirits turn out to be nothing more than dust in a dead stone urn?  Or was he implying that perception of death as final dissolution into dust and cold stone was a superficial view that we have to look behind or beyond to accept the mystery of the world beyond? Maybe I just think to much?  I was an English professor; it’s an occupational hazard.
 I’ll just wrap up with  an image that delights me in my most melancholy, Keatsian vein.

 

Forest Hills Cemetery: Touching or Eerie? Both?

Yang and I found a gorgeous old cemetery in Utica, NY when we went to the Joan and Constance Bennett film festival in Rome this past summer.  However, life has just been so busy with all the prep for Dark Horse‘s release, then it’s actual release, that I just didn’t have time to put together a pictorial blog on it.  Maybe that’s just as well, because aren’t we in just the right season for a sepulchral tour?
So, welcome to Forest Hill Cemetery.  You know this is going to be one neat burial ground when you enter through these wonderfully Gothic gates.  And the cemetery is definitely well-named, winding up above Utica on an extensive tree-shrouded, green hillside.  Maybe we don’t have flaming autumn colors; however, the misty green mossyness perfectly emanates a Keatsian melancholy.
The statuary here was marvelously haunting:  women, angels, urns, unique mausoleums, and one guy backed by a tree that seemed like something out of a Lovecraft piece.  Let’s start with the angels.  The first one that I noted, just getting out of my car (me not the angel), was a uniquely colored creature.   It wasn’t as large as many or the others and the tip of one wing was chipped.  Yet it’s lines were straight and powerful, grace and strength in a soft glow of gold.
Yet, there were other more traditionally imposing figures.  This angel rose above a long bench that curved like his wings.  It’s an imposing figure that makes you uneasily recall the Dr. Who injunction, “Don’t blink!  On the other hand, this  angel below sits peacefully atop the Ives family monument exuding comfort and repose.  If it came to life, it would offer gentleness and compassion.  The day’s sky, still a tad cloudy, softens the gleaming white of its stone.

 

This family must, indeed, have had clout!  Not only do they have a fancy sepulchre, but they have two angels guarding the way to their entombed remains.  Facing us, you can see that one angel holds a book, while, in the case of the one with its back to us, you can just make out its trumpet.  Clearly that divine guy is ready to blow the horn to announce Judgment Day – or it’s Harry James.

 

 

Speaking of sepulchres, there are some really neat fancy ones here.  This one makes me think of a stone beehive.  It also has a medieval look. The stones fit together like the blocks of a castle.  There are spires and arches like in a Gothic cathedral.  Even fleur de lis are carved on joining stones on the sides and back. Note the brass door gone green. The graceful furl of draping ribbons carved on the doors evokes the unfurling of a gentle melancholy sigh, doesn’t it?  Here’s a closeup so you can better perceive the detail.  Notice how flowers trail from the end of the ribbons.  A symbol of life’s fragility like a flower or of life’s renewal of flowers from seeds shed by flowers past/passed?

 

This mausoleum is more in the art deco vein.  It’s shape is square-angled with blocks sharply cut.  The woman on its metal door, though Grecian garbed, has the stylized posture of art deco figures.  Pressing herself to a door carved with a gate of flowered shapes holding her out, her stance and expression are quietly yet powerfully sad.  Is she reaching for the lost departed or is she a departed soul reaching back for life?
The statues of women representing faith, loss, families also abound here in some beautiful forms. I loved the view of this weather-stained woman peering down the hillside, through waving grass and dark green trees into the world beyond her, outside the grave.  In a closer view from the front, you can see she supports stalks of harvested grain.  The soul harvested from this earth?  Or her life’s harvest of experience, carried into the next realm?

 

Here sits a pensive female, pure white against the greenery.  Though she marks the reality of death,  there is peace in her expression. Does she represent the soul’s passing into a realm beyond suffering to a place of calm contemplation or the quiet remembrance that those left behind have of loved ones   now  beyond the veil? I love capturing a close up of her features against the vivid blue streaked with the  gauzy whiteness of clouds.
This woman is celebrated as a dignified Roman matron.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here an angelic figure points an attentive Victorian mother and plump toddler heavenward.  There are no wings on the rising figure, but there are definitely suggestions of her angelic nature. Interestingly, her trumpet points downward.  A reference to the family in the world of the living below? The sculpture beautifully creates the illusion of the female figure rising through the sweep of her garments. I can’t help thinking that perhaps this monument commemorates the loss of a young wife and a child.  Is the rising figure a younger daughter who had angelic qualities?
Then there is this far from traditional carving of gleaming white marble.  The figure does not seem  carved so much as  transforming  stone into a vibrant, pure flame  consuming a body  into a higher, ethereal form.  Is her expression joyous, pained, both – combining the two in the ineffable constitution of the sublime.

 

 

 

Of course, we can’t forget about the gents, either.  This chap must have been something, taking up the center of an enormous monument that surrounds him as if part of a capitol building or cathedral.  Gothic arches and fancy urns denote his prominent family standing. You can see me standing there in front providing scale. The book he holds in his hand and his far away look seem to mark him as a scholar of some sort, or at the very least, a man of great learning.
I’m not sure who this guy was, but he certainly must have been important to get such a fancy statue of himself.  He must have been wealthy, too, to be so well fed.  Reminds me of Sidney Greenstreet.  What do you think? Something else that’s neat is that if you look carefully behind him, you can see a tree that almost seems to have a cyclops eye; a long, bowed nose-trunk; and menacing upraised arms.  The image didn’t photograph as well as it should have, but it’s still very Lovecraftian. Below is a picture of just that just shows that eldritch, daemonic tree, appearing to stride forth on an unspeakable quest of relentless destruction.  And here’s a link to a list of Lovecraft’s favorite adjectives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve got to say that this tree also  looks as if it’s up to no good, eldritch or otherwise.  There’s a horror story in here somewhere.

There are still more wonderful monuments of unique shapes and beautiful scenes of a sea of stones, but I’ve just no more space.  Perhaps, I can do a second edition on this cemetery.  We’ll see.  October is a busy month.  Hmm, what’s that I hear tapping at my window pane?  I hope it’s nothing cyclopean or eldritch.
Say “so long” to Forrest Hill as we drive out those wonderful Gothic Gates!

Celtic Crosses, Funerary Statues in a Winter Cemetery

As winter, we hope, is wrapping up and March approaches, I thought I’d post a couple of last minute winter visits to some of the local cemeteries to show you some of their lovely funerary work.  Last December, when we were first treated to snow-and when snow still seemed like a treat-, I took some neat shots in St. John’s Catholic Cemetery in Worcester.  I was particularly struck by not only the statuary but some reliefs and some Celtic crosses.
First, check out some of the neat  reliefs.  This one is graced with a stone head of Christ looking lovingly down at a stone chalice of His blood.  The Celtic cross also has the austere yet graceful petals of flowers carved upon it.  The vivid French blue of the winter sky bespeaks the crispness of the day.

 

There are many styles of Celtic Crosses rising out of the snow and winter-browned grass of this cemetery.  Many also are adorned with striking, symbolic carvings.  Others may  hold statuary.  This Celtic cross particularly caught my eyes, with it’s intricate  interlocking designs along its body and its distinctive symbolic figures at the top.  The snow beautifully reflects the cool purity of the sky’s winter blue.

 

A closer study of the figures in the upper central section of the cross reveals the creatures symbolizing the four gospel writers on each branch of the cross, with the knot of eternity and the Infinite in the center and praying angels at the very top,  From the top and moving clockwise, you have the winged ox/calf (Luke), the man (Matthew), the griffin/lion (Mark), and the eagle (John)- their wings and halos signifying their divine nature.

You can additionally see Celtic crosses and other monuments honoring priests in the cemetery.

 

 

 

 

The statuary is also quite striking in the winter light.  Here, a woman clings to a cross for salvation or for comfort at her losses.  The stone is weathered smooth, the statue almost featureless.  Perhaps a comment on the  transitoriness of life.

 

 

 

A time-smoothed lamb, couched within the limited protection of this monument further testifies to the relentless passage of time over even the young whom parents see as embodying a kind of immortality. It’s posture is not even terribly peaceful, seeming to indicate tightening oneself up in fear or cold.  Maybe both.

 

 

 

Then, there is this triumphant angel-who seems to be wearing a bustle in the height of 1880s fashion.  Her broken wing unintentionally testifies to the limits of human commemorations.

 

Still, when I tried to capture her face with  a shot from the front, the glow of the sun created this divine image that perhaps suggests that true immortality and enlightenment come from beyond this earth, transcending the capability of our mortal vision.  Ya think?

 

Summer Peregrinations: Joan Bennett and Sherlock Holmes

Last week, Yang and I made one of our periodic visits to Joan Bennett’s final resting spot in Lyme, Ct.  We had planned to try to clear up any overgrowth as well as pay our respects, but, fortunately, the caretakers had mown the cemetery and Alixandra Lindberg (on a brave February visit) had put things on the grave stone in order.  In fact, I can’t praise Alixandra  enough for the fabulous job she did on Joan’s headstone.  You can see that clearly in this picture.  A tip of one of my many hats to you, Alixandra (I have about 136 of them!).  There was an old Christmas wreath at the grave, but we didn’t remove it because we didn’t know if a family member had left it. Doing so felt intrusive.
The cemetery is a small one, but it’s pretty. We even saw some Phoebes flitting about – birds not girls.  Across the road used to be a riding stable, now closed, sadly.  I used to think Joan would have liked that location, given her experience as a rider – except for  the Gilda Grey incident.
All we really needed to do was clip some overhanging grass with scissors and brush away some dirt.  Yang did the clipping and I did the brushing.  Here’s photographic evidence of me with a brush, anyway.  By the way, Yang made that gorgeous blue blouse I’m wearing.  There’s little he can’t do!

 

We didn’t just go to see Joan – that’s a two hour ride for a twenty-minute visit.  Afterwards, we went to the nearby town of Essex and had lunch at the Griswold Inn:  socially distancing of course.  We also wore our masks – except when we were eating. Then we drove to fairly nearby  Gillette Castle, built by William Gillette at the turn into the twentieth century.  Gillette was a famous Sherlock Holmes  for his day.  Kind of an early twentieth-century Benjamin, er, Benedict Cumberbund, um, bach – you know whom I mean!  Fortunately, there were few people around, so we hiked the extensive wooded grounds, avoided poison ivy,  and saw many Bluebirds!  Gorgeous! We also strolled around the outside of the castle and enjoyed the gardens and the extraordinary views of the Connecticut River below.  Just for fun, we had taken the car ferry across the river to get to the castle.  The ride was under ten minutes, but hey, nice river views. Even nicer views from the terrace of the castle.  Imagine waking up every morning to these images.

So, it was a lovely expedition and a lovely way to spend the day.  You may not see us wearing our masks in the pictures, but that’s only because we took them when no one else was around at all!  We also picked places to go where infectious incidents were low, as well as a time of day and day of the week when most people would not be visiting.  No dangerous interchanges!  So, I hope you enjoyed this little virtual tour and adventure.

The Marvelous Marble of the Barre Cemetery

I hadn’t had a chance to do up a blog of this wonderful, remarkable cemetery in Barre, VT before,  which Yang and I visited three years ago in the Fall.  What makes the spot so unique?  Well, this town in Vermont is famous for its marble quarrying and this local product is beautifully worked to produce the most creative, unique monuments.  Many of these take on unique forms to honor the life work or interests of those they honor in death.
Thus,  you can find a musician with this apt memorial.  I wonder what instrument this person played?

 

 

 

 

Appropriately, this man was a sculptor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you’re a fan of Dr.  Who, don’t blink. Otherwise,  you could be pursued by those pesky stone aliens by car or plane.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fukuda family chose to celebrate their Japanese heritage with this rendition of a Japanese house.

This man seems to be dreaming of or lovingly guided by the spirit of his late wife, though her wafting out of cigarette smoke probably wouldn’t please the Surgeon General.

There are also some startlingly unique works of funerary art, such as the following:

 

 

 

The blocks
The pyramids

 

 

 

 

The open book, as in his life was  an. . . all in French.

And there were more traditional statues, equally beautiful. There was the Pieta.

 

 

 

 

 

Here are the traditional weeping women.

 

 

 

 

 

I particularly love the detail you can see in this closeup shot.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And we can never forget the angels and urns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

There were also striking columns

  

 

and mausoleums
and reliefs:

 

All were lovely to see on a clear Vermont Sunday morning, with the fall colors tinting the trees in gorgeous contrast to the blue skies and white wisps of clouds.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Definitely, Don’t Blink! Evergreen Cemetery Portland, Maine

So, at last I have a moment to finally post a blog on the Evergreen Cemetery in Portland, Maine.  According to the cemetery’s web site, Evergreen was created in 1854, designed by Charles H. Howe, in the rural landscape style initiated in this country at Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Yang and I went to Evergreen twice on our trip. The first time was on  a beautiful sunny and breezy Friday afternoon.  This was the visit where got the most pictures.  I was not disappointed by the greenery or the Romantic/Gothic sculptures atop the graves. 
Here we have some beautiful reliefs. One of my favorite reliefs was this dove, ancient with a a touch of bright orange lichen. We saw other statuary painted even more with this orange, as well as the more expected dark or pale green.  There were also these more modern doves, sculpted in bronze and gracefully merged into the granite memorial, along a twining bronze vine.  Lovely!

 

 

 

 

 

You can tell that these are the graves of seafaring people.  They don’t call it Portland for nothing!  The first photo shows a relief of an anchor and the second of a mast on the waves.  This second seems worn down and weathered more than the first.  Yang and I had a bit of a time trying to discern exactly what it was at first.  Dr. Physicist was the first to figure it out!  What would my Dad from the Navy say?
There were also some neat mausoleums!  These two are in graceful classical style.

This one is modern with a lovely carved dove and beautiful stained glass.  Like the mausoleums above, it maintains a sense of stillness, grace, and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here’s my favorite part to put on display, the one that give Dr. Whovians nightmares!  The angels and other figures. There were quite a number of grieving young women, young women pointing  souls victoriously upward to salvation, and – of course – angels.  Here are some of the most interesting.
A woman stands proudly for victory of the soul over grief and death, reaching into the blue and rising up with the ascent of the powerful tree behind her.

 

 

 

 

This victorious female incarnation of the soul bring us back to the seafaring nature of the Portland.  She holds an anchor, not to weigh her down but to assert the integrity of the sailing family whose life she honors and whose life after death she raises.

 

 

Another grieving female leans on a cross, perhaps embodying the soul’s dependence on Christ’s sacrifice on the holy cross.  Does she grieve for her own death, those she leaves behind, the stains on her soul, or for the death of her Savior?  I’ll also call your attention to the brilliant orange lichen encrusting the carven figure.  It lends beauty, but the lichen is also a life form that thrives on the monument to death, eating away at it to survive.  Dust to dust or dead stone to plant life?

 

 

As a writer, I find this angel especially interesting, for it is a writer, too!  Is it improving on Milton, telling the REAL story of our Paradise lost?  Is it recording the history of the family interred around the monument?  Do we need to climb up on the monument to see what’s actually written there – not advisable!

 

Then, here are a few gravestones I found interesting.  A globe, some Celtic crosses, an urn – enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also some ponds to the rear of the cemetery that back up to a woody nature trail.  On the second day, we had the good fortune to see this guy in one of the ponds!

Wouldn’t all the maples in this graveyard look gorgeous in autumn’s colorful splendor?  I’ve got to make it back here then!

 

Portland Mini-Vacation

The other weekend we had a fun mini-vacation in Portland, Maine.  It was only two days and one overnight, but we had a great time.  Luckily, the weather was beautiful!  Sunny and cool: quite comfortable.  We stopped in Portsmouth for lunch at  White Heron Tea And Coffee on our drive up.  Click here for my review.
The first day we got settled and then checked out the Evergreen Cemetery in the afternoon. There was lots of beautiful statuary.  I was also lucky enough to spot a Thrush at one point and, later, a musk rat swimming in one of the cemetery ponds. The second day, we came back and did an early nature walk.  We did hear a lot of fine birdsong – but sighting was another matter.  Nevertheless, we saw a beautiful white crane. I’ll set up a blog on the cemetery visit later.  I’m really hoping to come back here in the fall to get the gorgeous colors.

 

The second day, we also visited the Victoria House.  It’s a spectacular building with lots of intriguing trompe l’oeuil  effects in the architecture.  I’m including some pictures of the stained glass.  You can see the pelican cutting its breast to provide blood to feed the young – an important Medieval and Renaissance type for Christ.

 

In additional to walking the twisty, cobble stone streets and enjoying old-New-England ambience, we visiting one of the harbor walks where we had beautiful views and were repeatedly mocked by, you guessed it, Mockingbirds! People who know Portland can identify the islands better than I can.  I definitely think a harbor cruise should be on the agenda for the next visit.

 

 

Yang particularly got a kick out of the narrow-gauge coal-powered steam train that you could ride along the harbor.  We didn’t this time, but I hope we can do so on our next trip – again, I’m hoping for an autumn visit!  Here’s a video Cecil B. DeYang made.
Of course we could refuel with delicious exotic sustenance and tea at the Dobra Tea room.  Check out my review here. This was the least awful of the pictures Yang took of me there.  At least the food looks great!

 

Adventures in the Lowell Cemetery, Part 1

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The weekend before Halloween, Yang and paid a visit to the Lowell Cemetery.  It isn’t the oldest burial ground in the city, but it’s probably the most Gothic, designed in the Romantic style, after Mt. Auburn in Cambridge, MA.  The fall colors were uneven in Lowell, as in most of central Mass.  However, we were able to get some lovely background shots, as you can see here.  Yang took this photo of the gate and a beautiful sugar maple next to it, from the inside of the cemetery.

 

The combination of fall colors and crypts and monuments made some wonderfully seasonable shots, especially since the cemetery has some unique and beautifully crafted monuments.  I love the  highlight the orange-flame gives to this crypt.

 

 

 

 

I was especially taken by this pillar topped with a kind of medieval church spire.   The burnt oranges and reds of the scenery create beautiful surroundings in the amber autumn sunset.    I was so impressed with the top of this monument, that I had to get a close up of it.  Definitely reminiscent of something out of the High Middle Ages.
Of course there were also some shots of the trees that were absolutely enthralling, too!

 

 

I was particularly taken with this relief carving of an angel ministering to penitent soul, on a stone nestled by a green pine against a background of soft  orange and golden foliage.

 

 

 

The relief carvings were some of the most striking and beautiful monuments that we viewed in the Lowell Cemetery.  One of the first ones that I noticed was of this angel presiding over the tomb with a cross.  Like many of the statues and monuments, it revealed its antiquity by the way mold, lichen, and moss had blurred its features. I love the way the sinking sun lends an gleam of divinity over the guardian angel.

 

 

The Parker crypt is guarded by two figures carved on either side of the entrance.  I’m not sure who or what the two figures represent beyond sorrow at death. Since we have a major thoroughfare in Lowell called Parker Street, and this tomb is on the elaborates side, the family must have been quite a powerful one in Lowell. No one named Ben, May, or Peter was listed on the site.

 

 

This stone combines media, stone and bronze.  Does the figure represent Death or Fate, quieting our questions and fears about what comes next with a finger to the lips.  I’m not sure if the form is male or female.  It’s more solemn than reassuring – a sober warning to the living that no secrets, hopes, or words escape from those who’ve passed beyond this vale of tears – or vale of soul-making if you’re into Keats.  Or maybe even this is a warning to give up asking questions when you enter into a realm beyond thought and languages as we know them.  Perhaps a close up will help us better read the warning of this eerie being, shroud ethereally encircling it.

 

 

Arguably my favorite monument is the verdigris-bronze piece on the front of this stone monument arching up from the hillside.  Who is buried here?  What is the person’s past?  Beliefs? to inspire such a powerful and eerie figure.  She seems like a sybil spreading her capes in warning – or is she an embodiment of Death come to sweep down on us and enfold us in her flowing, boundless cape?  I really need to do some research on the history of these wonderful works.  Are there any sculptures by famous or venerated artists in this cemetery?  At any rate, she definitely deserves a close up.

 

I have lots more photos to share, however, I don’t want you to succumb to cemetery overload.  This is enough delicious melancholy for now.  But don’t you think this place is so perfect a setting for parts of a Gothic novel?  I already have some ideas “haunting” my brain.  Anyway, I promise you another blog with more pictures soon.

Swan Point Twilight – Don’t Blink!

Last weekend, Yang and I paid a twilight visit to the Swan Point Cemetery in Providence.  It’s a beautiful cemetery on the bay, encircled and populated by graceful old trees.  The graveyard is designed in the Romantic style initiated by the Mt. Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge and emulated by others, such as Forest Hills in Jamaica Plain, the Lowell Cemetery (guess where), and Sleepy Hollow in Concord – Tarrytown, too!

This style is characterized by sloping greens; stately, shady trees; ponds; and monuments created to reflect both the sadness of loss and the serenity of eternal peace.  Keats and Shelley would just die, so to speak, for a sojourn here.

This cemetery is surrounded on the street side by a stone wall of large rocks.  So, it captures the New England tradition of dry stone walls, but adds solemn majesty by using boulders as its dry stones.  I love this configuration near the entrance.  We came here close to dusk because Rosie and ‘Tasha kept us out later than usual walking in the yard.  So, we had to hurry  a bit and were unable to stroll and take photographs at our leisure.

 

 

 

The posture and positioning of many of these statues seem to tell a moral about death.  Perhaps women were usually chosen to immortalize in keeping with Poe’s dictum that the saddest thing in the world is the death of a beautiful woman.  Each of these beautiful figures seems to convey a message back to the living.   This woman looks down on our world, bearing a veiled gift.  The broken column signifies a life cut off.  I’m not sure where I learned about the column, but I do remember it was a legitimate source.

 

 

 

 

 

Here, a woman peers off into the beyond, urging us to look upward and outward, past this vale of tears – or is that veil of tears?  Either makes sense in this context.  She also holds an anchor on her far side.  Does it symbolize that she is anchored to us, though she is looking to attain something beyond the earthly realm – or is she from a seafaring family?

 

 

I’m particularly interested in this figure, looking down at us from the heights of a pillar, perhaps symbolizing she is no longer anchored to this earth but soars above us toward the empyrean.  Still, her gaze of concern is fixed on us suffering mortals below.

I found this stylized monument of an angel  particularly intriguing.  Yang thought it had an Egyptian look, but I find it much more art deco.  It seems to flow down into the ground – or does it shoot upward?I didn’t have a chance to check the date on it to see if it fit into the deco period.  I’m so impressed by its soft but still clean lines.

 

 

The weathering of this limestone angel blurs and softens it’s features so that it seems ethereal – and more than a little eerie.  What do you think?  What does she perceive hovering above even her?  Don’t blink!

 

 

 

 

 

The cemetery has other lovely qualities. There is a pond surrounded by hedges, but I didn’t get any pictures this time.  We had to rush.  However, I did get a shot of this gazebo.  What a wonderful place to sit and read.  Yang graded papers here, while I attended a Renaissance Conference in town one time.

 

 

I have to add that there are some impressive selections of Celtic crosses.    Some in family groupings.

 

 

 

 

 

Others even in pairs.

 

 

I especially loved the balustrades or curved stone work surrounding or leading up to family burial plots.  The first of these pictures shows a lovely plaza surrounded by a bowed stone rail.  I remember when there were actually a barrier of tall yews forming a second circle inside the balustrade.  You couldn’t see within the green cavern it created.  One of the grounds-people told me they had to cut  down the yews because weird stuff went on in there at times.  This was some time ago that I heard this tale.  I hadn’t heard any tales about these gently curving steps and barrier, leading to this prominent family’s plot.  I do love the graceful shape.

 

 

 

 

 

Of course, here are the pictures that all you faithful Lovecraftians are waiting for:  Mr. Lovecraft’s family plot and monuments.  We actually had some shots of me next to the monuments, but I looked awful enough to give a Shuggoth the willies.  So, vanity prevailed and I ditched them.  You may notice that there were deposits of presents by Mr. H.P.’s grave.  If you look carefully on the gravestone, you can see that his birthday had been just a few days before.

 

 

 

 

 

There are lots of beautiful scenes that I hadn’t time to photograph that twilight, but seeing that I couldn’t fit in all the wonderful images that I took this trip, I don’t feel too bad now about not getting them.  There should be another trip, maybe when the fall colors are aflame.  Won’t that be a treat to see?  So, with this proud, victorious angel, I will bid you adieu and slip away into the gloaming – whatever the heck a gloaming is!

A Visit to the Cloisters

Many moons ago, back in grad school, my friend Andrea Rossi Reder told me about this wonderful museum of Medieval and Renaissance art, the Cloisters, that was constructed like a medieval cloistered monastery.  It took me a few years to get there, but my husband and I visited one spring some time ago.  It was a beautiful place, near Fort Tryon Park, overlooking the Hudson River.  I not only enjoyed all the exquisite art and the ancient-styled construction, but loved wandering the  herbal garden in the sun and warmth of spring.  Last week, my husband proved is is indeed “goals” by taking me back there after another stretch of many years.  This winter visit had charms of its own.  I had forgotten just how much I enjoyed the museum.
After taking the A-train from the 125th St. station, we hopped the 100 Bus to St. Nicholas Street, then another subway, and we were right outside Fort Tryon Park.  Crossing the park showed us the bleak beauty of winter, the red bar berry bushes, crimson hemlock berries,  and the frosty-blue berries of another type evergreen.  acloisters2We even got to see a fluffy, black squirrel, rare in my neck of the woods.  Then the Cloisters loomed through the trees against azure shading down to soft winter-blue skies .

 

 

These sculpture, likely not Medieval, greeted us as we made our way up the drive.  acloisters3We took turns guessing what the hell they were as we approached. I hit the jackpot with the conjecture of, “Pears?” For once, modern sculpture stuck in the middle of nature didn’t appear so terribly intrusive.

 

I like this shot of  the arched entry way. Note the cobblestone drive way.  We had to dodge a few not so Medieval buses dropping off passengers here. acloisters5I’ll apologize in advance for not having pictures of Yang.  We used his Ipad and I hate trying to take pictures with the darned thing. 

 

 

 

 

After entering and moving through the great hall, we moved off to the side to the square surrounding the cloisters garden, now closed off from us by glass – allowing us to look out at the neatly mown ghost of the  summer garden, while keeping the December cold outside.  acloisters10During the warmer months, this area is all open.  When I visited Mont St. Michel and saw their cloister garden growing within the monastery, high atop the island mountain, I realized the inspiration for the Cloisters garden.  Even with winter’s hand stilling the garden, the December sunshine filled the indoor court surrounding it with brightness and beauty.  acloisters9The carvings on the capitals of the columns were fascinating – humans, beasts (mythological and fanciful), gods – I could swear I saw C’thullu.  

 

 

We went back into the building proper, then wandered from room to interconnected room, drinking in the sacred images culled from monasteries, churches, and castles – excited to find these treasures opened up to our experience, but, perhaps, a bit troubled that they had been stripped from their original homes.  Still, here, they are restored, protected, and cherished. acloisters16Towards the end of our meander, we came across this carved altar with the golden reliquaries of a saint and her attendants – I think St. Ursula.

 

 

Female and male martyrs of the early Church were honored in stained glass, wooden statuary, and paintings. There were tons of artwork  of St. Margaret.   However, in honor of acloisters20my BFF Barbara, I have to include this statue of St. Barbara.

 

 

From the other side of the arch in the same chamber, here is one of my favorite statues of the Virgin Mary with the baby Jesus.  She is clothed in the sun and stands on the crescentacloisters21 moon.  Just to the left, you can see a carving of St. Christopher bearing the child Jesus.  These statues are more colorful than some of the others.  I don’t remember if their paint had been restored.  Most likely the case.

 

 

acloisters14Here are some more particularly striking carvings of Virgin and Child.  What must the colors have been like when this piece was even relatively new? The thought takes my breath away.  If you can look closely at the folds of Mary’s robes and the strands of her hair, you’ll be filled with amazement at the workmanship.  Truly, this work is a loving prayer.

 

 

 

 

Similarly, look at this exquisite piece.  I am amazed  at the fluid drapery of the folds ofacloisters32 her clothing, the mobile shape of her body, and the moving tenderness of her expression.  The soft shining polish of this wood dissolves any impression of stiffness and immobility.  The statue seems a fluid prayer of gentleness, love, and faith.  What a pity the Protestant Reformation looked at these works and only saw “painted idols” instead of art’s living prayer to God.

 

 

 

There is also a room in the lowest level, at the far end of the gallery, acloisters24designed like a crypt, that displays effigies. The ceiling is shaped into beautifully vaulted Gothic arches – again, I remembered Mont St. Michel.   I noticed one family had a faithful dog under the feet of the various sculpted forms of generations of its nobility. acloisters25 The novel The Undying Monster gives an intriguing play to this custom as a hint to the UM haunting its family through innumerable generations.  I guess when I go, they will have to surround me with  effigies of my plethora of cats!

 

 

We also made it into the unicorn room, with all the famous tapestries.  I was not pleased to see so many unicorns so mistreated.  No wonder they’re so hard to find nowadays – or it could have to do with the dearth of virgins. acloisters33jpg Nevertheless, I couldn’t report on a visit to the Cloisters without a picture of the most famous unicorn tapestry.

 

 

There were also displays of jewelry,  fine utensils, and various types of game boards. acloisters27There were several chess boards with figures carved from ivory or bone (whose?!), often with the knight displaying an accurate depiction of armor on man and horse.  My favorite was this chess set made out of amber.  If you look closely at the board, you can see pictures created in the chess squares.acloisters31

 

 

Of course, we also did some touristy things in town.  arockefeller3After a wonderful dinner at Alice’s Teacup – with equally wonderful tea! – we went to Rockefeller Center and got a look at the famous tree as well as the skating rink.

 

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So, by eight o’clock or so, we were on our train, heading back to Connecticut.  Our dogs might have been barking, but we ended the day culturally and spiritually enlightened.