Markers In Time

Entrance to Glenwood Cemetery in D.C.

Lincoln Road heading away from the Shrine curves around like an S up the hill and then curves to the next S–a reversed S that hugs the other side of the hill between the two cemeteries.  It’s a beautiful park on this sunny spring day.

A crabapple tree extends its branches over the iron fence and shades the road. The tree is starting to switch from flowers to leaves. The flowers are like pink painted orbs against the green that is barging in. Just before the first S there is a Japanese-styled garden with a bridge arching over most likely a rock river. This tribute is new. I remember them moving the earth around and creating some moguls before they constructed a pagoda and then the bridge. Mylar balloons tied to one side of the bridge are lurching toward the sky. It seems strange, attaching balloons to the bridge. There isn’t an obvious marker. I don’t think they were from a birthday party–unless it was marking the birthday of someone dead?

Lifesized cement angels herald visitors at the entrance at deepest part of the curve. Well, person-lifesized. I don’t know what the size of an actual angel would be. Anyway, if you were trying to enter the grounds from the north, you’d have to turn your car 270°. Funeral processions always enter from the south for ease and are guided around a large circle with more angels, some blaring trumpets others in thoughtful prayer poses.

This is an old cemetery. The sign says it was founded in 1854. The stones are all different shapes and sizes. There’s some tall ones that look like the Washington Monument. These obelisks are different heights. Is there some status here? There are some twin stones, maybe marking a couple. Some markers are big crosses. There are square crypts that hold families full of remains. There is an old azaela that sits in front of a gravestone and has just about overtaken it. There are tall trees throughout the winding roads of the cemetery. There are lots of low flowering plants.

Modern cemeteries are designed for efficiency. There are no trees and no above ground stones so the groundskeepers can easily cut the grass. The graves are lined up in rows and are navigated to using simple coordinates. Some modern cemeteries limit the types of homage family and friends can leave behind. There is a sameness.

Not at this old cemetery. The grave markings are as different as the people buried here. There are old trees and young ones, too. Somebody is taking care to ensure that there will always be some shade. The grass is mowed, at least from where you can see from the road. Maybe people have to pay a fee to maintain the plots, but none are overgrown.

The leaves on the trees sway slightly and the sun warms the garden. There isn’t a funeral today, but there are a few people coming to visit those who have left them. They have picked a good day to pay their respects and to walk through the garden.

 

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