Essay Non-Fiction posted January 11, 2022


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Art in an idyllic setting

Two cemeteries -same ending

by Mary Vigasin


Two Cemeteries

If you drive up Coolidge Avenue in Cambridge, Massachusetts there are two cemeteries on each side.
The one on the right is Mount Auburn Cemetery. As a kid, I thought Mt. Auburn buried only rich people.

This Cemetery is on the National Historic Registry. It is known for its expansive gardens. It publishes its own magazine to inform readers of what flowers are in bloom or, for bird watchers, what birds have been spotted.

Those interested in art, history, or horticulture account for many of the Cemetery's visitors.

Many of the monuments were designed by well-known sculptors, and consist of statues, obelisk and nearly all are unique and are more of an art form than tombstones. They are meant to pay tribute to the person lying beneath them. There is an Artist in Residence on the premises.

For example, Mary Baker Eddy's monument near one of three lakes has a wild rose, her favorite flower; a morning glory, which opens to light and closes in darkness; a lamp of wisdom; and a sheaf of wheat symbolizing a bounteous life. Inscriptions on the monument are from the Bible and Eddy's writings.

Hygeia, the Greek goddess of health, is the monument for Harriot Hunt; she was one of the first women to practice medicine in America and a fervent abolitionist and feminist crusader.

The sizable granite Sphinx was built as a Civil War Memorial for the Union dead and reads: "American Union Preserved/ African Slavery Destroyed/ By the Uprising of a Great People/ By the Blood of Fallen Heroes."

The Cemetery offers formal and self-guided tours like the Angel Walks, where a stroller can spot and learn about the angel statuary.

Weddings and other receptions can be held here in the gardens or one of two chapels.

The first is the Bigelow Chapel of Gothic revival style. Granite spires grace the exterior, while the interior features soaring ceilings and magnificent stained-glass windows. The two oversized windows, imported from Scotland in 1845, are significant works of art. Rows of wooden seats inside the chapel can accommodate up to 75 guests.

The second chapel is the Story Chapel, a 19th-century red sandstone structure built to resemble an English parish church. Wood dominates the interior, with carved beams overhead, pews, and a historic pulpit, and can seat 175 people and be expanded to fit additional seating. For music, the chapel houses a historic organ made by Hook and Hastings, well-known pipe organ designers and manufacturers.

Artists, poets, celebrities, political figures, writers, captains of science and industry are all buried in Mt. Auburn. The following is a list of just a few of the occupants.
Julia Ward Howe
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Felix Frankfurter
Edwin Booth
Arthur Schlesinger
Henry Cabot Lodge

Visitors can attend a sunset meditation from the highest peak, the 62 ft. Washington Tower, which gives panoramic views of Boston and Cambridge.

The Cambridge Cemetery

The Cemetery across the street is owned by the City of Cambridge.

Very few, if any, of the stones are custom made. The graves in the Veterans Lot are in-ground plaques. My folk's grave is also a flat stone required by the Cemetery.
Each Memorial Day, I visit to clean and remove any grass threatening to cover the stone.

Visitors here usually have one purpose: to mourn and pray for their loved ones.

There are some celebrities here:
Writers; Henry and William James.
19th-century baseball players: John Clarkson and Timothy Keefe
Two Medal of Honor recipients, Joseph F. Scott and Alphonso Lunt.

In the Cambridge Cemetery lie teachers, mechanics, dishwashers. Those who caught the 6 AM bus to catch a train, then a bus to work.
Many residents here had Ink or oil-stained hands.

George Vokey is buried in a veteran's lot. He lost a leg in WWII
Anyone who passes MaryJo's grave knows she was a murder victim in a highly publicized case in the 1990s
Mr. and Mrs. Holleran were Irish immigrants who had 9 children. He worked 12 hours a day in a factory.
There are faded stones that just read: husband and wife, and one faded stone in the stillborn lot that reads: "Our little angel."

Unlike those buried across the street, 50 to 100 years from now, no one will know of George Vokey's sacrifice or how MaryJo died. The Holleran's ancestors may only have a faint idea who they were. The grass and weeds will have victory over my folk's flat stone.

Yet, those resting in Cambridge Cemetery have much in common with their more illustrious neighbors. While the latter rests in the more idyllic setting, death is the equalizer whether one is a judge, actor, artist, writer, mechanic, or dishwasher. It does not matter how elaborate or simple the stone may be; as in death, all enter eternal life and are judged on the deeds of how they lived their lives.





Recognized

#24
January
2022


I had a great idea about writing a poem about old cemeteries. I am not a poet, but I thought I would give it a try. Rhyming proved difficult, like a statue (cashew? satchel ?) or obelisk (disc? frisk? )
Then, I reviewed two similar poems by two of the most talented poets in FS, Roy, and Dolly. Their magnificent work cannot be matched particularly from me. So I scrapped the rhyming poem and decided to try free verse. This idea was also scrapped when the length equals Homer's Iliad.
I decided to let Homer's reputation stay intact and write in my familiar prose.
The picture is that of Mary Baker Eddy's monument.
I am also having a bit of a dry spell, so what better subject than a cemetery.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.


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