(RSS readers, this post includes a slideshow; click through if you would like to see the images!)
Baxt, Petey, and I went on a cemetery adventure on Tuesday. We ended up going to Caspar and Mendocino, and I got some great shots for my ongoing tour of Mendocino county cemeteries. It was an interesting sort of day, with very sullen, dull light that made getting good pictures rather challenging. There was a palpable air of expectation, as though anything could happen.
We were originally going to go straight to Mendocino, but I remembered on the way about the existence of Caspar Cemetery, which is actually my favorite cemetery in the entire world. If I am buried, that is where I want to be buried. It’s in a quiet grove of trees, and all you can hear is the ocean gently pounding in the background. To get there, you walk along a long, rambling path through the forest, which was positively spooky on Tuesday because of the heavy, overcast sort of day. It’s a calm, quiet, still sort of place. I should look into who manages it to find out what sort of things one has to do to join the Caspar Cemetery club. I mean, other than die.
This cemetery was founded in 1850, and there are a lot of older graves, with a scattering of new ones, and some interesting grave sites, like one marked by a pair of rocks for two couples, and another with a covering made from wooden planks, which I have never seen before. I found a Woodman of the World grave, which was pretty interesting, and the grave of a child whose parents apparently took the Urantia Book to heart. There was one grave covered in a games table, somewhat randomly, and a Jewish grave with a very noble looking lion and a large rhododendron.
My cemetery explorations have uncovered some interesting things, like the story behind the Woodman of the World graves you find in cemeteries now and then. It’s a fraternal organization which also runs a life insurance company; prior to the 1930s, members got tombstones in imaginative log shapes as a death benefit. It’s a pity they don’t do it anymore, because some of the headstones I have seen have been truly amazing.
Like Evergreen, Caspar has some fallen and broken tombstones, and a great many crooked ones, but it doesn’t seem as sad as Evergreen does. The graves are scattered across the turf like stars, and the cemetery is on a gentle hill, and it’s so small that you can see the whole thing from any point. Even the crooked tombstones are more like a gaptoothed smile, and the broken, fallen stones don’t look like they are crying for help. It’s a very well tended place, with a big spreading tree in the middle; the sort of place where one might have a picnic, or read a book on a sunny day.
One surprising thing about the Caspar Cemetery for me was the discovery that my friend Eli is buried there. Eli was killed by a drunk driver right around Thanksgiving in 2002; he was crossing the Noyo Bridge in a pickup driven by a friend and another car slammed into them. After hovering on life support for several days, it became apparent that he was not going to pull through, but he did become an organ, tissue, and eye donor. I remember at his memorial, the recipient of one of his organs sent a letter to be read, and it reminded me that even in death, there is life. Eli’s grave has a beautiful marker and some irises, and it was nice to be able to visit with him. He was a good man and he would have grown to be an even better one if he had gotten the chance.