Little River Cemetery

RSS readers, I think you’ve probably figured out by now that my Friday posts usually have photo slideshows that you can’t see. So, uhm, click through for pictures. They really do make the experience better, and I’m sorry I can’t embed them so that you can see them without having to click.

Baxt, Petey, and I went on another cemetery adventure on Wednesday, right before it started seriously raining, as it turned out. Although we got a late-ish start, we still took an astounding number of photographs and we also had a lot of fun.

Our first stop was the Little River Cemetery, which I remembered as being small and not very interesting. As it turns out, I was wrong; I took over 400 photographs there, and we were there for about two hours. Every time I thought I had seen everything, I would turn around and see something totally new. There were some very interesting graves, along with a few mysteries which I would love to solve.

I’ve noticed that each coastal cemetery seems to have a theme or common thread. At Little River Cemetery, it’s benches. Now, don’t get me wrong, I like benches, but these guys are a little bit out of control. There were at least seven benches that I counted, ranging from a hand mosaiced concrete bench to a very formal polished black granite one. I really liked one bench which was placed under a tree, allowing people to contemplate in the shade.

Little River also has a fair number of Oddfellows, along with odd fellows, and I counted at least one mason. A lot of Bible readers in Little River as well, apparently, because there were cryptic Bible references and quotes from the Bible along with the more standard saccharine poems. We also found lots of carved dolphins in this cemetery, which I hadn’t seen before, along with a deer and a demented lamb. And a Buddha. One grave had three mysterious bowls next to it; I’m not sure what they were for, and in keeping with my National Geographic style cemetery policy, I didn’t touch them.

Petey and I decided that if we ever run a cemetery, we are banning fake flowers and lawn ornaments, both of which look awful. We also decided that we both want obelisks, preferably topped by big scary angels with skulls, because I like macabre headstones.

One of the interesting things about older cemeteries is that they are so varied. Little River Cemetery is on a hill, first of all, which pretty much ensures that nothing is going to be at an even height. But the headstones are all so incredibly different, and I love that. I hate regimented cemeteries with headstones which all look the same, because they reduce the dead to boring compartmentalized people. The varied and unique headstones in cemeteries like Little River convey a bit of the character of the people buried under them, like a wife with an inscription that says “just let me finish this row.”

The older graves are also interesting to look at because of the profusion of interesting fonts, and the intriguing grammar decisions. For example, a lot of people are “sleeping in Jesus” or “sleeping in the Lord,” which raises an image of Jonah and the whale for me, with a bunch of dead people hanging out in hammocks in God’s intestinal tract. I assume that is not the intent. There are also a fair number of headstones with “Amen” tacked on to a prayer, almost as an afterthought; I almost visualize the stonemason crossing his fingers while he carves it.

We also found bones in the cemetery, which was decidedly spooky. Not people bones, obviously, but the bones of some sort of small animal, sans skull. The skeleton was actually scattered across several graves. Memento mori? Gruesome message? Or just a natural kill that no one has cleaned up?

Perhaps the best thing about Little River Cemetery, for me, is that it is an oceanfront cemetery. I’m sure developers must be seething about it, too; the cemetery has an incredible ocean view. It’s a pity that the cemetery is right next to the highway, as the sound of cars isn’t very enjoyable, but the back of the cemetery is rather nice, in the shade near a babbling brook. Why consign the dead to land we don’t want? Why not have oceanfront cemeteries?