We might as well get it out in the open: Death, and the many ways sentient beings coexist with it, is one of my very favorite topics. Right up there with faith, sex, and cognitive biases, these are conversation gifts that keep on giving.
How do I love this topic? Let me count the ways!
- My all-time favorite graphic novel literature is the Sandman series by Neil Gaiman, with one of the very best characters I’ve ever read, an ebullient empath who is the personification of Death.
- My favorite Halloween movie is The Nightmare Before Christmas (skeletal musical theatre brought to you by Tim Burton)
- One of my favorite animated films of the past decade is Coco, a delightful exploration of what it would be like to cross to the other side (with particular focus on the Day of the Dead).
- My favorite humor/fantasy book is On A Pale Horse by Piers Anthony, which is a subversive tale about a reluctant successor to the job of the Grim Reaper.
- My favorite poem is The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot, about struggling to come to terms with growing old and dying (and arguably, failing miserably).
- My Kindle is filled with books by Irvin Yalom, a leading existential psychiatrist (basically he studies and writes about death anxiety)
And so on, ad infinitum. My fascination knows no bounds.
Anyway, the reason I mention this now is, of course, because the above shot was taken last weekend at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Chelsea, one of many. Shots that I took not just because I thought it was pleasing to the eye, but because I have intense interest in the concept of death — not really the whole “connecting with those who have died” stuff, although that’s an interesting topic as well, but facing death. Death, itself.
That, to me, is the story that I emotionally connect with — that lives end, that ultimately, all life will end, and we’re given the bizarre gift of being able to think about it.
Which was pretty much what my partner and I did that afternoon (although to be fair, we do it a lot).
Through random happenstance, we wandered through the streets in just the right direction, down just the right street, to encounter the gate that led us to Oak Grove.
We walked along the various plots, admiring the way the light through the trees cast its shadows and made the scene sublimely beautiful. Our lenses drawn to the places where someone had left flowers, placed Halloween dolls, taped down a photograph, or installed a special statue. And our minds struck by how much more the epitaphs revealed about the mourners than the person being mourned.
I think it’s fair to say, the cemetery stroll was my favorite part of the day.
Shot on Panasonic DC-ZS70, ƒ/5.3, 1/80, 24.2mm, ISO125.
Other posts inspired by our day in Chelsea, MI: