I like death. Unusual for someone who spends an inordinate amount of time panicking that their own is imminently arriving (no that’s not a blood clot Aimée-it’s just cellulite), but I enjoy learning how death is experienced within different cultures, religions, philosophical standpoints, and throughout history.
In particular I have a fondness for cemeteries and how they represent this-an emblem for all to see of how the dearly departed lived and are now mourned. A little weird perhaps, but I can think of nothing better than to spend a few hours walking between the graves, thinking and observing. I love the silence. That’s the great thing about the dead-they will keep you company but rarely talk back.
It was around eight years ago when I asked my mum to drop me off at the local cemetery I had spied near her home in Spain (she initially refused and then wouldn’t get out the car however…) so I could photograph the beautiful and ornate crypts.
It awed me. From that moment on, a passion for capturing a little Momento Mori of my own was born.
In fact, when deciding where to narrow my travel route across America I did have to co-ordinate my stops with ’20 Cemeteries You Need to Visit Before You Die’ (pun intended I’m sure). When I declared this to various friends and family, I received what I can only describe as several reproachful looks as if I had just announced my conversion to Scientology, but hey.
Today is my first U.S. Cemetery undertaking (pun DEFINITELY intended) and involves taking a train upstate, which is stunningly beautiful, to visit Sleepy Hollow Cemetery. The short story The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is set in this small glen of the same name and the author himself Washington Irving is interred in this quiet, yawning cemetery off Broadway.
I arrive and there’s no one else around save me and the dead. Map in hand I set off amongst the graves and mausoleums. I feel strangely alive; in complete juxtaposition to my surroundings.
I spend an hour or so exploring. It’s very eerie. It’s so quiet and I’m the only one around as I approach the Pocantico River and Headless Horseman Bridge. I feel a tingle on my arms as if an invisible thread is brushing across me and I wonder if it is the dead guiding me (it later transpires to be a mosquito bite but still-the moment was powerful all the same…).
The mid-afternoon sun beats down ferociously as I take a final ascent up into Rockwood Circle where Rockerfeller’s Mausoleum stands central-powerful and dominating. It’s breathtaking.
Visit done and I hear grounds maintenance workmen approaching, and I am snapped out of my reverie for now.
Feeling enriched and invigorated in the most visceral way; I leave and make my way back into the heaving bustle of New York City once more, where the life blood beats frantically all around me.