Walk Softly Among the Dead

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The dead are still among us in Alexandria, and some of them are restless, especially at this time of year. Some can be found in buildings, some in graveyards and some … might be right behind you. So walk softly among the dead, my friends. Be respectful and do not tempt the restless ones to follow you.

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18 Responses to Walk Softly Among the Dead

  1. Ovelikios says:

    That’s why they have them behind bars, right? 🙂

  2. Olivier says:

    Ne pas faire trop de bruit pour ne pas reveiller les fantômes qui dorment. Dans les cimetieres russes, ils mettent des lampes (des bougies) et des bancs a coté des tombes, pour que l’on puisse venir prendre le thé et discuter avec les morts. Je trouve cela tres beau.

    Don’t make too much noise to avoid awakening the sleeping phantoms. In the Russian cemeteries, they put lamps (candles) and benches next to the tombs, so that one can come to have tea and talk to the dead. I find that very beautiful.

  3. Annie says:

    Good morning, Marie.

    I often wonder why the living construct fences around burial plots of their departed ones? Is it to keep feet off , to mark the spot in such a way that one can find it, to drive home the fact that this is the last home?

    I’m glad to know your previous crepe myrtle was left to thrive and grow on it own, in its own way. You’re right, they never get too large.

    By the way, I love what Olivier said about the Russian cemeteriers. Making a whole tea time social call, that’s really lovely.

  4. Kate says:

    This may appear macabre, but I really enjoy cemeteries. When I’m in a new city I find that visiting the churches and the cemeteries gives me a whole different insight into the culture. Plots in small towns, USA, are usually quite fascinating also.

    You are a gifted storyteller, Marie, and Olivier’s comments are always “on the mark.”

  5. mariemcc says:

    Ovelikios, wooooo… maybe! 🙂

    Olivier, le coutume russe est charmant. En Egypt, on a construit des petits batiments dans le grand cimitiere au Caire a cote des tombes. La les familles qui voyagais de loin peuvent rester meme plusiers jours pour visiter les ancestres morts. Maintent, a cause du pauvrete, il ya des familles qui y habite tout le temps.

    Olivier, the Russian custom is charming. In Egypt, they have built small houses in the large Cairo cemetery right next to the tombs. There, families who travel a long way can stay even several days in order to visit their dead ancestors. Now, because of poverty, there are families who live in these houses in the cemetery all the time.

    Annie, I think it’s all about money. If you have the cash, you can thus have a little fence built around the headstones to mark the spot, to show the world this is a grave from a family of means or maybe to keep people from walking over the graves. Whatever the reason, I like these little fences. Yes, I think the Russians having tea with their dead relatives is wonderful. In Mexico each year just before the Day of the Dead, families go out to their relatives’ graves and tidy up the gravesite. Weeds are removed, decorations added. Then they have an all night long party in honor of the dead. In Africa, the older you are, the bigger and more elaborate the funeral. African funerals are more like parties. Sometimes music and dancing goes on for several days before the burial takes place. I think we take death a little too seriously here in the U.S.

    Kate, I don’t think it’s macabre at all. I’ve always been fascinated by old cemeteries, the older the better. I like to recall what life was like in bygone days, and what their individual lives might have been like based on the information gleaned from the headstones. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed this walk through Alexandria’s Valley of the Dead. 🙂

  6. tr3nta says:

    nice photos and nice place to live…
    visit mine tell me what u think…

  7. Denton says:

    Very good post especially for this time of year. I may follow your example and re-visit our local cemetery. Maybe at night … I enjoyed the customs mentioned. My memory is that grave plots are mainly attended around memorial day (observed on the last Monday in May in the US). I personally don’t remember any focus on family burial plots centered around Halloween.

  8. Brenda says:

    yes in Mexico the Days of the Dead (dias de los muertos)are celebrated at Halloween time in the states and canada, it has nothing to do with halloween. there are actually 2 days, one celebrates the departed children and the next the adults. altars are built in homes, yards, parks honoring the dead. things that the departed loved one liked to eat, play with, etc. are placed on the altars, along with flowers. There are special breads, candies, etc. prepared for these days. It is not a sad time; but rather a time of love and rememberance. The graves are cleaned, flowers placed there and the family holds an all night vigil, eating, visiting and reminiscing, here is a website with some info. for anyone who is interested:
    http://www.mexconnect.com/mex_/feature/daydeadindex.html
    Brenda

  9. photowannabe says:

    Great series. I love cemetaries too. If you are ever in Boston visit the one up by Bunker Hill. Some of the tombstones are from the late 1600’s and some have musket holes still in them.Its been a few years since I saw them but I found it fascinating.

  10. mariemcc says:

    tr3nta, thanks for stopping by.

    Denton, most cemeteries are closed to the public by 5 pm. And even the paranormal research team won’t go into cemeteries at night. Be careful!

    Brenda, thanks for the additional information on Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities. I’d love to be there some year at the end of October.

    Photo, glad the smelling salts worked. 😉 It surprises me the number of people who find cemeteries fascinating. Maybe someone should start a headstone blog!

  11. Jenny says:

    I appreciate the post and the comments left by others – I love photographing our local cemetaries. (Tomorrow is our annual ” cemetary walk” – I’m sure I’ll be there!

  12. Kate says:

    Marie, comment #2. I actually considered gravestones as a blog, but decided that I would wait ’til next summer to visit a little hamlet in Door County, WI where ALL my family is buried. When we vacation, we picnic in the cemetery on our way to the Island off the tip of the County. Seems strange to see my name on one headstone. Will have to put it on another blog tho!~

  13. Dirk says:

    Een mooie foto, de grens tussen leven en dood. Ik kijk graag op begraafplaatsen.

    Greetings from the Netherlands

  14. WALKING AMONG THE DEAD

    Walking among the dead
    This warm, late June night
    The fireflies surprise me,
    Astonish me with light.

    Fairies! I think (or, could it be
    That these are the souls of the dead?
    And might it be Midsummer’s Eve
    That such nonsense fills my head?

    And yet I walk with a lighter tread
    Than last time I was here
    For then I had a friend with me
    And moonlight showed our way.

    Early June it was then
    But it seemed more like October
    The way the mist in the moonlight
    Hovered, as it would on bog or fen.

    Tonight my only company
    Is my dog beside me; and when
    He’s not, but is off upon his rounds
    I’ve comfort still in familiar sounds.

    For the moon is down and darkles
    The cemetery ground, and forms
    That all around me loom
    Of headstone, bush, tree, and tomb.

    *****

    Prayerfully now I stand, head bent
    Upon their dark, green bed
    In spirit, or in wordless prayer intent
    To hallow them, these dead.

    And comes to me that past
    Is present in these dead;
    That I, as if already dead,
    Am present in the future.

    Whence the kinship that I feel
    With all those buried here,
    All those who’ve rested here
    These past two hundred years.

    *****

    A large orange moon
    Is risen in the east
    And floats for just a moment
    Above the line of trees.

    A sign, I take it, my vigil’s ended
    And a seal, a seal upon a vision,
    One granted me as boon, I think,
    By a grateful dead.

    Branches gnarled and intertwined
    As dense and intricate as old grape vines
    Reach out from either side of me
    To touch the ends of time.

    It is a vision of my soul as being
    Mathematically transformed;
    So soul it seems is nothing more than
    The proper function of one’s being.

    As heart’s dove, soul’s so very small
    (Therein to be contained); but when
    Transformed and unconstrained
    She fills all space and time!

    My soul is like a cosmic tree
    Whose branches span eternity.
    Ah, sweet dove, your secret’s out:
    You are the tree you occupy!

    Alexandria, 1997; revised 2006

    Note: This was the “Freedman’s” cemetary (I think) off Wilkes street next to the National Cemetary. You may find more of my verse at the above website. The first time I overcame my fear, and actuallly enjoyed being in a cemetery as in the Bahamas in 1984. Difference then: The moon was bright!

  15. Post # 2 — Sorry, I thought my website would have shown up above the the posting. It is:

    The painting of me you will find there is that by a local artist, Patrick Manning.

  16. mariemcc says:

    Frederick, nice poem.

    If you are suggesting that my photo was taken at the Freedmen’s Cemetery, you are incorrect. The Freedmen’s Cemetery is on Washington Street under the parking lot of a gas station. Only a historic marker commemorates that spot.

    This photo was taken at the Christ Church Episcopal Cemetery on Wilkes Street next to Alexandria National Cemetery.

    Thank you for stopping by!

  17. No, Marie i figured your ohoto was of the Christ Church cemetary (I have been there a lot). But, if that’s the Freedman’s cemetary down by the bridge off Washington St., then I’ll have to find out the name of the cemetary on Wilkes St..that I was writing about. Nice, your instant reply. I thought maybe I was going to be the last post here after the Dutchmans in December and no one to read the poem!

  18. […] of my favorite scenes. I first discovered this trio of headstones in October 2006. When the first snow of the season fell, I had to come back for another view. It was going to be […]

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