for kendy

IMG_7391One of my favorite haunts in this part of the valley. As a fan of MissMuffCake‘s blog and zines: The Stay At Home Girlfriend, Easy Vegan Recipes and Cemetery Gates, I was inspired to visit before the snow came down and I left town for work.

IMG_7406It’s a short distance either down a winding road from my parents house or along what was the abandoned railway tracks. In the late 90’s the city revamped the old railway line into an exceedingly popular walking/biking/horse-riding trail. Through the 80’s I could walk along the path never crossing another human soul. A friend lived just beyond the cemetery and we’d run among the trees and tombstones. As a teenager it became my place of solace. My husky-X would lay on the grass beside me and I’d scribble in a journal.

IMG_7392Most of the tombstones are modest and many are in states of disrepair. There are no grand sepulchers or angels, very little marble. It’s bordered by what were apple orchards now overtaken by wine grapes. Deer and coyotes roam, black bears pass through on trails to the lake and covey’s of quail shuttle about.

IMG_7405The fir trees grow strong on flesh, blood and bones.

IMG_7412IMG_7380The tiniest tombstone. Picture book size. ‘Toots Reno’ is easily the best name in the graveyard.

IMG_7361Simple and to the point.

IMG_7377The crematorium is perched on the edge of the clay banks. The drop is maybe 150 feet to the lake? I have no idea, maybe 200 feet. Between the building and the grass is the narrow sage brush gully where the railway line was. I’ve always thought it was insane they built tracks right along the edge of the clay banks which are not considered very stable. Even though we’re at a high altitude with a low risks of earthquakes, if we did have a significant tremor the banks would turn to silt in a instant. At the turn of the century it must have been the easiest route for transporting fruit to and from the packing houses. Shipping apples, peaches, pears up the lake by paddle wheeler boats to the CPR.

IMG_7371Before the city opened the trail to the public there wasn’t a fence around the crematorium. There was a six foot deep pit right outside the building. It was covered by a sheet of plywood where I guess they’d dump excess ashes from the incinerator. One time a friend and I lifted it and peered in at the pile of ash. She dared me to jump in. My head spun thinking of being stuck down there and we dropped the plywood sheet. The suction as it sealed to the ground created a poof of ash that blew all over us. We ran off joyously shrieking. For weeks after I had nightmares; every night falling into the pit over and over and being swarmed by skeletons.

IMG_7396A gang of us would run around the graveyard playing Star Wars. I was always Chewbacca, even when I was the only girl I had no desire to be princess Leia. I have a vivid memory of hiding behind this tombstone and feeling how smooth and cold the granite was on my back. A calm sweeping through me.

IMG_7382IMG_7366Long ago this had a glass door, a photo of Helen and other trinkets but at some point it was smashed and emptied. In my teen years, the rumor was if you shone head lights on the opening you would see a hologram skull. I have no idea where this folklore started but I did take part in joyrides through the graveyard to see the ghost. I never expressed how I felt it was disrespectful to my place of respite. I had a relationship with this northern corner of the cemetery but in my introverted way I never let anyone know how much it meant to me.

IMG_7384Every town I pass through I look for signs of the dead. Other than in Scandinavia I’ve never visited a grand graveyard. The old cemetery’s around here are of a pioneer era, humble and plain but calming and restorative to me all the same.

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10 comments
  1. I love old grave stones and the kinda quiet unassuming ones that don’t seem to get any attention. I keep meaning to do a tour of the big cemeteries here because every time I go past I look at the untended graves in the far corners (really old ones) and wonder about the people.

    • lysette said:

      I would love to see your cemetery tour! Strangely I realize I never went into Melbourne’s cemetery’s. I did spend an afternoon reading a thick Oscar Wilde biography in the Williamstown one – so Aussie goth 😉

  2. kendy said:

    thank you for the dedication. the crematorium is so modest. here they are usual very industrial looking. grey brick everything. helen’s empty box is heartbreaking and sad. stories in stone – both old and new are great to share so thank you.

    • lysette said:

      We are a very small community, though a community of retirees so it should be pumping away on the regular! I’ve wanted to share this little place of my heart with you for a long time, so glad you enjoyed it Kendy ❤

  3. fishspit said:

    i’m kendy’s pal and I think this is the absolutely delightful dedication to her. it’s perfect. or for her . . . purrfect.
    I looked up toots reno . . . I’ve never heard of a person who was named toots that wasn’t a jazz musician (or reggae/ska star in the case of toots hibbert). could not find anything on him. but I bet he’s recorded somewhere . . . playing on some obscure blues of jazz album.
    cheers to ya
    fishspit

    • lysette said:

      Thanks Fishspit! Best name by the way!

  4. cookeasyvegan said:

    Your words and photos captured the moodiness of the cemetery so perfectly I felt I was there with you. Isn’t it interesting (and sometimes unsettling) to think back on behaviors from the past while walking in the spot where the behaviors took place?

    • lysette said:

      Yes, I totally get what you mean. Joy riding through cemeteries is lame. I knew it then and never spoke up, I still feel the pang of that regret when I visit that spot but I guess it’s a good thing if I learn from it, right?

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