Wednesday, November 03, 2010
Day of the dead
Oddly, one of my favorite things about this little piece of the county is the Olive Hill Cemetery, just outside of Geyserville. Next to (what else?) a vineyard, it's a pretty neat place to learn a bit more about the history of the area, as the oldest and most prominent monuments are for the long-time Italian-Swiss colony families. I went to preschool or elementary school or ballet class with kids who had some of these same names, and their many-generations-removed ancestors are buried on Olive Hill.
The hill is full of ancient oak trees, and when it rains, the moss and lichen growing all over everything adds to the spooky atmosphere. If I had were filming a low-budget horror movie, I know exactly where I'd choose to set up my camera.
Walking through a cemetery, for me, is mostly a reminder of how nothing ever stays the same. Entropy, if nothing else, breaks everything down into component parts, and even marble and granite can be eaten by lichen and crumbled to dust. The oldest graves we saw dated back to the 1870s, and a few that might have been older were no longer readable, their markers worn by rain and earthquakes and sun and dirt and squirrel poop and time.
It's interesting to walk through a cemetery and see how the fashions and styles of even something like a grave marker can change through the decades. I saw monuments made of stone, flat markers made of metal, family tombs and individualized sites, with benches, wind chimes, and other personal elements. Also, different cultural symbols. And a kitty.
Finally, there's nothing like finding the headstone of someone one's own age to make one feel mortal. This was the saddest marker in the whole graveyard. "Beloved grandson" was 5 weeks old. "Beloved son" was younger than me, and died only a few months after his newborn son.