Sunday, February 2, 2014

Cemetery Love: Bonaventure and the Day of the Dead

Note To My Dear Readers : Happy New Year!  This post was to have originally been posted on or around my birthday on November 2nd, shortly after Halloween and The Day of the Dead on November 1st.    I hope this post does not seem a macabre way to start a new year.  I confess, as you will see, I love cemeteries. I find peace there, along with art, beauty, and a connection to some of those I love dearly and no longer have.  One of my New Year's resolutions is to make an even more valiant effort to post more regularly. I cannot tell you how many posts I have planned and written in my head. Hopefully more will be making their way to the blog in 2014. I hope you will enjoy them as much as I do creating them.  XOXOXOX  MS

Beginning when I was very young, 
I have had an affinity for cemeteries. 

I find beauty and art in them,
and a way to connect with loved ones
no longer with us.

My grandmother Nanny used to take 
me and my sister Susan to the 
Lambert Cemetery
where my grandfather Frank Bell was buried.

Lambert Cemetery Gates
photo by Donald G. Dalrymple 

Susan and I would beg her to take us to visit 
Grandpa Bell, whom we never knew, 
as he died when my mother 
was a very young child.  

I often stop and wander the same Lambert Cemetery now, 
stopping on my trips back and forth to the Delta.
My visits bring back many memories of people I knew
when I was growing up in Lambert.

Grandpa Bell was already nearly 66 when my Mother was born.
That fact never ceases to amaze me.

Nanny now lies next to Grandpa Bell.
I miss her every day.

We would take 
violets or camellias or daffodils
we had picked in her yard
 to put on his grave.
(One time we took them in a little tin can
that had held blueberries for
 blueberry muffins.
Sometimes the little details 
we remember are odd!)

We would talk to him and ask Nanny questions about what he was like.
We actually got to know Grandpa Bell.

Then we would meander all over the cemetery and read all the tombstones -
the new ones, people me might have known, the old ones, often mossy and too old for us ever to have known, 
and especially the ones with
 little lambs on the top.
We knew they had died as children, some younger than we were at the time, 
so we were especially drawn to them.  

Susan now lives in 
Charleston, South Carolina, 
and this summer we got to again 
wander together in a cemetery - 
the historic Bonaventure in 
Savannah, Georgia. 

As you may remember, 
the Bonaventure and the 
Bird Girl statue that was 
originally located there
garnered huge exposure 
in the book and movie about 
 interior designer Jim Williams 
(more about that in another post!)

For the history of the Bonaventure Cemetery
Click HERE

I love the old trees, 
the hanging moss,
the statuary,
the mossy headstones,
the architectural details,
the feeling of peace from a long ago era... 

After my Bonaventure adventure,
I had been contemplating cemeteries all summer and into the fall.

One fall morning I awoke at my friend Madge's and realized 
a familiar book was 
staring at me from the
 bookcase by the bed.

I have the nearly identical book 
in my entry hall.

I was contemplating what I wanted to do for my birthday, and I took this as a sign . . .

The Brooks Museum 
in Memphis 
was having a party on my birthday,
a Day of the Dead party, 
a Dia de los Muertos fiesta,
and I wanted to go!

Original art by my artist and designer friend Kim Duease.
Exciting news coming soon about Kim's art!

It seemed most appropriate to celebrate 
my birthday and my life 
my friends 
and to celebrate, remember, 
and pray for my loved ones who are gone. 

Dia de los Muertos focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for
and remember friends and family members who have died
and typically is celebrated around Halloween,
All Saints Day, and All Souls Day.
Go HERE for more information.

Black and white attire was de riguer.

Madge and I
of course began planning right away.

I love a dramatic eye, 
so black eyeshadow
was a must.

I had a special black and white 
French manicure.

When the day came, 
we started with drinks at the Peabody.

Billy, Madge, and Eric

Eric, Billy, and I

And then on to Brooks . . .

Madge and I couldn't resist a round with 
the Mariachi Band!

Madge and I at the party

As usual,
I concocted an outfit.

I donned all black and white from head to fingertip to toe.
My little secret of the evening - 
I could not find black lipstick, so I wore black eyeliner on my lips.

Til next year, I am still contemplating my Bonaventure photos
and Eudora Welty's 
"Country Churchyards"
is on my night table,
along with 
"Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil"



From a cemetery somewhere . . .
I leave you with the always poetic and here hauntingly and decidedly eerily Halloween words of my dear and beautiful friend George Cruz:

"She was a gypsy fortune teller, red cape and all. She loved to walk through the old cemetery every evening. She felt it kept her in touch with the other side. But this evening, she had the strange sensation of being followed. When she arrived at her caravan at the edge of the forest, she found a man waiting to have his fortune told. She sat on the forest floor to lay out her cards as the man stood above her, staring blankly at the cards she laid down. She told him of a torrid affair, where passion would bring danger and how he would be in peril of being trapped in a love triangle that would prove too treacherous to live out. The fortune teller looked up and stared deeply into the man's eyes and got a feeling so eerie, her hands froze. She told him it may lead to the death of him. The man looked at her in the most intense way and told her so softly, "You are too late. It has already come to pass. I died but two days ago." The Fortune Teller quickly stood up in fear from the forest floor, as the man vanished before her eyes."

Do you like cemeteries?

Do you celebrate your loved ones 
who are gone?

photo credits: Lambert Cemetery Gate by Donald G. Dalrymple, Marilyn Trainor Storey, George Cruz

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