To celebrate Valentines Day, Mr D & I went for a walk. We got for a lot of walks together, and a walk is a nice way to celebrate what the holiday is supposed to be about, while avoiding all the commercial rubbish and stress.
For this time, we picked a favourite walking spot: Otari Wilton’s Bush, but settled on a combination of routes we don’t often take, to give us a full 3 hour walk.
Because we were taking paths we don’t usually take, I got slightly confused, and we took a wrong turn, and ended up somewhere quite amazing: amongst the gravestones in an older, quite overgrown portion of Old Karori Cemetery.
Old Karori Cemetery is one of the biggest in NZ (over 4o hectares) and I’ve only ever seen the extremely tidy, well kept portions near the entrance, so it took me a moment to realise where we were.
It was quite a fascinating place to end up, particularly if you didn’t expect it: an old cemetery, overgrown and looking as if it was almost forgotten, returning to nature.
The section we wandered into was from the 1920s, and I spent some time reading the gravestones, and imagining the the lives of the people buried there.
I know some people find cemeteries creepy, but I don’t. Death happens to all of us, and the memorial stones focus on the best of a persons life; how much good they did, and how much they were loved. It’s comforting and restful to know that whatever someone went through in life, they aren’t suffering anymore, and all that is remembered of them is that they were beloved.
I found it particularly restful that this graveyard was so overgrown. I’ve since found out that some people are very unhappy about the trees, but I loved the whole space: it felt so peaceful. The graves really were resting in peace, undisturbed by lawn mowers and hedge trimmers and the usual trappings off pristine cemeteries.
As we walked further in amongst the graves, we travelled back in time from the ’20s to the ‘teens, with rows and rows of headstones from November of 1918, reminders of the toll the Spanish Flu took on the otherwise young and healthy in New Zealand.
In amongst the overgrown graves were the occasional newer headstones, where people had chosen to be buried with the family members they had lost decades before.
It may have seemed an odd way to spend Valentines afternoon, and it certainly wasn’t planned, but it felt very appropriate: being with someone I loved, looking at all these commemorations of how much other people were loved and missed.
As we left the cemetery, and the memories of those who had shared their life and were now together forever in death, I squeezed Mr D’s hand and told him how glad I was to be spending my life with him.
I too love overgrown old cemeteries. It must be maintained by a skeleton crew!
But all in all, not a bad way to rest for all eternity.
I always find gravestones interesting as well and I agree that Valentine’s Day is better spent telling someone close, including friends, that you appreciate and love them rather than joining in the mass marketing side of the day. It’s a stunning spot you’ve shown us with lots of character. 🙂 Thanks!
I agree with you, and I like old cemeteries the best.
Beautiful post! I love cemeteries – the headstones are fascinating, and they give you such a quiet, secure feeling. I’ve never seen one overgrown in a forest like this, so thanks for the unique glimpse.
An Arundel Tomb
Side by side, their faces blurred,
The earl and countess lie in stone,
Their proper habits vaguely shown
As jointed armour, stiffened pleat,
And that faint hint of the absurd—
The little dogs under their feet.
Such plainness of the pre-baroque
Hardly involves the eye, until
It meets his left hand gauntlet, still
Clasped empty in the other; and
One sees, with sharp tender shock,
His hand withdrawn, holding her hand.
They would not think to lie so long.
Such faithfulness in effigy
Was just a detail friends could see:
A sculptor’s sweet comissioned grace
Thrown off in helping to prolong
The Latin names around the base.
They would not guess how early in
Their supine stationary voyage
Their air would change to soundless damage,
Turn the old tenantry away;
How soon succeeding eyes begin
To look, not read. Rigidly they
Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same
Bone-riddled ground. And up the paths
The endless altered people came,
Washing at their identity.
Now, helpless in the hollow of
An unarmorial age, a trough
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins
Above their scrap of history,
Only an attitude remains:
Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone finality
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.
– Philip Larkin.
Nice to know I’m not the only one who likes wandering through cemeteries! I’ve always thought that was one of the more eccentric things about Wellington: the way little pockets of old cemetery remain here and there – in the middle of the university, in the shadow of an overpass next to the motorway…
What a lovely post! I love the attitude of your blog in general, it’s genuinely refreshing.
Was anyone else reminded of the old cemetery scenes in Anne of the Island? Montgomery could express the beauty and romance of such things far better than I.
What a beautiful place. Thanks for posting this.
I rarely leave comments but I wanted to say what a beautiful post this was. Many of us don’t like to talk about death but of course it happens to us all. The way you wrote about death was very natural and gentle (not sure I am doing a very good job of explaining myself). And I would be very happy to be resting in amongst all these lovely trees!
It sounds like a beautiful and peaceful way to celebrate the day. <3
sounds like a swell date…. as far as cemeteries go…American Victorian culture created park like settings as cemeteries specifically for walking/visiting….
Poor David Lauder who was drowned.
Whenever I am about to do something silly (like changing a lightbulb while standing on a swivelley chair) I remind myself how embarrassing that would look on my gravestone!
The cemetery at the top of the Dunedin Botanical Gardens is all overgrown and Gothic and wonderful for exploring.
What a sublime sacred space…although if it were in Australia, it would
be King Brown snake central and I’d be walking reallyfast and
making enough noise to wake the dead.