Anyone who knows me knows that I love old cemeteries. LOVE them. I have ever since I can remember. My first real memory of a cemetery was when I was around 5 or 6, I think. It might be the summer before I turned 6 (my birthday is in September), or the next summer.
My family did a lot of camping in the summer. On this particular occasion, we were trying out a new campground. Across the street from the entrance to this campground there was an old, civil war era graveyard.
I was drawn to it. At one point while I was playing with a bunch of other kids on the playground, which had a clear view of the cemetery. Eventually, I wandered away and across the VERY busy highway to look at the graves.
It wasn’t a very big plot. I’m guessing, based on 40 year old memories, that it held maybe 100 graves, probably less. But I had to read each and every one. Gravestones were more descriptive back during the Civil War (and before) than they are today. You can learn a lot about an area by reading it’s older gravestones.
My mother came and found me. I don’t know how long I’d been gone, but she found me standing amidst a small cluster of graves. There wasn’t a person buried in that group that had reached puberty. They were babies and children. It had stopped me in my frantic scouring for knowledge.
I remember telling her that they were all babies and I didn’t understand that. The dates on the graves told the story though. They had all died during a flu epidemic. I remember that I spent a long time during the rest of that camping trip thinking about that.
When I went to England, I knew I had to spend some time in some graveyards that dated far further back in time than the Civil War. At High Gate cemetery in London (where I took the picture above), I was enticed by the long stories etched into ancient stone; the stories of lives lived long, long ago, the stories of a place as much as a person. It was an incredible day and I look forward to going back someday to spend more time.
You’ll see that love pop up in my writing. In Through Shade and Shadow (which is currently on special for $.99 for Kindle, today through 12/4) you’ll find it in the Shade traditions, the reverence they afford their dead, and the fact that the gravestones themselves hide the books that keep their history. And of course, it’s obvious in Forever, where graveyards actually save Amara’s life on more than one occasion. I don’t know yet if we’ll see my cemetery love manifest in the new book I’m working on, but it wouldn’t surprise me!