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October 10, 2008 / Bo Mackison

Shrouded Cemetery

Roadside Cemetery in Dane County

Roadside Cemetery in Dane County, Wisconsin

Cemeteries hold a certain fascination for me. On my travels around the state of Wisconsin and in other parts of the country, too, I often see small cemeteries on private lands. Simple family cemeteries filled with crumbling spires and solid squatty granite blocks. Some are decorated with plastic flowers in every hue and variety, some with teddy bears and pin-wheels, some plain – but not forgotten, I hope.

My favorite grave markers are the ones that incorporate a bench. Not that I will have a bench near my eventual resting place, but I do like the idea of having a place for others to rest a bit, think quiet thoughts, re-consider and make new plans, go on with living. While still taking out a few moments of life to remember and honor.

I’m the cemetery visitor in my immediate family. I think, though, that I am the last in a long line of grave site caretakers. My great-grandmother and both grandmothers with whom I grew up  – they were all Sunday-morning-after-church-services visitors to the cemetery. I often accompanied them as I was the one with the young knees and strong arms. I could run along the gravel paths without fear of turning an ankle or falling. We often brought live plants that required digging holes, setting in, mounding, and watering. In Autumn, we brought rakes so that I could rake leaves off the long line of family plots. Even little clippers to trim the summer’s blades of grass that sprang up in the improper of places.

I still take my mother to the cemetery when I visit my hometown. We now decorate with artificial flowers that can be re-used every year.  And we decorate seasonally – Christmas poinsettias, then red and white carnations for Valentine’s Day, followed in quick procession by spring flowers, Memorial Day in red, white and blue, summer flowers, Fourth of July, and finally fall flowers. In early December we start with Christmas again. And the seasons recycle, each set of flowers returns to the cemetery at just the right time.

I’d rather just wander around, look around, examine. But the flower tradition has been in place for a hundred years in my maternal family. I don’t live near the family site. Hundreds of miles away, actually. So I wonder what will happen when I no longer have living relatives to visit in my hometown.


  1. Marcie / Oct 10 2008 8:48 am

    Love the mysterious feel of the image. Very nice!

  2. Anna Surface / Oct 10 2008 10:29 am

    I used to be a grave visitor and wanderer. I know what you mean. I had visited graves that were not of family members, and I wondered about there loves, hardships, and lives. Very nice capture, Bo. 🙂

  3. Stevo | China / Oct 10 2008 7:48 pm

    Lovely image. I too like cemeteries. I visit tombs and cemeteries whenever I find them. There is something extremely special about eternal resting places.

  4. Anonymous / Oct 10 2008 8:43 pm

    Beautiful Picture. I agree with the drawing in.

    I don’t visit often enough where my brothers are, but I
    do on a daily basis.

  5. Laurie / Oct 10 2008 10:53 pm

    There is actually a peacefulness to cemeteries. I don’t visit any family in them though. It was not something I was raised doing though.

    This is a very thoughtful post.

    The foggy atmosphere in the photo adds to the peacefulness of the scene.

  6. rick mobbs / Oct 12 2008 2:19 am

    Beautiful images, all of these. I was drawn to a large, old cemetery in Agua Prieta, Mexico this weekend. Many workers cleaning, raking, repairing, getting ready to celebrate the Day of the Dead, I imagine. My family no longer uses a cemetery, which is fine and makes sense in light of the way we now live, still close but physically scattered. But that connection to place would be nice. Not important enough to me personally to change the way we now do things, but nice nevertheless, in an old fashioned kind of way. I love old cemeteries.

  7. Gandalf / Oct 14 2008 9:39 pm

    This would have been a great Halloween post.

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