Thursday, 22 December 2016

gardens of rest, and all of the rest

Cemetery gardens are a thing apart. I've been to three this year, all very different. I think that probably the experience of a cemetery garden is always different, individual, defined by the path that grief it taking for you, and them, and the time of the place.

The Oxford Cemetery in April, for a sunny midday funeral was suitably beautiful, understated, an attractive Victorian chapel in a vast blossoming garden full of old friends and memories, the shifting fields of an active busy life intersecting and introducing echoed in the large airy bright space with its different plots and spaces from the formal rose and fountain garden all the way out to the tall beeches at the edge of the countryside. The cemetery is up a bit, above town, and a fresh wind blows through, sweeping and dispersing the sorrow.

October, in a home counties market town cemetery, fuelled by lemsip and a nervous kind of regret. Bright weather, but the gardens were barricaded by trees and municipally smart hedges framed carefully selected view. The planting was green and tight, privet, box, hebe, viburnum and tedious containers, everywhere, boring, annoying spikey things in pots, geraniums, shopping-centre benches, the cheap red-and-tan of tile and brick, like it had been bought in a job lot with a shopping centre. A tight, awkward space for hugging in grief and fretting over people who'd gone on sooner than you'd hoped, but longer than expected. The usual wall of trees guarding the car-park.

Finally, the Norfolk Cemetery on the last of November for an afternoon funeral in the dying of the light. Sat in a tangled hollow, a long taxi ride from town. There was frost in the lower plots that hadn't melted all day, memorials jostled together under the shadows of the dark conifers, fading frost-brown flowers, thin ice on tiny waterways. I went up a hill to get out of the ground's shadow, and up on a low rise at the edge of the site, there was a small stand of pine trees lit bright by the sun, the ground beneath them carpeted thickly with pine needles. A crowded, lonely, confusing place, dark with odd flashes of complicated emotion; strange messages on tombs, weird choices of memorials. The chapel itself, a narrow bricked-in space, almost black in the sinking light, sits at the focus of the hollow, dark in the dimness.  

I didn't go to any wedding this year. I suppose it's a lifestages thing. 

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