Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The Trees of Life

Recently I visited Mount Auburn Cemetery in Boston, Mass.  Generally graveyards are sad places.  Representing loss--lost time, lost lives, mystery and even fear. Yet, in addition to those common aspects, cemeteries are also known to contain some of the world's oldest trees.

It could be because centuries ago Druids used to gather at Yew trees.  Already known to be sacred spots, eventually churches were built near those trees. And the area containing the trees became the churchyard or the graveyard.  Eternity becomes a real concept in these places but also a fantastic place for trees to take their time and spread their roots. 
Boston Skyline

With the creation of Mount Auburn, America's Rural Cemetery Movement began. Consecrated in 1831, its founders were innovators.  They dreamed of a cemetery that could serve as a peaceful place for burials in addition to a landscaped place of beauty where nature could thrive and life could be celebrated by everyone. 

Bigelow Chapel
And why not? Weddings, christenings, and baptisms are celebratory rites  conducted at churches.  These rites are often performed right next to the grave yards where the deceased from the same families lie in eternal rest.
Mighty Oak

Why not take your children to visit their loved ones while smelling the flowers and breathing the fresh air?  After the tears, they can enjoy the pleasure of the shade, the towering trees and the textured look and sound of the leaves.  It's as if we're teaching them to say, "I will enjoy my time because it won't last forever." 

Auburn Lake
The creation of Mount Auburn marked a shift in the American psyche regarding funerals, burials and death. Romantic notions of Death prevail in the serene loveliness.  Here life and Death become peaceful bedfellows, in a romantic and cyclical dance, as opposed to stark contrasting enemies at war. The vision and foresight of Mount Auburn eventually inspired the Public Parks Movement with the creation of Central Park in 1857.

At Mount Auburn the gardens, the detailed memorials, the hilly landscape and spectacular trees make "in perpetuity" seem like an opportunity to celebrate beauty and cultivate life forever.
European Beech

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