Memor(ial) Lane

(Two posts tonight, since I missed a post on the 22nd!)

It probably sounds stereotypical of a writer, but I love walking around cemeteries. My favorite is the old graveyard overlooking downtown Providence on Benefit street. It’s said H.P. Lovecraft used to walk around there and got his inspiration from strolling down the narrow, curvy path. I don’t go there to write, though. I don’t really know what fascinates me so much about those kinds of places. The old ones are my favorite–and perhaps that’s because they memorialize lives that ended so long ago that their names have faded with their bones. Some of the newer ones have my own family buried in them, and that is a different matter altogether. Death doesn’t resonate in its closeness until you are forced to shake its hand.

If I’m visiting someplace with a history to it, chances are you’ll find me Googling where the cemeteries are. I love old cemeteries because they remind me of just how long the world has been around, and how long humans have been struggling day-to-day to simply be what they are. I tend to think the world began when I opened my eyes for the first time and will end when I last close them, but we all know that isn’t true. Humans are deeply egotistical and self-centered; I’m certainly no exception. But I look at those faded names on crooked stones and I understand those people probably thought the way I do. Centuries don’t separate one human condition from another. The person whose grave I stand over, I always think, probably felt lonely sometimes like I do, scared, uncertain, ecstatic, drunk, ridiculous, rational, irrational…as human as I am. I go to cemeteries because I feel an odd connection with the dead I never knew. It is odd because it’s comforting–the fact that I often can relate to deceased members of the human race I’ve never met, more than I can to people with whom I interact on a daily basis. Sounds like the plot of an alternative rock song, doesn’t it?

We’ve all got something. I visit dead people to remind me I’m not alone.

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