Saturday, October 11, 2008

Sam Pickering update

Pleased to become a part of my Cabinet, Samuel Pickering shared with me an essay he had just finished writing about Karrakatta Cemetery, which he often visited while living in Perth, Western Australia: In part I write about death because I have reached the noose end of my days. More importantly, though, optimism thrives amid the humus of tombs. Sam Pickering also describes the Perth War Cemetery: The grass was green and plush. The stones ran in straight lines, and not a tendril had worked loose from plantings embroidering walkways. The order, of course, masked the turmoil war imposed on families. Back at Karrakatta (where Heath Ledger's family has a plot, I learned when I Googled the above image) Sam has taken a break: After leaving the cafe, I decided to read more tombstones, for epitaphs are often the beginnings, not the endings, of stories, for example, "Our Pop" and "We have lost what heaven has gained / The best little girl the earth contained." In the essay, he wanders the "renewed" and the sandy, blighted old sections of the cemetery, picks up and puts back down a half-buried small oval grave number he considers taking home: "That's the end of it," I thought. But that wasn't the end. Certainly endings in cemeteries are more complex, turning back on themselves and becoming beginnings and middles. I agree with Sam that the older sections of cemeteries are the more appealing. When I went to a meeting of the Association for Gravestone Studies back in 1987, the group toured a local burial site that was being reclaimed from a stand of woods. I had to hurry to get some beautiful photographs of the slate stones before restoration-minded members plucked the ivy off.

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