Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Thoughts from a New England Cemetery

Both Dan and I are in love with the forests - Pacific Northwest, New England - both share the lush trees that give clean air and block the noise of the traffic and give a feeling of being "cushioned" from overpopulation of houses and cars and buildings and signs.

People claim that we are overpopulated, but I don't believe that. Not overpopulated with people, anyway. Maybe with material stuff, with greed and selfishness, with garbage. With people who can't live in harmony with others, and with nature. But the earth is there to be populated. Maybe the people who claim overpopulation don't believe in a creation: don't believe that the earth was created for mankind. Maybe they believe we are an accidental animal borrowing time and space from the earth - the earth, which was created...for what?


Anyway, Dan and I went east to New Hampshire to witness the marriage of Dave Dorman and Karissa Stanton. They had a beautiful ceremony. My favorite part was the reading of their vows to one another. It was beautiful, the kind of words that should be recorded in the heart of all married couples. My least favorite part was the photographers: moving in front and around everyone, clicking away at their cameras incessantly, even during the prayer. It felt wrong for them to do that, and I felt the guilt of it -- simply for being a fellow photographer.

The wedding was in a chapel built in 1908. Vaulted arch ceilings, stone walls and floor. Stained glass windows -- simple, not ornate -- letting in a natural light which glowed soft and clean and gave an intimate warmth despite the stark, stone interior.

Behind the church is an old graveyard where a peach-ish light from the setting sun shone through moss-covered headstones. I couldn't help myself: I photographed it.

Am I like the photographers: pursuing an image blindly, heedless of my environment, marring the very event I am there to honor? I am photographing the resting places of the dead, walking upon the grass that covers their heads and feet. Do I walk behind the headstones or in front? I never know where to walk in a cemetery. Do I -like the photographers- also tread into disrespectful territory, unaware or uncaring that I have crossed a line?

It didn't feel so; It felt reverent, holy, surrounded by the beauty of God and of life and light passing into something else. Changing. To be reborn again in another time or place.

Am I doing what life is meant to do: walking upon the dead, admiring and documenting the beauties of life as it continues? As I continue?


At 7:17 PM, Blogger Phee said...

I've been to a number of marriage ceremonies where the photographers did the same and I felt strange. I think part of it is that sense of "violated sanctity"...but I think a large part of it, for me, is the strangeness of being confronted with the ways other people carry out their religion.

I get that same feeling in my stomach even when I'm with people who hold hands while praying, or say "Lord" and "you" a lot (instead of "thee")--despite knowing that they're probably just as sincere as I am, if not more so. It infringes on our understanding of the way things are...

I don't feel weird taking pictures of headstones because they were designed to be ornamental and to be monuments to the deceased. It would be different if you were taking pictures of the bodies themselves, or of a funeral, or playing on top of the graves. That's my two cents.

At 10:11 AM, Blogger Erin Traverso said...

Hey Marci! I appreciate your insights. We have a lot of converts in our ward and the way they express their devotion is a lot more vocal than is customary in our religion. It is uncomfortable at first but once you become accustomed to it it is obvious that although their mode of worship is different it is just as sincere.
I have actually been to several weddings of different religions and there are parts of their ceremonies (like the original vows) that I wish we could somehow incorporate into ours - kind of like with baby blessings when they begin with the formal words and then end with a blessing that comes from the heart and the spirit.
Glad you are alive and well! Check out my blog sometime if you get a chance - not as beautifully written as yours but the pics of my kids are cute!

At 10:56 AM, Blogger sinisterguffaw said...

I thought the chapel was built in 1808?
Thanks for putting up with my uncomely behaviour. You and Dan are wonderful, and it was a pleasure to spend time with you in New England.

At 7:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Marce! Good post....

Just wanted to let you know.... I'M BACK!

At 7:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay so... I know it's nearly Halloween time but Marci, I'm tired of looking at gravestones. UPDATE, UPDATE!


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