There were several things I knew would happen today: I would wake up early, I would hike for Amazon training, and I would enjoy it.
I did not, however, anticipate spending over 5 hours in a cemetery.
I woke up at 4:45 with the plan to drive to the Laurel Highlands to do about 6 hours of hiking. We had nasty rains last night and I have a big deadline coming up so I made an executive decision that a trail with stream crossings that might be flooded/dangerous that was 3 hours roundtrip was not a good idea today. So I grabbed my headlamp and hit my local park that has awesome technical single track.
I got to the trails around 5:30 and it was dark and quiet and so still and I loved it. I could tell the storm last night knocked down some leaves and branches and the air smelled like a storm had come through- dark and woodsy like fresh mulch in the spring. As I walked my body was on high alert- the stillness and darkness seemed to heighten all my experiences. Every sound was crisp, I could feel every cobweb. Suddenly my headlamp caught the green glowing eyes of something in a drainage pipe. For some reason I thought to Ray’s book chapter about the Amazon and how eerie he said it was to shine his headlamp into the woods at night and see thousands of glowing eyes. I shuddered and walked past the creature only to hear it growl and make a hissing-type noise. Suddenly I was freaked out. I realized that anything that was in the woods could see me because of my headlamp but unless I was facing it I wouldn’t see it. It’s an urban park so I was more worried of people than animals which was completely irrational but resulted in me getting off at the next trailhead. I thought I’d walk for a bit until the sun rose and head back to the trails.
As I was walking along the road I came across the Homewood Cemetery, an old beautiful cemetery that my friend Cari recently photographed.
Entrance (my photo, not Cari’s)
I have run by this cemetery close to a hundred times and never felt comfortable going in, but Cari’s photos piqued my interest. As I began to walk I loved the hills and how quiet and still and safe it seemed. As the sun rose I decided to wander and I set two goals: 1) find “Cari’s” mausoleum; 2) when in doubt go up (it’s hilly with lots of turns/paths!)
“Cari’s” Mausoleum- odd, right? Spinxs with exposed breasts guarding a Winter’s tomb in Pittsburgh.
As I walked it was easy to stay entertained- the cemetery is huge with thousands of headstones and dozens of mausoleums. I tried to find the oldest headstone I could find- it was from 1810 but there were thousands from the 1800s. I would up my workout intensity by hiking off the paths up hills to look at the older gravesites. At points the graves were so dense I would tiptoe around where I thought the graves were and apologize in my head as if I were stepping on people’s toes while trying to get out of a row at the theatre, “Excuse me, I’m sorry. Pardon me.” I would try to find stories or unique-looking headstones but that was easy since they were everywhere.
I wondered what happened to people who had planned to be interred somewhere but never made it there.
This was a grave marker with the person’s name on the other side of the bench. I think it is beautiful for so many reasons.
I noticed a lot of the women had “wife of X” but I couldn’t find any headstones from the 1800s who had “husband of X.” Then I found this one. Winfield marked that he was husband of Pearl over 50 years after she had died. If I have a spouse when I die I hope they move on, but love like that gives me hope.
A family of deer kept me company in the morning.
This was the closest I got to Cari’s Mausoleum. A pryamid? In Pittsburgh? Maybe there’s something to it because there were lots of obelisks, too.
Really pretty, right?
So much infant mortality. So sad to see so many families with multiple infant deaths and mothers who died in childbirth. Makes me thankful for modern medicine.
There were lots of cultural subsections of the cemetery. In the Jewish faith you leave a stone to mark when you visit.
Lots of Veterans. Civil War, Spanish War, Korea, Vietnam and the World Wars. Before I grabbed my camera I found one grave from 1919 that marked “The World War” because at that point they only knew there to be one.
I never found Cari’s mausoleum and I have no idea where it could be- I think I covered every section of the cemetery but it’s big enough I may have missed part. I spent a lot of time thinking about loss and life and love today. I also woke up early, I hiked 17.75 miles in a cemetery for Amazon training, and I enjoyed it.