Cemetery 17

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.

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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!)

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“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.

Some highlights:

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I wondered what happened to people who had planned to be interred somewhere but never made it there.

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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.

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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.

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A family of deer kept me company in the morning.

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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.

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Really pretty, right?

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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.

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There were lots of cultural subsections of the cemetery. In the Jewish faith you leave a stone to mark when you visit.

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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.

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