Last weekend, reaching the top of a local hill — the one I nicknamed Dead Man’s Peak — I was startled to discover that some renaming might be in order.
The deceased gentleman (presumably) who’d once enjoyed sweeping views of Jangyu and the Gimhae plain from the hilltop had been moved along — at least his headstone was gone and the mound had been crudely levelled. It was a nasty mess, and the construction of a viewing platform ringing the summit was well underway. Who knows if the former resident was re-interred somewhere down the mountain? It had seemed a very old grave.
I was pretty happy once I got over the shock. I’d thought it the height of rudeness to monopolise a narrow summit everyone should be able to enjoy for the necro-vanity of one show-offy grave. But in Korea I’ve seen hundreds, thousands of old graves in the woods and on the hills. I just assumed they were inviolate.
And indeed, on the way down, there was freshly mown grass bordering the path, and every grave I passed was sporting a new haircut and often some brand-new (and garishly bright) plastic flowers. In my local supermarket, the same cheapo flowers were on sale near the registers. Chuseok approaches — or we approach it.
Chuseok, the three-day harvest festival often called “Korean Thanksgiving”, this year abuts a weekend, so from Wednesday I’ll be enjoying (believe me) a five-day getaway that promises to be exciting and eminently blog-worthy. More details in the next post. For today, it seems apt that my Upstate Saga continues with a pleasant graveyard ramble.
Nice timing, Goat.
* * * * *
In the afternoon following the walk through the Yaddo gardens described in the previous post, Kate and I found ourselves, as young lovers will, back in a cemetery. This was the Prospect Hill Cemetery we’d strolled through back in January, when snow blanketed the graves, the trees were bare, and Kate had unknowingly passed an important test: Doesn’t think cemetery walks are weird = keeper.
The evening before, after the walk through the Saratoga Battlefields, we’d made it, grateful to be alive, to her sister and brother-in-law’s place a broken pottery shard’s throw (Doug’s a potter, and a good one, but I’ll guess even he makes mistakes) from this beautiful old boneyard.
It was too late for a proper walk, but I dashed over anyway for a couple of shots of the Saratoga Monument, a local landmark that is a great navigational aid on the Saratoga backroads:
Now, with a free and beautifully clear and mild afternoon to enjoy it, we were back. The monument, unfortunately, was locked up again…
..and we adjourned to the graves.
Every good walk needs or acquires a theme. On this visit I was struck by the old and highly literature-worthy names– we had our theme du jour. Imagine a name like Virtue — probably a curse:
If Death is the great equaliser, graveyards can be very democratic too, with memorials to fine upstanding citizens…
..sharing real estate with far shadier characters:
Some of the stones were quite beautiful…
..some still poignant:
If you were an aspiring writer in the Dickensian mode, graveyards would offer a feast of delicious character names:
There was something quintessentially American about some of the headstones and their adornments that just cried out for Toy Camera mode:
I mentioned a “proper walk”, but how about a Proper walk? This was the name that really grabbed my attention that afternoon. I said right away to Kate, “Lovina Proper, what a perfect name for a romantic heroine.”
And she said, “That’s great, hon, but my name ain’t Lovina.”
Lovina’s gravestone is stately without being too ostentatious:
It was only when looking at the pictures again recently that I noticed her age — or her youth:
And poor Raymond’s time on Earth was brief as well. In fact I just had the eerie realisation that he had the same number of years as I’ve had:
Let’s hope it turns out a little better for me. And for you. Great blogs like this don’t write themselves.
Down the slope, a flock of small birds was circling and swooping, apparently taking advantage of a bountiful supply of airborne insects. I left Kate on a bench to contemplate mortality and take in my dashing figure as I loped down the hill into a sunny stretch of highly photogenic field, as yet lightly populated with the dead. It was like that scene in The Wizard of Oz where everything morphs from black-and-white to colour.
Okay, it was a tad less spectacular, and there were far fewer Munchkins, but it was still pretty nice:
Back up on the main path…
..and still inspired by all those great surnames, I came up with a little game for the remainder of our walk.
The winner would be the one who found the most names that described and presumably originated as professions — largely the –er names. To be fair, I’m a graveyard lurker of some experience. Kate never stood a chance:
Game over. I’ll bet you wish you could have fun like this with your special someone.
And that’s it for the walk and for this really-quite-insubstantial post. Like me, you’ve now seen the place in two seasons. Of course I now see two gaping holes in my walking CV for Prospect Hill: Spring and Autumn.
Stay tuned. And keep your hands of the name Lovina Proper. It’s mine.
~ And that’s all the Goat wrote