June 24th, 2013

Civil War

I've been running through the Woodlands Cemetery for a while now, it's been built up to encourage people to use it recreationally, and it's been used as a picnic spot for more than a hundred years, it's oddly not odd to go to the graveyard and spend time outdoors. Anyway, there's a jogging course at Woodlands that's almost exactly a mile and it's fun and lovely and you sometimes have the whole place to yourself and you sometimes see people and dogs. A few weeks ago I was running far from my house when I met a woman parked in a car along the side of the road just taking in the scenery, which was ... trees. Living in the city you crave and appreciate a forest, anything green that doesn't have a little fence and a bag of mulch around it is special. We got to talking about how marvelous it was to find a big patch of woods to either run through or just sit in your car and watch and she told me that down a particular path and to the left a certain number of yards there was a Civil War graveyard. How interesting I thought. So this afternoon trillian_stars and I rode out bikes out there in search of it.

There's a large cemetery the bulk of which is made up of the tombs of wealthy Philadelphians from the 1800's. It's been abandoned and forgotten for years and it looks like a movie set. Far away from everything else there's a fabulous forgotten beauty about it. There's a scene in Logan's Run where Logan and Jessica escape from the domed city out into the outside -- neither of them have ever been there before, and they walk along forgotten roads and eventually into a building covered in vines that we recognize as the Lincoln Memorial. It always impressed me as a kid, that something important could be forgotten.

The cemetery is overgrown, like something from an Indiana Jones movie.
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The manner in which the cemetery has been taken back by nature for some reason comforted me in the thought of being buried somewhere -- that eventually everything looks like this -- well, either some company buys the cemetery, moves the monuments to some place far away and churns up your bones while building the foundation to an office building, or everyone forgets about it and nature just takes it back -- that's the thought I find some solace in, that you are just part of a cycle and however important you are and however big a marble marker you leave, eventually vines and wind and rain will forget you from the face of the Earth.

Then over a hill, there's a row of stones in perfect rows.

The civil war graves. You can click here to make it larger.

Amid everything broken down and consumed, the civil war graveyard is immaculate.

The civil war graves. You can click here to make it larger.

It's my understanding that while the rest of the cemetery was forgotten, this area was maintained by the federal government who sends someone out to make sure that the grass is cut and that there's a flag next to each tomb. There's also something oddly reassuring about the thought of some autonomous bit of government bureaucracy, that somewhere there's always been a guy at a desk with a sheet of paper that says "231 graves, middle of the woods" with some survey lines and someone is dispatched every however many days to make sure it's kept up while the forest takes everything else.

Graves. You can click to make the image larger.

Trillian's brother is a Civil War scholar and reenactor. He tells me that many states have registries of all their soldiers on line so you can find out who people were. I'm often curious about people when going through a grave yard -- who was this person? but for some reason it seems even more compelling when you know that someone died abruptly -- that they didn't get the opportunity to become a Burgher of Calais, that whatever their potential was, it was cut short.

There were also some familiar names from Pennsylvania and I wondered of the relationship of people to people. It's a weird web that interconnects us all.

This thing actually exists. It's some sort of gate, but with a building attached.
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The path is pretty rough and bumpy, lots of hills and the growth is so thick that you get disoriented very easily, not sure what direction you're traveling in, or where you came from. It was paved at some point in time, but I don't know how long it takes for grass to take over a road. 50 years? More? Less?

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We came home, I went running, worked on some covers for things that seem important now but won't be remembered in a hundred years.

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