An obsession with cemeteries, and a trip to London’s Highgate
“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth,
Let’s choose executors and talk of wills”
― William Shakespeare, Richard II
I love cemeteries. Perhaps it’s morbid, but perhaps I’m not alone: Pere Lachaise is, after all, one of the main tourist destinations in Paris . . . and how many visitors to New Orleans have booked a cemetery tour? I take a little solace in these notions and convince myself I’m not as creepy as my love of cold, gray, moss-covered headstones makes me seem.
I first fell in love with cemeteries when I was thirteen and we visited Arlington National Cemetery. I loved the contrast of the white headstones against the green grass, and the incredible symmetry of the rows of graves–coupled with the rolling hills–made it so peaceful.
In my adult life, my fascination with cemeteries was sparked when we lived in Buenos Aires and visited Recoleta Cemetery. The crumbling facades, rusted ironwork, and dried flowers gave the entire cemetery a cold, eerie air that was–for lack of a better word–haunting.
When we moved to Barcelona, we spent our first All Saint’s Day visiting a beautiful cemetery in Poble Nou, a neighborhood near the beach that has yet to be truly touched by tourism (though I’ve noticed, in the last year, that it is happening). We spent the afternoon wandering through the rows and rows of monuments on a beautiful, clear autumn day. It was sad and spectacular.
On our last trip to London, we took a trip to Highgate Cemetery. I was in the middle of preparing a presentation on Marxist philosopher Raymond Williams and also reading George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss, which made the trip all the more exciting. A chilly, overcast day fit the bill perfectly.
Highgate is special because of above-noted graves of Marx and Eliot, but there are many more headstones that are just as intriguing. Of particular note was this one, which I later read was for a man who loved books. I couldn’t think of a more fitting tribute.
The cemetery is full of headstones that are beautiful, funny, unique, and sometimes just creepy . . . all are thought-provoking and picture worthy. To make the day even stranger? We later learned that a kangaroo was lost and wandering the premises. We didn’t spy the little guy hopping around, and perhaps I’m thankful we didn’t . . . it would be a strange story to tell, and an overload of strangeness!
For more information, visit the Highgate Cemetery website: