It’s the summertime! Any time the seasons turn to sunshine and warm air temperatures, most well-adjusted human beings begin seeking the outdoors. They love that splendor. They love that fresh air. They love it alone or in pairs, or most commonly, in big large family groups that are always loud. So loud. Always.
Most city dwellers who don’t drive will venture out to the local municipal park. City parks are great except for the fact that every other city dweller is also congregating there, leading to cramped conditions and flaring tempers as a frisbee or dog intrudes upon a stranger’s scene.
What if I told you that there is a way for you to avoid crowds, crowds of dogs’ waste, and swarms of frisbees while still getting sunlight, fresh air, and swarms of mosquitoes? Would you believe me if I told you that these public spaces exist in abundance, anywhere there are communities old enough to have DEAD PEOPLE. That’s right. Go to the graveyard.
Nature can be too overwhelming for a hike what with the tickborne illnesses and surprise patches of mud every time you happen to not look where you are about to step. But the cemetery is maintained, for the most part. There are grasses, trees, and even flowers! If you are lucky, like we are here in the Cincinnati area, there will even be a humongous cemetery that is also an arboretum. We have it all here in Paradise.
Small graveyards, which I call “bury patches,” have their own sweet quaintness. There is nothing quite like a five acre cluster of mismatched rows of stones and two ancient cedar trees for effect. Will you catch a glimpse of some spooky vultures to complete the scene? Probably. Larger cemeteries will have hills and lakes, most likely. You can sit in the short grass in the shade and have maudlin ruminations while you listen to the pretty birdsong, and not to screaming children “having fun.” Why must they always be so loud?
Funereal architecture in the form of mausoleums and other structures are a delight to the eyes. Go to an older sort of cemetery, built in the Victorian times — they certainly knew how to celebrate death! You could even bring along a book on Victorian grave symbolism and some friends and have some sort of learning expedition. As you will discover because of my rambling — there really is no end to the list of possible fun.
Graveyards are considered to be solemn places, because of all the dead and buried corpses, but they have all of these paved roadways that are demanding to be used as walking or running paths! With each step, feel victorious about how you are still alive and living that life to the fullest. No disrespect to the decaying human remains all around you, but the world is for the living. The world is for you. Let out a whoop that no one will hear, because no one else is just hanging out at a cemetery for fun, like you are.
Likewise, hiking among the gravestones provides muscle tone if done with enough vigor. Check your surroundings to make sure there is no one around to judge you and then leapfrog those monuments for an all-over workout! What will the dead care? Only grieving family would mind, I assume. And I guess people who are sensitive about death. And maybe people who hold beliefs about the dead which demands a basic level of reverence.
Please be careful of older, fragile stones with delicate protrusions, or which are not sturdy on their foundations. I won’t have you messing up these beautiful markers. Upon further thought, you probably should stick to just walking around. I don’t know that I trust you to make smart decisions when you are in the frenzy of good time having.
As anyone with a camera knows, black and white photography in graveyards provides the best expression of gothery. Still life portraits of the still alive over the still and dead are the ultimate in angst and depression, no matter how much you may or may not be feeling those things at the time of posing. It doesn’t matter how you feel inside, only how you look on the outside. Do a leisurely weep.
If you are the type to want to do such a thing, going by yourself to a cemetery for solitude while you repose and write moody poetry, or to write moody thoughts by hand into a paper journal is therapeutic and delicious. There will probably be a willow tree if there is a lake anywhere. Sit under that. Or find the oldest oak tree and sit upon its root. Write your acorn thoughts. Write about tree longevity. Turn it all into tragedy, then smile inside, but not outside. Brood on the outside.
Even if you decide to goth out in a group, the fun is immediate and forever. Get in touch with your fifteen year old self. Feel alone in a group, as a group. It can happen and it feels great. Lie down upon the burial mounds and various slabs. Make outrageous claims about this and that, about ravens and absinthe. Tell trivia about Mary Shelley. Pretend to be back in time somewhere. Then don’t tell anyone else about it because it was your bonding moment with your dorky friends.
As with all great things, you will need to be careful of a few certainties of cemetery life. You must always be cautious of roving bands of teenagers. All teenagers are dangerous but these kind are the MOST dangerous. Graveyard teens are probably disaffected youth with chips on their shoulders who mistakenly think that cemeteries are where they are supposed to be due to some outdated stereotype. If you see evidence of them kicking over gravestones, I want you to call for the authorities as soon as you are far away from their retaliation. If they are just doing drugs or something behind a mausoleum, then just thank your lucky stars that they will be too mellowed or confused to take out their aggressions on you. Run away!
Similarly, be wary of any Satanic Cults you happen to stumble upon. At first glance, they may seem friendly with their sweet promises and offers of friendship. They’ve read from their unholy bible about how to best lure innocents like yourself, so you could be easy meat for their purposes. Their cute little cauldrons with visible desiccated femurs and roosters blood pentagrams may look like fun, but before you know it, you might be caught up in hijinks that curse you to eternal damnation!
And last but not least, be mindful of the ghosts. They always say that ghosts are more scared of us than we are of them, but have you ever cornered a ghost? When threatened, they attack more aggressively than a mother bear and you will rue the day, my friend. You will rue the day.