Wednesday, October 5, 2016

A Short Ramble in Mt. Auburn Cemetery . . . & Home Depot

Mount Auburn Cemetery opens its beautiful Bigelow Chapel to the public on two or three Sunday afternoons a year. The chapel is where most of the Sabine family is interred, in a small crypt on the second floor, and I like to go and visit for a little while when we can. Meanwhile, my husband goes off and visits the graves of some people he's researching for a biography. We realize that we're perhaps a bit odd, but we don't care. At least we are well-suited to each other.

It was a brilliant autumn day but the leaves weren't turning colors yet. We plan to go back to see that in a few more weeks.

On this visit, I slipped Fugitive Papers, Ruth Sabine's slender, posthumous collection of writings, into my bag to read as I sat by her memorial. Sixteen was just too young for her to die. I was glad I had the book later, when we went to Home Depot. We were there to meet a certain bubbly young woman from the Pro Desk, who agreed to exchange some windowshades we'd bought that were not as described — not something they don't normally allow. She and I had spent nearly an hour on the phone a couple of weeks earlier as we ordered the shades via their slow-as-molasses website. As we waited, we found other things to talk about, and somehow got onto the subject of Ruth . . . but how?

Ah, I remember: She said she was bored and had lots of time on her hands, so I asked her for plumbing tips, since she's an expert at fixing things. Our toilet has been whistling and shrieking in the middle of the night. She diagnosed the problem by saying we had a ghost. I told her we do, sometimes, seem to have ghosts, but our teenage one is not like Moaning Myrtle, who died in the girls' bathroom at Hogwarts. I told her a little about my research and she was interested to learn more.

When we met at the store, she said, "I tried to look up that girl you told me about. Ruth." And I could  show her Ruth's book, which has a charming, soft-focus portrait of her. She took the book carefully from me and pored over it.

In the parking lot, my husband said it was our strangest Home Depot experience ever; I said it was by far the best.

But back to Mount Auburn. When we were done visiting our subjects we took a little hike to find Janet Sabine Cummings's grave, which is conveniently near Harvard president Charles Eliot's, which my husband likes to visit. President Eliot is also the one "degree of separation" we know between the Sabines and his subjects, who were anthropologists at Harvard at the turn of the century.

Along the way we saw this beautifully carved cherub:

Lot's of chipmunks were dashing around, looking busy and important:

We managed to find the two graves we were seeking only because I had snapped a photo of the name of "their" lane, Thistle Path, on our last visit. We found it on a map on our phones. After decades of visiting, the cemetery still is like a maze to me; it's not at all your standard, flat graveyard with stones lined up neatly in row upon row. Here, you wander uphill and down on curving streets, seeing new vistas at every turn. Each paved street is lined with numerous grassy paths, all with botanical names that start to sound the same after a while. But we found Janet, in her husband's family plot:

And we moved on. Note the fancy ironwork on the fence of the Scots' Charitable Society. I wonder how many kilts were buried in there:

I always like to see this monument with its tall Gothic spire, shaded by a massive weeping beech on one side and a most peculiar conifer on the other:

There are a few dog sculptures in the cemetery but I know of no cats except for a lion or two.

The pretty Victorian lady-headed sphinx on the Civil War memorial to the Union does not count as a cat:

1 comment:

  1. Nice photos! Cemeteries are parks; well-groomed, quiet, and full of interesting stuff.


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