Thursday, June 26, 2008

in memorium

Not far from the Degas family grave in the Montmartre cemetery is this intriguing grave and memorial to the inventor of the Cyclomoteur (also known as a moped). The inscription reads,
To my lamented boss, Robert Mayet, inventor of the first cyclomoteuor
3rd October 1895 - 4th December 1991

The Death Dolls are participating in Theme Thursday

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

If grief for grief...

If grief for grief can touch thee,
If answering woe for woe,
If any truth can melt thee
Come to me now!

I cannot be more lonely,
More drear I cannot be!
My worn heart beats so wildly
'Twill break for thee--

And when the world despises--
When Heaven repels my prayer--
Will not mine angel comfort?
Mine idol hear?

Yes, by the tears I'm poured,
By all my hours of pain
O I shall surely win thee,
Beloved, again!

Emily Jane Brontë (1818-1848)

Monument art featuring grieving figures, particularly grieving women, has long been a popular theme and can be found in cemeteries throughout the western world. We wonder whether meditating on a grieving form brings comfort to those who are grieve?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Brian Weiss

I'm posting this book today, because this will be my blogbook for the month of July. I hope others will read it and let me know how they feel about it. Any other book by Brian Weiss would be fine to discuss too. 

When Dr. Weiss was at Harvard, and later a psychotherapist, he never thought he'd ever have any interest in this area. But after a startling introduction into the past lives of a patient, he began his research in past lives and future lives. He blends psychotherapy techniques with the exploration of the spiritual unconscious.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stonecutters Part Two

These headstones for Arlington National Cemetery are made in Vermont (The Granite Capital of the World) Using a stencil and a sandblasting machine, it takes about 8 minutes to cut the name and information into the stone. Then the etched area is spray painted to give it an aged look. When the young college -age workers were asked about their job making these headstones, they said they never gave it much thought. "It's pretty easy, until you have to lift a stone--the stones are really heavy." said one. 

With computer generated stencils and special machines, a headstone like this one is done quickly and easily.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Stonecutters Part One

What does this image symbolize? A friend suggested ... a loving couple who liked fountain pens? Writers? But the carvings don't look exactly like pens. A loving partnership is certainly implied. It's impossible to know just what a symbol meant to the person paying for it to be carved on the stone, as it might be different from the meaning the stonecutter attached to it, or the original designer's meaning. Some of the symbols stonecutter Charles Baldwin recalled in his 1860's journal were Scotch thistles, wreaths, various medallions, including one with the word  Memory in the center, garlands of flowers. It took him almost a week to complete one large ornate wreath . But this stonecutter's journal is mostly full of descriptions of all the young ladies he'd like to get to know better, and he describes a carved marble box he presented to Sarah after they'd seen each other for a season

Did stonecutters sign their work? Many carved their initials or full names in a lower corner, and many signatures sunk out of sight as time passed. Christian Funk, a Pennsylvania stonecutter etched his full name into each stone.

The Long names of clients also posed a problem for stonecutters and the families paying for the work to be done. In one Pennsylvania cemetery, the Truckenmiller name was often shortened to T`Miller. Another gravestone in Norfolk Virginia reads Sacred to the memory of Margaret... Erratum, for Margaret, read Martha. The old stonecutters may have made errors, left spaces and chips, crowded letters too close together, or got the wording wrong, but they still made many artistic masterpieces.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Dead Cakes & Sin Eaters

The Doed Koeck (death cake) is found in many cultures, but the Dutch and the Pennyslvania Germans are known for making these cookie-like cakes from flour, butter, ashes, sugar and caraway seeds. An "inviter" would set out on horseback, dressed in a fancy black costume to invite certain neighbors, friends  and family members to a funeral. The inviter would show up at a house, announce the name of the deceased and the time and date of the funeral. (it was not an option to say 'no' to any invitation to a funeral.) The inviter then gave out two doed-koecks, and a bottle of wine. Usually, only one doed- koeck was consumed with the wine. The other was kept as a momento. The dead cake was symbolically filled with the sins of the dead person. By eating these sin-filled dead cakes, people were helping the deceased find easy passage into heaven. 
The dead cakes had the initials of the deceased etched into them or added by decoration. the cookie-like cakes were larger than the ones shown here, and would have had both initials, (in this case "A.G.") on each cake. Usually doed-koecks were home made, but a 1748 advertisement for a bakery in a Philadelphia newspaper offered a wide variety of Dead cakes and pastries for sale.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

death is only an experience

"Death is only an experience through which you are meant to learn a great lesson: you cannot die."    Paramahansa Yogananda 

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Cememtery Cats

I don't know what it is but one rarely sees cats wandering along the streets of Paris proper, but when one enters one of the many historical cemeteries of Paris one finds cats galore.
The cats that live in Paris' cemeteries appear well cared for. Some are shy but others are quite gregarious. For example, the cat in the picture right below was a real poser and demanded a great deal of attention. At one point there was a line of eight people taking pictures while she got comfortable in her bed.
I always feel that the cats in the Parisian cemeteries are keeping watch and making certain that those interred within the sacred walls of the cemetery are well taken care of.
The pictures of the cats in these pictures represent feline residents in the following cemeteries:
Cimetière de Montparnasse, Cimetière de Montmartre and Cimetière du Père Lachaise

Monday, June 9, 2008

Monumental Ambition

After I'm dead I'd rather have people ask why I have no monument than why I have one.
Cato the Elder

 I used to think about men who built themselves monuments like these, way in advance, not leaving the job for their loved ones to be saddled with. (Besides, it might not be tall enough if you leave it to others.) Was it some men's ambition to be highly regarded in death after a life of unscrupulous behavior? Some men no doubt build monuments out of pride for the family name, or because it's tradition. But I also think there's a little bit of Our monument is taller than theirs going on.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

How Do We Want To Go?

I saw this and remembered when I was a kid and the undertow got a hold of me. After that, I was much more careful. I never forgot the panic I felt, and I have a fear of drowning. That's not how I want to go. Like just about everybody else, I want to go in my sleep when I'm a healthy, happy 100 year old. I want people to say "Maybe she jogged too far today."  

The worse way to go would be in a way that could kill or injure others, like a heart attack at the wheel while you're on the freeway, or falling asleep at the wheel, or the very worst, during a fit of road rage. Airline pilots have all those people depending on them, Some Big Rig truckers have nightmares. 

Wouldn't it be nice if we could choose? I'd choose falling asleep in a freshly made bed after a wonderful day ( a day where I told my friends and family how much I loved them.) I would choose a breezy day in June so there would be a bouquet of roses on my bedside table. 


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Famous Graves: Albert Camus

....all I ask is that, in the midst of a murderous world, we agree to reflect on murder and to make a choice. After that, we can distinguish those who accept the consequences of being murderers themselves or the accomplices of murderers, and those who refuse to do so with all theri force and being. Since this terrible dividing line does actually exist, it will be a gain if it be clearley marked. Over the expanse of five continents throughout the coming years an endless struggle is going to be pursued between violence and friendly persuasion, a struggle in which, granted, the former has a thousand times the chances of success than that of the latter. But I have always held that, if he who bases his hopes on human nature is a fool, he who gives up in the face of circumstances is a coward. And henceforth, the only honorable course will be to state everything on a formidable gamble: that words are more powerful than munitions.
-Albert Camus - Neither Victims nor Executioners (1946)
translated by Dwight Macdonald and published 1947

Albert Camus was born in Mondovia, Algeria on 7 November 1913. His father was killed in the Battle of the Marne, 1914. Camus started writing seriously before he was twenty and he studied philosophy at the University of Algeria. He moved to France in 1938 after his first book of essays was published (1937). During World War II he edited the French underground newspaper Combat and was an active member of the French resistance. Following the war he rejected the use of violence to gain political objectives. His publication Neither Victims nor Executioners is an eloquent testimony as to the futility and inherent destructiveness of violence. A car in which he was a passenger crashed on 4 January 1960 ending his life at the age of 46.

My favorite first line of all times is from an Albert Camus novel, The Stranger (1942)
Aujourd'hui,maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais pas. J'ai reçu un télégramme de l'asile : "Mère décédée. Enterrement demain." Sentiments distingués. Cela ne veut rien dire. C'était peut-être hier.

Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know. I had a telegram from the home: 'Mother passed away. Funeral tomorrow. Yours sincerely.' That doesn't mean anything. It may have happened yesterday.

Camus is buried in the Lourmarin Cemetery in Lourmarin France.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Beneath Paris

On a trip to Paris we decided to go underground into the Catacombs, as the locals call the quarries of Paris. Our friends thought it was a horrible idea and tried to talk us out of it. "Why be so morbid?" and  "We hear there are skeletons down there-real ones!"

It was a self - guided tour and we walked through very narrow passages, stooped to get into smaller tunnels, and spent time thinking about all of the humans who had once used these skulls and bones to house their brains, to bring a glass of wine to their lips, to walk around, to wave to a loved one, to dance. The bones were piled up everywhere. It was, at times, overwhelming and no photos I've ever seen of the dark corridors ever do it justice. I took many photos myself, but they cannot capture the feeling you get walking past endless walls made from human bones. Walls of solid skulls or femurs. Walls with designs in them made from skulls like crosses or hearts. There were many wide passages and open spaces in the tunnels too - plenty of room for an altar and a crypt. We slithered into blocked off passages that were marked no entry, and had to double back when we reached a dead end. Sometimes we could see beyond the pile of stone and dust blocking the forbidden tunnel. Some sort of cave-in had occurred. And we wondered if anyone walked through at closing time, making sure all the tourists had gotten out. I seriously could not imagine spending the night in the tunnels, but surely some people have tried to do just that?
When we finally surfaced again, joyfully drinking in the fresh air and misty rain, we were far from our starting point, in another arrondissement. We stopped at the nearest bar for a glass of wine. We looked down and saw that our clothes, and especially the hems of our trousers were coated with a white film. Calcium dust? We shuddered, then realized it was limestone dust from the former quarry, now a sacred storage facility. 

I've read slightly conflicting histories as to how the Paris Catacombs came to be, but instead of making us feel sad, it made us appreciate life all the more. Someday we hope to walk through the tunnels again.