Walk on the Wild Side

Unless you are an Ann Rice, Steven King or Stephenie Meyer fan on the hunt for your favorite vampire, you might be wondering what kind of twisted person cruises a cemetery for pleasure?

With Halloween fast approaching we thought it would be fun to find some ghoulish outdoor inspiration for a daily walk. And, of course, it had to be free.

In the old, old days cemeteries were dull and dreary places. Often adjacent to a church they were religious and serviceable final resting grounds.  Graves were stacked high, unmarked, neglected– certainly not places of romantic inspiration let alone a destination worthy of a visit without morbid cause.   Pere Lachaise Cemetery built in Paris in the early 1800’s changed the vision of cemeteries and what they could be.  Planned around beautiful park like grounds, respecting the natural landscape, planted with beautiful specimens this first ‘rural or garden’ cemetery became a model for cemeteries all over the world.

Being rather picky and discerning we didn’t choose just any cemetery. We chose the most magnificent of the ‘garden or rural cemeteries’ for a perambulation: the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA.  Originally built in 1831 it was the first in this country and according to the NPS even inspired the movement for public parks ! Laurel Hill Cemetery in Philadelphia, Green Mount in Baltimore, Green-Wood in Brooklyn and Mount Hope in Rochester are a few of the garden cemeteries of the same vintage as Mt Auburn.

We picked a crisp autumn day for our visit with a friend (after all, if you’ve read The Bitches, you know we advise exercise with a friend).  The leaves were turning, the air was chill and sweet as wandered the pathways, climbed the hills and admired the magnificent grounds.  We made up stories about what the people were like who were buried by ‘reading’ their tombstones.  Did they like each other? Were the stones embellished with lovebirds or just a simple cross?  We had a competition: who could find the most number of famous people?   Longfellow, Lowell, Malamud –to name a few.  Guess who won?  We admired magnificent tree specimens planted over the centuries.  We even had a spirited round of hide go seek.

If you’re a lucky lady living in the neighborhood of one of them, get yourself in gear and head on over. These cemeteries are as beautiful as any arboretum or botanical garden you might pay to visit. The grounds are filled with magnificent ironwork and monuments you might find in a major museum.   For all of us ‘bitches on a budget’ living in the fast lane, there is no place on earth as quiet and as peaceful as a ‘rural cemetery’.  And, best of all for a bitch on a budget — it’s all for free.