01 January 2011

New Year

Last night the transition from the old year to the new was celebrated around the globe.  Most people seem to usher in the New Year by indulging in all the vices they want to limit in the coming year and then wonder why they can't keep their resolutions.  Trying to usher in change by swimming in the same negative energy of the past isn't what I'd call wise.  But hey, to each his own.

As you may imagine, I did not celebrate New Year's Eve by getting drunk.  Instead I spent the day with a good friend indulging in much witchiness, punctuated by some incredibly good food.  We spent a fair amount of time browsing the fabulous witchy shops up on Capitol Hill including my favorite bookstore Edge of the Circle and The Vajra (the best place to get essential oils in the city - Gods I love the way this store smells!).   We got sushi for lunch and went over to Cupcake Royale for dessert where I got their fabulous but unfortunately seasonal eggnog cupcake.  Oh eggnog cupcake I will miss you. Please come back next year.

The highlight of the afternoon was definitely a trip to Lakeview Cemetery.  This cemetery and I are old friends.  Back in law school I would often walk the 2.5 miles from campus out to the cemetery to have quiet time and de-stress.  Sitting in the law school building was like sitting in the middle of a river at flood stage made out of anxiety.  I'd get out of there whenever I could and find energy as diametrically opposed to it as possible - the energy in the cemetery was about as different from the energy in Sullivan Hall as you could imagine.  For some odd reason exams just seem a lot less daunting when you're sitting in the middle of a necropolis.

Rae and I got to the cemetery at around 2:30pm and it was cold.  There was a thick layer of frost on the grass and any unprotected ears or fingertips felt it.  Once inside the cemetery gates we were awed by the sight of hundreds of crows.  Now, there are always a few crows hanging around the cemetery but this was just ridiculous.  Crows were thick on the ground, pecking at the frozen flowers people had left for their loved ones and every grave had a crow or two perched on top of it.  It quite took my breath away.  I must admit, I couldn't help but indulge in the childish desire to run through them and watch them all scatter in a huge mass.  When they all took flight it was eerily like a scene from the old Hitchcock movie The Birds.  Thankfully, these crows didn't seem particularly interested in pecking our eyes out and once we stopped running around they all settled back on the graves as if we hadn't bothered them at all.

One of the things I love about this old cemetery is that it's older and still has beautiful monuments.  The center of the cemetery is on a rise and this is where most of the oldest graves are located.  It's there that you'll find the grave of the city founders.  One of my favorite monuments is for Mrs. Wilson.  I have no idea who this woman was, but her monument fascinates me, and not just because it's a lovely sculpture.  One of the things I've noticed about this monument is that it's often surrounded by offerings: beads, candles, flowers, fruit, etc.  Who was she that people still remember her almost a hundred years after her death?  The only other time I've seen offerings like this at a grave was in New Orleans at the grave of Marie Leveau.  Could Mrs. Wilson have been an occult figure?  Leave a comment if you know.

Despite the cold, we were not the only people in the cemetery.  There are always people visiting the graves of Bruce and Brandon Lee, and there are often people taking pictures of interesting graves.  On this trip we were treated to the sight of a gaggle of punk/goth teens wandering around.  They were very respectful of the feeling of the place and seemed as fascinated by the stones as we were.  After they had gone, Rae and I couldn't help but chuckle at our mutual desire to shout at them, "Hey, in 10-15 years you're going to be us!"  They probably wouldn't have appreciated it.

As we meandered through the graves it struck me that it was really quite fitting to spend New Year's Eve with the dead.  New Year's Eve is all about saying goodbye to the past and welcoming in the future and all its possibilities.  It's not uncommon to portray as the old year as a tired old man who is collected by the reaper at the stroke of midnight, and the new year as a babe in swaddling clouts.  New Year's Eve is really a celebration of the death and rebirth of the year, and all that goes with it.

Cemeteries are potent symbols of the past and of mortality.  Every stone represents a life and its history - a history that has ended.  It's easy to look at your own history and feel it slipping away while standing on the frozen earth in the shadow of a mausoleum.  It's so much easier to see the parts of ourselves that no longer serve while standing in that stillness.  We must learn from and respect the past, but we cannot live in it.  At the end of the old year it is fitting to pay our respects to those that have come before us and to our own histories.  As we welcome in the New Year we must release the past and let it slip away.  If our hands are full with grasping at what has been, how can we ever grab onto the future?  Let that which is dead fall away and go to its rest.  Let go and live.  Happy New Year.

No comments:

Post a Comment