Childhood Graveyard

When I was a kid, we lived in an apartment across from a graveyard, which became my imaginations iconic cemetery setting from that point forward. When I read Revelations, the judgement took place in that cemetery.  When I wrote a story about my grandmother for a high school competition, it ended in that cemetery (she’s buried elsewhere, a few miles away).  When Harry Potter first fought Voldemort – that cemetery.

It was a dark and shady place, with big wrought iron gates, tall, somber trees, and winding gravel paths just wide enough for cars to pass on.  There were tall statues sprinkled around the south side of the grounds, honoring those with enough money and desire to invest in them, and small, nearly unmarked grave sites on the far east side of the lot, a more traditional New Mexico graveyard, covered in pinwheels and artificial flowers.  There was a “children’s area” on the west side, an area that, at 8 years old, I was especially loathe to visit.

Last year, while visiting in the area, I decided to visit the old place with my camera, nearly 30 years having passed.  I was unexpectedly surprised to find so much changed, and bemused to think how much of that change was only my perception.

The cemetery is now much smaller and brighter than I remember- more organized, and with far fewer trees and statues.  The graves in the east appear to have been moved, replaced with tidy grass and a wall for cremated remains. On the far north side, where I haven’t a memory of ever being, there was not only a 100+ year old Jewish cemetery but also a more organic New Mexico-style graveyard, a dirt lot with various markers and stones.   As a mother of my own 8-year old now, I still found the west side too disturbing to visit.

The Jewish Cemetery

The oldest graves I found, and the most beautiful headstones, were in this area.  The family plot that I spent the most time with was the Block family, with 3 children all lost in their first year of life.

 

The “Organic” Graveyard

Without much tree cover and a thunderstorm rolling in, this area was hot, mocking my cool and shady childhood recollections. Throughout the area were a handful of strikingly similar wrought iron rectangles — my heart sank as my suspicions were confirmed, each one cradling the loss of an infant.

The Main Cemetery

A far more orderly and predictable version of the cemetery setting I carry inside my head. The use of infrared and the heavy clouds rolling gave the space a quiet, winter feel that, on some level, feels like I took back my graveyard setting just a little.

 

Rio Grande Gorge

2014_10_20_1275-1-1000pxDo I change like a river, widening and deepening, eddying back on myself sometimes, bursting my banks sometimes when there’s too much water, too much life in me, and sometimes dried up from lack of rain? Will the I that is me grow and widen and deepen? Or will I stagnate and become an arid riverbed? Will I allow people to dam me up and confine me to wall so that I flow only where they want? Will I allow them to turn me into a canal to use for they own purposes? Or will I make sure I flow freely, coursing my way through the land and ploughing a valley of my own?”
― Aidan Chambers, This is All: The Pillow Book of Cordelia Kenn

A Palate Cleanser

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I don’t know why, but I was mesmerized by this composition tucked away in our botanical garden- discrete, balanced, and demure- just outside the luxurious, almost ostentatious, wisteria wedding courtyard.

Submitted this week to Leanne Cole’s excellent Monochrome Madness collection.

Children’s Guard

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This week’s monochrome madness image is one of my favorite IR shots to date- the playful dragon who guards our Bio Park’s Children’s Garden, draped in smirks and vines.  Though I get more use out of our membership alone than with the kids, I highly recommend a visit if you are ever in the Albuquerque area.

I am debating between the pure monochrome version or a blue and white tone (below) – let me know what you think!

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Arid

2015_01_10_1501-2-1000pxBack in January, feeling emotionally exhausted after a very busy holiday and months of navigating my daughter’s increasingly irrational fears, I jumped in my car – alone- for a weekend road trip.  I know I needed a change of scenery and- I suspect- felt the need to prove to myself that I was still capable of engaging with life bravely. I stopped at El Malpais National Monument – which I could only scratch the surface of without a hiking partner- on my way out to the Bisti Badlands, where I hoped to catch some of the site’s amazing hoodoos and other wind carved stones.

I had taken the long route on a narrow highway through very desolate reservation land, progressively more suspicious that I had taken on more adventure than I should have (in hindsight, the whole thing was far more reckless than brave).  I arrived at the Bisti about 2 hours before sunset and had the place to myself– probably not the best scenario when dealing with trail-less trekking without cell coverage in an unfamiliar badland.  Stubbornly refusing my own hesitation, I pulled together my resolve, my camera, and my backpack, then set out.

As there are no trails or markers in the Bisti, I (thankfully) had the forethought to purchase a handheld GPS device and download coordinates of key landmarks. It’s been a long time since I have gone geocaching or done any serious hiking, and I began to think I’d lost all navigation capabilities as  I moved toward landmark points and found 1) nothing or 2) huge barbed wire fences obscuring any reasonable paths to my destination. After stepping over a dip in a short fence (ahem) and following horse tracks for a while, I found still more fence and no progress.  As the sun began to set, I was standing in the middle of the most frustratingly barren, confusing, and overwhelming space I have been, feeling the very real fear that I needed to get the hell out of there before dark.

I let go of my hoodoo hopes and resigned myself to being present with the arid, hard-lit land around me. As I navigated back to my car, I laughed at my naivete, expressed gratitude for my ridiculously good luck, and drank in the deafening silence and strange beauty of that space.

I hope to return in the near future – by way of safer roads, with a good map, at peak season, and with a hiking partner, of course, lol – but only to augment my experience, not rectify it. I’ve grown quite fond of that afternoon’s vibrant desolation.

Afloat

2014_10_19_1172-1-1000pxThere are few things I love more than a summer float.

Suspended and soft on my back in a large body of water, watching a summer thunderstorm roll in overhead, the sounds of kids playing as auditory bokah through the water, my body simultaneously moved by and distanced from the activity around me.

I can float there for hours, filling the space my body occupies and emptying my busy mind.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Afloat.”