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.