When I was young, I spent a lot of time at my grandparents' place outside of town. My brother and I would explore the woods around their house for hours upon hours during the summers, usually bringing home fossils, flowers, strange leaves, quartz crystals and anything else that caught our eyes. We played on fallen trees and wandered through winding creeks, but one of our favorite places to visit was an abandoned cemetery, hidden in the forest on a nearby hill. We never really played there--it seemed disrespectful, even to us as children--but we loved to wander around the tombstones, kneeling down to decipher the dates through a layer of dirt and moss. We would marvel every spring as daffodils cropped up between the sinking graves, we would spend hours clearing away fallen branches, and we were never afraid.
As morbid as it sounds, I still love cemeteries, though they always have and still do make me a little bit sad; this is not because they contain people who have died-- that's what people, all people, eventually do--but because they contain people I never knew, whose stories I never heard. Stories might be my favorite part of life, which itself is one giant story. My shelves are crammed with autobiographies, which are some of my favorites, because they aren't just the facts of a life, but the subjective experiences of the person who lived it. They're real, though they're clouded through a lens of so many cultural and experiential factors, and a little worn and warped by time...which really only makes them more human, more beautiful. I've never met a person, no matter how plain or ill-traveled, who didn't have a few worthwhile stories to tell. So in cemeteries, especially old, abandoned ones, I look around at all the gravestones and think about all the people beneath the grass. I wonder if anyone knows their stories, or I wonder if they too have been buried, lost. Lost stories of people who once lived--this is the saddest thing of all.