Sunday, February 5, 2012

Grave Humor

Just because I spend too much time wandering around cemeteries doesn't mean I've lost my sense of humor.  To the contrary, I think one needs a sense of humor in order to pursue this hobby; if you let the locations and inscriptions get under your skin too much, you're apt to go looking for a mausoleum with an empty niche to crawl into.

With that said, one of my main objectives is to seek out the obscure and bizarre:  the eighteenth-century sandstones with winged skulls and death's heads, inscriptions that outline how the deceased ceased, and most of all, strange names.

I began exploring cemeteries almost as soon as I got my first SLR camera, back in 1982.  There was one a few miles from my house, the resting place of a branch of my family, with lots of interesting markers, especially this one, which caught my eye, and never let go:

St. Mary Star of the Sea, Cedarhurst, NY

More recently I was walking through one of three cemeteries in Bethpage, New York, near the famous 'Bethpage Black' golf course.  It was there that I came upon this, which is destined to become the image I will always visualize when I hear the word 'birthstone':

That same day, in one of the adjacent cemeteries, I found this, which aptly fits the definition of 'what lies beneath':

Powell Cemetery, Bethpage New York

For the final entry today, there's this stone from the Cedar Grove cemetery in Patchogue, NY, taken in July of 1991:

The Merriam-Webster dictionary lists the first known usage of the term 'birdbrain' in 1933; sadly they do not provide the example.  A search through my OED reveals no listing for the word.  Given that he lived for seventeen years after its coining, I hope old Bird was able to take a joke.