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We know it’s not true that the grass is greener on the other field. Are the foliages always more colorful in another state?
Every year my friends and I have driven so far to New Hampshire or Vermont to see foliages. This past weekend I found a great place to appreciate the autumn not many footsteps away from where I live. Mount Auburn Cemetery located at Cambridge is unique in that it is where culture meets nature and where life faces death.
The top of the Washington Tower provides a panoramic view of the cemetery’s 175 acres of woodlands now in undulating yellows, oranges, reds and greens. The movement of colors makes it more than an impressive picture but a symphony. Nestled among the colors are church towers or in a distance stands the cityscape. Without driving far, it indeed creates a sense of distance to view our daily life – how rushed I walk to the T station every morning, and at which building I take classes and where I spend whole day in front of a computer.
The cemetery is an arboretum where there are more than 5,000 trees. Some maples have turned into total yellow but some have turned into a mix of green, orange, and red. The oaks are still green or some have become burnt yellow as if they were burnt by the sun. There are seven-leafed Japanese maples and the oldest Thread-leaf Japanese maple in America. The Thread-leaf Japanese maple has very soft red leaves in the shape of an umbrella. Inside the leaves, the tree trunks and branches feel like black-inked calligraphy.
However, it is different from, let’s say, the Arnold Arboretum. The cemetery, since its foundation in 1831, has 97,000 people buried here. When the individual trees altogether have made up the landscape of the cemetery, these equally colorful individuals have contributed to the cultural history of this country. A few people that bear relevance to my personal interest include Charles Bullfinch, the architect and “the man who built Boston;” Isabella Stewart Gardner, an art lover and patron and whose museum is located in Fenway; Winslow Homer, an artist whose watercolor is so charming, free and inspiring still; and Henry Longfellow, a poet and whose house now a National Historic site is located in Brattle street not far from the cemetery. Their influences can be seen in architecture, books and museums. There are also of course politicians who had made impact in America political life.
There are 44,000 monuments from three centuries standing superimposed over the horticultural landscape, as if defying death. When light jumps over the leaves, how can we know that it is not their spirit? The cemetery is a place that one can stroll easily and wonder freely. It offers the tranquility to both engage an inner conversation with nature and with the dead.
The cemetery also offers audio tours and free seminars. On one flyer, I saw the title “Preparing for end of life issues.” Most of my friends and I are not to an age to think about death so it is truly “the major overlooked areas.” However, walking in the cemetery, my mind inevitably cannot escape death.
Friend D who came along joked: “Every road leads to Death, for sure.”
“It’s true.” I responded. But I don’t know whether there is a clear line between life and death. Or is death a rebirth?
I then joked back, “One day if we look around on the ground and can’t find our shadows, we will know that we have already gone.”
Friend B added, “because we only come out at night then? Haha.”
“Yeah, and if you see me chipping on a gravestone one night, it is because they carved my name wrong.” Friend D continued…..
So on an October day while we enjoyed the sunlight and the foliages, we also encountered the past and run into our future.