Thursday, July 30, 2009

Arlington Memorial Gardens

This week I paid a visit Arlington Memorial Gardens Cemetery, first established in 1934 and located on Compton road in Mt Healthy. Overall, I found Arlington to be a lot smaller of a cemetery than Spring Grove. In fact, I learned that Arlington memorial gardens is only 165 acres compared to Spring Grove cemetery's 733 acres. I think the look of this cemetery is also very different from Spring Grove, containing 29 sections, that are well marked and separated. As I walked through the cemetery I found the names of each section, such as the Garden of Trinity, the Garden of Gethsemane, and the Garden of the Last Supper. I noticed each section or garden contains one very visible monument that relates to the garden's name. For example, in the garden of the trinity I walked through a large archway that lead me to a huge monument that was essentially a statuary icon of the trinity. All the gardens did contain some kind of christian elements, icons, and symbols to them, and there are many biblical passages that are used on the monuments and burial sites. During my walkabout, I noticed all the burial sites are flat and stones are embedded in the ground. I think this simple idea, though contemporary, makes the memorial park easy to maintain and to be enjoyed by its visitors. I enjoyed how well the flowery and lawn looked and found myself able to walk a steady pace to take in the scenery.
Apart from each garden in the cemetery, there is also a section with a vast mausoleum, complete with a chapel and a memorial fountain. The look of this area is very serene and as it is stowed away in the far back corner of the cemetery. I remember feeling like I could really relax and even meditate there if I ever wanted to. The cemetery is active and has a very contemporary but simple style to it. I learned that Arlington memorial gardens has even received awards for excelling in beauty. Overall, Arlington memorial gardens is a naturally peaceful place not unlike Spring Grove. I learned that Arlington, Spring Grove, and perhaps all other cemeteries have this combined element of serenity, spirituality, and nature. This may be a universal element that makes the modern day cemetery in our society...

Friday, July 24, 2009

Tram Ride through Spring Grove 07/23/09

-Week 4-
I enjoyed being able to take a ride on the tram this week on our ride-about through the cemetery. On the tram ride we covered some of the backlands of Spring Grove I’ve never seen before and I felt like I was really able to take in all of Spring Grove’s scenery. I was so surprised to see how close some of the houses were on Crawford Avenue to the cemetery. When we had reached our destination, I had no idea where I was within the cemetery, but it felt good to walk around territory I haven’t explored. When we got out on the overlook, I was stunned by the view of all the land and trees in the background. I learned that this area overlooks the hills of Clifton and was a popular spot for visiting during the cemetery’s prime. As we came back down from the overlook I felt very relaxed and at ease. I gained a new perspective of the cemetery and it seemed so much bigger than it was before. I was comforted by the fact that though the city may change, the many hundreds of acres of Spring Grove cemetery will still remain fairly the same.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Iconography and Symbolism 7/16/09

-Week 3-

The topic we studied this week had a lot to do with Stories in Stone. Over the past week I've found that gravestones seem to communicate symbolic gestures of the human condition, personal spiritual beliefs, and stories of the people who rest there. All it takes is looking at the symbols and icons of each gravestone to interpret their meaning. For example, on our walkabout we passed a gravestone with an arrow on it leading upward. I learned that this arrow is indicating a belief that one should be straight as an arrow (practice good morals) in life to ascend swiftly to God or the afterlife. Another symbol that was used on many gravestones we passed was the poppy plant. I learned that this symbol is used to portray elements of sleep and death because of the poppy plant’s natural opiate affect. Signs relating to human mortality were also present. One such icon, the hourglass, I saw on quite a few different gravestones. This I learned was a symbol of human mortality, as our lives come closer and closer to death. I feel that this is a fairly simple but powerful symbol, used on some of the gravestones, and it was interesting to see the hourglass used in different ways. One of the gravestones I saw depicted the hourglass turned sideways, indicating that time has no purpose for the person who lies beneath it anymore. One of the more remarkable gravestones we visited had a large anchor on it. I learned that this was both a symbolism for hope and was also used as a way to display the christian cross when followers did not want to be discovered. All of these symbols and icons I learned about this week, made me think a little about my own life, spirituality, and even a bit about my own mortality. Are these symbols and icons ways for the dead to speak to us? If so, it is certainly important to interpret each of the symbols’ meaning and maybe take something from it. I also was able to get a good grave rubbing from one the gravestones on our walkabout. It is a rubbing of a poppy plant and it bordered one of the gravestones I found.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Documentation of Judge Jacob Burnet 07/09/09

-Week 2-
Burnet was born in Newark, New Jersey, on February 22, 1770. Jacob Burnet did a lot to make the city of Cincinnati what it is today by providing a strong political standing, and presidential positions of both the Cincinnati Astronomical Society and the Cincinnati American Colonization Society. Burnet also became president of the Medical College of Ohio. There is Burnet Woods, located in the Clifton, close to the University of Cincinnati. This was first suggested by Robert W. Burnet and William S. Groesbeck in 1871. He died on May 10, 1853 and his grave sits in Spring Grove Cemetery as an impressive mausoleum. On my first two walkabouts, I saw just how impressive the overall structure of the Second Empire French designed mausoleum is. The monument is also made of a very wonderful looking marble stone. This may say something of Burnet’s wealth as he was a very prominent man in the city of Cincinnati at one time and could afford such a luxurious mausoleum. The vast amount of flora used in the monument may be a symbolic for either a celebration of his life or a celebration of entering into the afterlife, from what I have learned about the symbolism of the poppy plant. The two infants at the top of the monument seem to symbolize more a celebration of simply life itself. I learned also, that there were a few infant deaths in the Burnet family. The infants carry a veil that drapes over the urn that sits in between them. Perhaps this could be a symbol of veil between the earth and the heavens, as stated in our Stories in Stone reading. The only religious indication that exists on the mausoleum is the small cross that hangs above the door. The symbols and icons on the mausoleum remain pretty basic and don't seem to indicate much of Jaocob Burnet's life or the beliefs of the Burnet family. I think Burnet felt that human life in general is more important than just himself and rather clutter his burial with symbols that reflect him or his family, Burnet would rather use symbols to ode human life itself. There's more in these graves, like Spring Grove itself, than meets the eye. I continue to learn, sense, and view things differently each week at the cemetery.

Friday, July 10, 2009

25 Questions about Spring Grove Cemetery

1. Why Study Spring Grove?
2. What does Spring Grove have to do with the city of Cincinnati?
3. Why are people buried in cemeteries after death?
4. Is a cemetery a way to make death seem beautiful?
5. Why are flowers used so often in cemeteries?
6. Do people symbolize death in order to understand it?
7. Why are there so many species of plants/trees within Spring Grove?
8. Has Spring Grove always been as big as it is?
9. Is a cemetery a mourning of death or is it rather a celebration of life?
10. Why do people want to be remembered by these grave sites?
11. How does this relate to me?
12. What is the role of the cemetery in society?
13. Can a cemetery be a place of meditation?
14. Why do people believe in an after life?
15. Why are cemeteries often depicted as scary?
16. Should grave sites only be viewed in terms of the people who are buried there?
17. Should grave sites sites be viewed as art, religious relics, or historical monuments?
18. Do churches believe cemeteries are holy?
19. Do cemeteries close on holidays/ religious events?
20. Historically, why would a cemetery be a place to walk around or meet people in?
21. Is it important to honor the dead?
22. Can superstitions of cemeteries be explained rationally?
23. What emotions should one feel in a cemetery?
24. Are grave sites arranged in a certain way?
25. Can a cemetery only provide a look back in time or can it also provide a look into the future?

Thursday, July 9, 2009

First walkabout: Mausoleums 07/02/09

-Week 1-
What an experience this week at the cemetery. On my very first walkabout, I had the chance view three very striking mausoleums.

The first mausoleum I visited, the Gerrard, was a strong geometrical tomb made of stone. I instantly noticed how perfectly symmetrical its structure is and how ornate the designs are carved into the rock. Also, I had a close look at the design of the front gate, and inside each frame there is a beautiful grape tree casted from the iron. Behind the gate, is a layer of glass so I was to see the inside of the mausoleum. Inside, I could see all parts of the tomb including an illumination of Leonardo da Vinci's, The Last Supper made out of stained glass on the back wall. To have a family name inscribed on one of these burials must be a great honor.

The second mausoleum I visited, the Groesbeck, was not as big but still very nice. Urns laying on each side of the mausoleum and on top is a statue of a woman which caught my eye. The statue of the woman is wearing a gown and kneeling with her head downward as if in mourning. Because of the symbols, looking at the mausoleum made me feel somewhat somber for the person or family that is buried inside.

The third mausoleum I visited, the Burnet, was large fluid-like structure with a lot of design and detail. I noticed the white stone structure is desgined with plenty of arches, allowing its appearence to be very pleasing to the eye. I liked just how intricate the various carvings were on the rock, including a christian cross which hangs above the mausoleum door. The gardens around the structure are well flourished and from the mausoleum I could see across cedar lake. It stands out well from all other burials in this section and has one of the best locations in the area. Although, I found these mausoleums to be a little on the excessive side, I think all three are classy and elegent enough to provide a proper balance. Each certainly possess personal beauty and the those buried in each certainly must have led very wealthy lives. I would certainly like to do more research on these burials, especially the Burnet.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Feelings, Ideas, and Experiences of the Cemetery

I’ve always viewed cemeteries as places to be respected. It is a place to mourn those who’ve passed and recognize our mortality. Cemeteries are a journey through the past, from which everyone has either had some experience with or at least some connection. My most vivid experience of a cemetery, and as it is most often the case my first experience, was at the time my grandpa passed away. I was very young but still old enough to know this was a place of mourning, and after seeing my grandpa pass through poor health and age, I knew this would be his final rest place and my family’s final farewell to a man who once lived closely with us. It’s amazing to think that all we have left of our deceased are photos, a grave, and memories that can touch our heart softly but at the same time tear it apart. Funny little paradoxes like this seem to race through my head whenever I think of death and I think of the cemetery in the same sense. Graves are remarkable, because somewhere etched in stone is the name of my grandpa, Alfred Bernard, and somewhere else etched in stone is the Grave of someone I do not know – someone who lived years before me and even though I never knew them I can still see their grave to know they existed. There will even be people years from now who will see my grave after I die and will know I existed at one point. Though cemeteries can be emotional they can also be very fascinating. They are almost an index of people who lived and died in our society. Overall, I think a cemetery is a place that can be viewed in any way, just as long as it is respected. While spending these next nine weeks investigating the cemetery in society I will have no initial expectations and will be completely open-minded to what I may experience.