Today my route home took me past the large Eastern Cemetery in the city of Geelong, Victoria. I often drive past this place without really registering it but today I had the compelling urge to stop and take photos of stone angels.
Without thinking about it too much I turned down a side street, parked my car and set off across the huge cemetery. Unfortunately I didn’t have a camera with me so phone photos would have to do.
At first I followed the impulse to photograph stone angels. These were scattered here and there across the cemetery so I had to wind my way through the graves to find them.
As I walked the atmosphere of the cemetery gradually gathered around me. Over here in southern Australia we are having a particularly cold winter. The sky hung grey and heavy overhead as I read the unutterably sad headstones where young children had been buried.
The cemetery is situated on a hillside and I could see that a large funeral was being held further down the slope. Not wanting to disturb the people there I wandered into a part of the cemetery where very old graves lie alongside recent ones. Somehow this mixture of old and new worked to create a subtle atmosphere that was hard to put into words. Attempting to express it I broadened the type of photos I was taking.
The cemetery was far too big for me to explore it all in one visit. There were many old trees growing in the older parts. A whole grove of peppercorn trees shaded part of the hillside.
Looking past these trees I caught a glimpse of a golden wattle and a host of golden daffodils flowering up on the crest of the hill. The sight of them reminded me of the cyclical nature of life. Spring always follows winter.
The day wasn’t getting warmer and the rain clouds were gathering so I decided I’d seen enough for one day. Winding my way back to my car I tried to find the words to describe the mood that had settled around me. It went beyond sadness somehow. The vastness of the cemetery and the way so many people from so many different times were gathered together in their final resting place created a sense that life goes on and on and on.
Just as I feel I have only dipped a toe in the vastness of Eastern Cemetery I feel like I am only scratching the surface of these ideas. I will go back to the cemetery with a camera one day when it’s warmer – maybe on my next visit I might come closer to defining the mood the place engenders in me.