Friday, December 11, 2009

Oak Hill, or the story of a boy

As a child I would sit in my room and wait for overcast misty days. Having grown up in the shadows of appalachian mountains, my lust for cloud leaden skies was realized often. The dullness seemed to impose an opposite effect on me than it did others. I felt enthusiastic, optimistic, and encouraged to seek adventure. I’d slip on my favorite pair of penny loafers, top coat, and grab an umbrella before heading out the door. (my poor parents, at least they had the fortune to have given birth to two masculine boys ahead of me) I’d walk around the narrow broken cement paths of my neighborhood sidewalks and keep the canopy of my umbrella tilted to an angle that would sufficiently conceal the familiar landmarks surrounding me. I’d imagine myself scouring the gloomy cobblestone streets of victorian London in search of great escapade, romance, or maybe culinary delight (all depending on what story I’d secretly concocted earlier that day).

As I grew up I grew out of my tendency to create solo theatrical performances... or at least my tendency to act them out in the streets of my neighborhood. I was content simply to brood melancholy amongst my fellow puberty riddled contemporaries.

By the time that I’d moved away to college I had convinced myself that I’d fully shed the overly dramatic layer of my personality that had led me on too many walks through too many self-produced imaginary cities. But, it seems that the gods weren’t as convinced. Perhaps as a test to the maturity of my character, I had unknowingly moved into a house but half a block from one of the most magical places that I’ve had the fortune to visit.

Homewood Cemetery is an ethereal living museum of meandering paths lined by passive trees. Tucked away here and there are classical architectural models of human scale. Designed to protect those entombed within their stoic marble walls, and to intimidate those passing by.

This post isn’t about Homewood, but about the respect and appreciation of cemeteries that has been emblazoned in my psyche by that grand knowing matriarch of U.S. cemeteries.


  1. Beautiful... we have similar tastes in weather...

  2. Lovely post. I agree with you: the masonry and atmosphere of cemetaries can be absolutely breathtaking. If you ever travel to Buenos Aires, I encourage you to visit the cemetary in Recoleta. Perhaps a touch macabre, but mostly breathtaking.

  3. Scott - These are GORGEOUS images that you took. Interesting to hear about your appreciation of the "gloomy" day. These photos make me see in in a whole new light. Book worthy!

  4. Have you been to Congressional Cemetery in SE? I believe it's the oldest one in the city and some of the headstones and memorials are stunning. It's extremely peaceful to wander through the quite paths.

    I agree...these are book worthy!

  5. wow, such a great post.
    talking about your theatrical attitude i guess i still have something often i realize that i'm not actually where i imagine to be. Writing about the gorgeous pictures, what I most envy is the sense of calm and that more than a cemetery looks like a well done park.

  6. CapitalSpiceBlog -Thank you for stopping by, and for leaving a comment. I've never been to Buenos Aries, unfortunately, but would love to see the cemetery that you mention. I just stopped by your blog, and you've absolutely gained a new fan!

    Michelle -Thank you so much for the sweet compliment! I'm glad you enjoyed the photos. Have you been to Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown? It's so beautiful, and peaceful.

    Abby -I have been to Congressional Cemetery. It's beautiful, but I prefer Oak Hill in Georgetown. Have you been? If not, I highly recommend a trip!

    Massi -Thanks for the comment! You hit the nail on the head.. good cemeteries really are parks.

  7. we've talked about our shared love of cemetaries before and I have to say, Pittsburgh really does have the best! None of the cemetaries in dc can compare - have you been to the lovely one in Georgetown up against rock creek park? It's the closest thing to a pittsburgh cemetary I think this city has.

  8. OH MY! What a blog! Your taste is impeccable. Thank you so much for your lovely comment! When I was young, I used to love going to cemetaries and read little poems on the grave stones (although the whole family thought that I was cracking up!!). Would love to read more about your blog so I will be definitely coming back here!! Have a nice holiday. With season greetings, ASD.

  9. Stefan -All of the photos in this post are from Oak Hill Cemetery in Georgetown. I think that's the cemetery that you're talking about. But, you're right, the cemeteries in DC pale in comparison to Pittsburgh cemeteries, especially Homewood.

    A Super Dilettante -Thank you for stopping by, AND for leaving such a flattering comment! I did the same thing as a child. I can still remember some of the inscription and poems from the tombstones that I read as a kid. Seasons greetings to you too!

  10. yes -thats the one! Love the gatehouse too!

  11. my mom and i always end up in cemeteries....
    they are so beautiful and haunting.

    i am adding you to my blogroll.
    i had you for a while, and then were gone. but you are back now!!!
    xx merry Christams

  12. Absolutely terrific post. I confess that I relate all too well to the essay....and the pictures, the monuments...first rate.

    PS. Have I ever remembered to tell you that domicidal maniac is my absolute favorite name for a blog, bar none?


  13. Renee -I'm honored to be back! Thanks for stopping by. Have a terrific holiday!

    The Down East Dilettante -Thank you for the bouquet of compliments!

  14. i used to find great solace wondering the cemeteries of edinburgh when i lived there...