Friday, January 27, 2012

A Grave Interest’s First Anniversary Blog

“An anniversary is a day that commemorates or celebrates a past event that occurred on the same day of the year as the initial event.”
- Wikipedia

Doing what I love to do
Next Wednesday, February 1st, will be the first anniversary of A Grave Interest.   The year has gone by quickly, but it’s been a lot of fun! I have enjoyed all that ‘cemetery time,’ strolling through the large city cemeteries, the small, country churchyards, the hilly, landscaped Victorian burial grounds, and the flat, wind-swept prairie graveyards.

Whose Hand....?
Smitting the Devil

There’s always a special ‘something’ just over the next hill, or around the bend.  I never get enough and always wonder what I missed when I leave. (It’s like going to a museum with limited time and not getting to see all of the exhibits! ; )  So much to see, so much to do, and never enough time…

Getting direction
When I told my husband, Brian, that I was starting a cemetery blog last year, he wondered if I’d find enough to write about for an entire year.  Not only for a year…I could do this forever : D  But I often wonder what post touched you, the reader?  What did you enjoy? What made you think?  What did you find out that you didn’t know?  So many people have shared comments with me on Blogger, Facebook, in person, at conferences, and by email.  That has helped me to keep adjusting and researching what you’d like to see.  And, thanks to Blogger, I can go back and review the past year to see what posts received the most views.

I H S Cross
Celtic Cross
The most famous post this past year was about the Different Types of Crosses in the cemetery.  And there are many types, including Latin crosses, I H S crosses, Celtic crosses, Fleur-de-lis crosses, Crucifixes... the list goes on!  Since this subject has been so popular, I will have a new post about crosses on Friday, April 6th, just in time for Easter.

Islamic Funeral
The Burial Customs of Different Religions was also very popular.  After the sea burial of Osama bin Laden and the controversary surrounding it, I wanted to understand how different religions viewed burial.  I came away with a much better understanding of what burial means to different religions and why. Hopefully, I conveyed that to all of you.

Woodmen of the World
Stiffy Green
I’ve written over eighty posts, so we won’t go into all of them right now ; ) but others that really caught your attention were about Angels in the Cemetery, Woodmen of the World, Graveyard Superstitions, along with the series in October on ‘Hauntings’, and posts on famous people.

Map of Audience
I love to know where readers are located, so I scan the audience page of A Grave Interest to get a feel for where you are.  Folks from the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada are all strong followers. (Thank You!!) But I am thrilled to see residents of Australia, India and Germany read regularly too!  (And, as I keep telling my husband  - I am big in Slovenia, thank you very much!!)  I love to see that many friends from Spain keeping up – (Ah, for a bottle of Cava and a chance to sit down and chat!)

In my other life,
I consult with wineries
about social media,
and host private wine tastings
Home on Wheels
In July, I had to take AGI down to posting once a week, on Fridays, instead of the twice a week (Tuesday and Friday) posting that I had started the blog with.  Due to a new job, and a part-time change of residence to a different state, it was necessary.  I’m hopeful I can regain my twice a week posting later this year!

Glenwood - Shelbyville, Illinois
Crown Hill - Indianapolis, Indiana
I started a new monthly series “Cemeteries Worth the Visit” in May.  This special post is done on the first Tuesday of the month and features a look at one cemetery.  It goes in depth about the history, famous and notable people, architecture and interesting stones.  I’ve dealt with some wonderful and helpful folks at theses cemeteries and appreciate their time and information.

Talking with a grave digger
I’ve also met some wonderful ‘Tombstone Tourists’  in the field and online.  Even when we don’t all speak the same language, the inspiration and beauty of the cemeteries with their sculpture, architecture, and history binds us all together with the passion we share for these gorgeous places.

White Bronze Headstone
Headstone with Photo
And now I have another year of posts planned out.  OK - it doesn’t always go as planned, but at least I have a direction to start in, and an idea where to head for when I’m ready to go out to shoot, and research.  2012 will include information on green funerals,  faces on tombstones, the history of white bronze headstones, an in-depth look at cemetery vandalism, several famous people, and the October ‘Haunted’ series returns.  (And that’s just a few!)

AGI on Facebook
If there’s a subject you’d like to see covered, please let me know.  You are the reason this is so much fun!  I absolutely love doing the research, taking the photos, and sharing it all with you.  Keep the comments, and the sharing of thoughts coming.

AGI on Twitter
Thank YOU for following A Grave Interest on Blogger,  - Twitter,!/aGraveInterest
and for 'Liking' it on Facebook

Brian in a snowy cemetery
Brian (with map) and Evie
Thanks also to my husband Brian, (and our cemetery side-kick, Evie,) for making the entire journey so much fun! (And, yes, for being able to read a map MUCH better than me! ; )

Coffin Cake
Autumn - My favorite time
to explore cemeteries
Now, let’s have some cake and ice cream and get ready for another year!

~ Joy

Friday, January 20, 2012

Remembering Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn
Actress – fashion icon – humanitarian, Audrey Hepburn was known as being all of these.  She was born May 4, 1929 to Joseph Ruston and Baroness Ella van Heemstra, a Dutch aristocrat, in Ixelles, Belgium, a Brussels suburb.  She moved to London in 1948 and performed as a chorus girl in West End musicals. 

Hepburn & Gregory Peck in
"Roman Holiday"
As Holly Golightly in
"Breakfast at Tiffany's"
Hepburn broke into films in 1951 as an unbilled extra in “One Wild Oat.”  By 1953, she was winning an Oscar for Best Actress in “Roman Holiday” with Gregory Peck.  She’s also well remembered for her characters in “Sabrina,”  “Funny Face,” “My Fair Lady,” and “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  She is one of only a few actors who have received Academy, Grammy, Emmy and Tony Awards.

Humphry Bogart & Hepburn
in "Sabrina"
Givenchy & Hepburn
Besides her acting, Hepburn was known for her gamine figure.  Hubert de Givenchy was so smitten with her that he designed her costumes for “Sabrina” without receiving any wardrobe credit in the film.  The two formed a life-long friendship and Givenchy often referred to Hepburn as his muse for many designs.  She made ‘the little black dress’ a fashion staple when she wore Givenchy’s design in the 1961 movie, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  That same year, she was inducted into the International Best Dressed Hall of Fame.

Son Sean & Hepburn
After being in the spotlight for fifteen years, Hepburn decided to retire in 1967 to raise her son.  She attempted a comeback in 1976 in “Robin and Marian” with Sean Connery.  Through the remainder of the seventies and eighties, she tried on various roles, but none that brought her critical acclaim.  Her last role in a motion picture was in 1988 in a cameo appearance as an angel in “Always.”

Hepburn and child
Hepburn with child
In 1988, she became the international Goodwill Ambassador for UNICEF.  Using her celebrity status, she was able to draw attention to the difficulties of displaced children in other countries.  During her five years with UNICEF, Hepburn traveled to over a dozen disadvantaged, third-world countries trying to gain assistance and awareness for starving children, and their need for food, medications, and  protection from violence, exploitation and abuse in their home countries.

Presidential Medal
of Freedom
In 1992, Hepburn was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her work with UNICEF.  The American Film Institute named her the third Greatest Female Star of All Time.

Audrey Hepburn
It was September 1992 when Hepburn began suffering from abdominal pains.  The diagnosis was abdominal cancer.  Surgery proved that the cancer had spread too far be removed. Hepburn decided to spend her last Christmas at home in Switzerland. 

Grave of Audrey Hepburn -
photo by Alexandra Spurk
Tolochenaz Cemetery
Upon hearing the news, longtime friend, Hubert de Givenchy sent her home in his private plane, filled with flowers.  Hepburn died on January 20, 1993 of appendiceal cancer at her home in Switzerland.  She was 63.  She is buried in Tolochenaz Cemetery in Vaud, Switzerland.


Friday, January 13, 2012

Graveyard Poets for Friday the 13th

2012 ushered in not only a new year – but also a year full of Friday the 13th’s – three in all, the most any year can have!  So what better time to take a look at the Graveyard Poets and their fascination with death and melancholy than on a day filled with mystery and dread?

The Graveyard Poets were a group of over a dozen Neo-classical poets who wrote from the 1740’s to 1790’s.  These writers dwelled on mortality, religion and death, writing about coffins, skulls, the solitude of death, bereavement, and man’s ‘despair of the human condition,’ hoping to evoke feelings of fear and horror.  Sixteen poets fit this mournful, melancholy description; their poems were laments for the dead.  The Graveyard Poets created a form of poetry that became the predecessor to the Gothic and Romanticism genres; hence they are sometimes called the ‘pre-Romantics.’

William Collins
Thomas Warton
The Graveyard Poets included the better known Thomas Gray, Robert Blair, and Edward Young, along with Thomas Percy, Thomas Warton, Thomas Parnell, Thomas Chatterton, Oliver Goldsmith, Christopher Smart, James MacPherson, William Cowper, William Collins, Joseph Warton, James Thompson, Henry Kirke White, and Mark Akjenside.

Most graveyard poems are similar to two styles of poems, an ode – a lyrical poem dedicated to someone or something, and an English Ballad, which is sung.  They are descriptive, especially concerning the physical horrors of death and the ache of bereavement.

Thomas Gray
His most famous poem
The most well known of the Graveyard poets was Thomas Gray who wrote “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard.”   Gray wrote the poem in 1750 after the death of a family member and the near death of a friend.  The combination of events caused him to begin an introspective study of mortality. Made up of 128 rhyming lines, the poem begins with the writer noticing the rich details in the churchyard around him and ends with him contemplating his own death, complete with epitaph.

The Poem "The Grave"
Another well-known Graveyard Poet was Scottish writer Robert Blair. His poem “The Grave” consists of 767 lines of blank verse, dealing with death and the graveyard.

Edward Young
Edward Young’s nine-volume poem “The Complaint, or Night Thoughts on Life, Death and Immortality,” became immensely popular and was transcribed into several languages.

All of the Graveyard Poets were able to catch the public’s attention through thoughtful, albeit morbid prose that made each person take a closer look at life - and possibly appreciate the inevitability of death.

~ Joy


The curfew tolls the knell of parting day,
The lowing herd winds slowly o'er the lea,
The ploughman homeward plods his weary way,
And leaves the world to darkness and to me.

Now fades the glimmering landscape on the sight,
And all the air a solemn stillness holds,
Save where the beetle wheels his droning flight,
And drowsy tinklings lull the distant folds:

Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tower
The moping owl does to the moon complain
Of such as, wandering near her secret bower,
Molest her ancient solitary reign.

Beneath those rugged elms, that yew-tree's shade,
Where heaves the turf in many a mouldering heap,
Each in his narrow cell for ever laid,
The rude Forefathers of the hamlet sleep.

The breezy call of incense-breathing morn,
The swallow twittering from the straw-built shed,
The cock's shrill clarion, or the echoing horn,
No more shall rouse them from their lowly bed.

For them no more the blazing hearth shall burn,
Or busy housewife ply her evening care:
No children run to lisp their sire's return,
Or climb his knees the envied kiss to share,

Oft did the harvest to their sickle yield,
Their furrow oft the stubborn glebe has broke;
How jocund did they drive their team afield!
How bow'd the woods beneath their sturdy stroke!

Let not Ambition mock their useful toil,
Their homely joys, and destiny obscure;
Nor Grandeur hear with a disdainful smile
The short and simple annals of the Poor.

The boast of heraldry, the pomp of power,
And all that beauty, all that wealth e'er gave,
Awaits alike th' inevitable hour:-
The paths of glory lead but to the grave.

Nor you, ye Proud, impute to these the fault
If Memory o'er their tomb no trophies raise,
Where through the long-drawn aisle and fretted vault
The pealing anthem swells the note of praise.

Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?

Perhaps in this neglected spot is laid
Some heart once pregnant with celestial fire;
Hands, that the rod of empire might have sway'd,
Or waked to ecstasy the living lyre:

But Knowledge to their eyes her ample page,
Rich with the spoils of time, did ne'er unroll;
Chill Penury repress'd their noble rage,
And froze the genial current of the soul.

Full many a gem of purest ray serene
The dark unfathom'd caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen,
And waste its sweetness on the desert air.

Some village-Hampden, that with dauntless breast
The little tyrant of his fields withstood,
Some mute inglorious Milton here may rest,
Some Cromwell, guiltless of his country's blood.

Th' applause of list'ning senates to command,
The threats of pain and ruin to despise,
To scatter plenty o'er a smiling land,
And read their history in a nation's eyes,

Their lot forbad: nor circumscribed alone
Their growing virtues, but their crimes confined;
Forbad to wade through slaughter to a throne,
And shut the gates of mercy on mankind,

The struggling pangs of conscious truth to hide,
To quench the blushes of ingenuous shame,
Or heap the shrine of Luxury and Pride
With incense kindled at the Muse's flame.

Far from the madding crowd's ignoble strife,
Their sober wishes never learn'd to stray;
Along the cool sequester'd vale of life
They kept the noiseless tenour of their way.

Yet e'en these bones from insult to protect
Some frail memorial still erected nigh,
With uncouth rhymes and shapeless sculpture deck'd,
Implores the passing tribute of a sigh.

Their name, their years, spelt by th' unletter'd Muse,
The place of fame and elegy supply:
And many a holy text around she strews,
That teach the rustic moralist to die.

For who, to dumb forgetfulness a prey,
This pleasing anxious being e'er resign'd,
Left the warm precincts of the cheerful day,
Nor cast one longing lingering look behind?

On some fond breast the parting soul relies,
Some pious drops the closing eye requires;
E'en from the tomb the voice of Nature cries,
E'en in our ashes live their wonted fires.

For thee, who, mindful of th' unhonour'd dead,
Dost in these lines their artless tale relate;
If chance, by lonely contemplation led,
Some kindred spirit shall inquire thy fate, --

Haply some hoary-headed swain may say,
Oft have we seen him at the peep of dawn
Brushing with hasty steps the dews away,
To meet the sun upon the upland lawn;

'There at the foot of yonder nodding beech
That wreathes its old fantastic roots so high.
His listless length at noontide would he stretch,
And pore upon the brook that babbles by.

'Hard by yon wood, now smiling as in scorn,
Muttering his wayward fancies he would rove;
Now drooping, woeful wan, like one forlorn,
Or crazed with care, or cross'd in hopeless love.

'One morn I miss'd him on the custom'd hill,
Along the heath, and near his favourite tree;
Another came; nor yet beside the rill,
Nor up the lawn, nor at the wood was he;

'The next with dirges due in sad array
Slow through the church-way path we saw him borne,-
Approach and read (for thou canst read) the lay
Graved on the stone beneath yon aged thorn.'

The Epitaph
Here rests his head upon the lap of Earth
A youth to Fortune and to Fame unknown.
Fair Science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melacholy marked him for her own.

Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
Heaven did a recompense as largely send:
He gave to Misery all he had, a tear,
He gained from Heaven ('twas all he wish'd) a friend.

No farther seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode
(There they alike in trembling hope repose),
The bosom of his Father and his God.

                                    ~ Thomas Gray (1716-71)