THE LOST AND FORGOTTEN
Deep within, I knew this cemetery that is closest to my house, on route as I come and go to work, influenced partially my idea to create an alternative to physical cemeteries. Of course they are still needed, serve the long traditional of providing a site for the deceased to "rest in peace," and provide a gathering place for close ones, for their closure of the beloved's final moments on this earth. But this cemetery from the street appears not properly maintained by whoever, whatever agency that is responsible for it's appearance and condition. Eobituary.com's procedural progress brought me today into the cemetery. I am requested photographs of grave marker designs and textures by the company that may produce, by commission, 3D models of such, for the vrml software program that I purchased from them to develop earthberth.com. So I had to go close up, to gather physical visuals for conversion to digital data for processing into virtual simulations.
Walking off the sidewalk and away from the busy streets and going beyond the containing barrier wall was a private experience. Within the premises my senses are absorbed, I don't remember hearing the traffic anymore. As I walked along the dirt road transgressing the length of the "graveyard," I sensed I was walking further and further into another time. I imagined ghosts of the living ceremoniously attending past burials. Dates on tombstones continued to recede, designs changed, grave stones became smaller, less decorative and more weathered.. Most in this cemetery were interned from 1920-40. I used the moment to click away with my digital camera, capturing designs and moving close up to textures appropriate for digital representation. But I could not ignore the neglect and disregard of some of the burial sites. Stones on their sides, graves now unmarked, grave markers now illegible, a broken concrete crosses, sunken markers with vital information now concealed below ground level, and markers overgrown with grass and weeds. It was disheartening. But I do understand that for such long ago deaths there are very few remaining survivors, if any, that visit or remember those interned here. These are the lost and forgotten. Judging from the spacing and grave markers I guess that this is a deceased population of middle class or lower, probably agricultural workers in life. Most of the tombstones are modest, made of concrete with information inscribed while the concrete was still wet. Even then the material had to be cheaper than granite, bronze or marble stone.
So, to complete the task at hand of providing a variety of designs and material textures, I
drove to another cemetery that I had often passed. This one was now surrounded by the bustling inner city, antiquated in appearance and obsolescent in location. It is surrounded by high rises, an auto repair company, and modern spa building - an eye sore only isolated from the living by its decorative iron fence perimeter .
A signed read "Catholic." I approximated the grave to most populated by those whose deaths were at the turn of the century - 1880s-1920s. It appeared these families were wealthier than those interned in the first cemetery. I got my photos of marble and granite and even a small mausoleum. Amazingly, these materials of larger monuments than the first cemetery, although older, stood the test of time better than the other grave site. It was eerie to read engravings of information about those buried below, over 100-120 years ago. I was further back in time than in the first grave site. "M.D., Died 1880" - a doctor during the 19th century in Hawaii. "Died by drowning, 1890, Oakland Bridge, Accident," "1876", "Princess from Tahiti, Died 1890." Again, the silence of within during such an experience drowned out the noise of the traffic of life whizzing by. Again, the cemetery, like the first, was empty of visitors, even on this inviting sunny Friday afternoon. The sign also stated, open daily 9 am - 6pm; there was a swung open iron entry gate. I wondered just how many visitors ever came here.
Again, there was unmarked graves, some unkempt areas, but in general, overall better maintenance conditions than the first site visited. I professionally went about completing my task, gathering shots of various designs over the decades, conscious of the fact that for the design for such cultural function there is hardly any variance, creativity, for the edifices that would mark, symbolize one's life, theoretically forever. With that thought, my internal clock awakened me to the fact that it was time to exit before the street meter where my car was parked displayed "Expired."
February 21, 2002