The Autumn People

The best bench in LA from which to contemplate the night.

My birthday is kind of a holy day for me. I try to take it off, spend it in a graveyard if at all possible. I’ve celebrated my birthday in Pere Lachaise, in the Bone Chapel of Kutna Hora, and in Colma’s many graveyards. Like the poet said, “Any day above ground is a good one.” If there’s sunshine and green grass, birdsong and statuary, or trees and flowers and poetry involved, so much the better.

Last week, I spent the morning of my birthday poking around Westwood Village Memorial Park near UCLA. (I’ll feature it tomorrow as the Cemetery of the Week.) I’d been to the cemetery once before, in the winter as night was falling, when it grew too dark to photograph anything, let alone find anyone other than Marilyn Monroe. I still had a wonderful time, sitting on a bench under a huge, spreading tree, listening to the night settle down in the big city.

I wanted to visit Westwood in the daytime, to see if I could find that same sense of peace. Better than that, I found the grave of Ray Bradbury.

The master’s headstone

Ray Bradbury is my literary hero. I’ve read his books to pieces. I’ve underlined and analyzed and memorized his writing. I had the opportunity to meet him only once. I was so tongue-tied I could barely tell him how much his work meant to me. Luckily, I think I was more eloquent as I stood over his grave, despite the tears in my eyes.

“For these beings, fall is ever the normal season,” he wrote in Something Wicked This Way Comes, the first of his books I read. “Where do they come from?” he asked. “The dust. Where do they go? The grave.”

It’s like he knew me. In the book, the autumn people are the bad guys, but I am an autumn person. I am headed to the grave, spiraling closer one year at a time, but every day in the open air is a blessing and a gift. It’s been a joy to have Ray Bradbury’s stories as company along the way.

I’m glad I finally got to tell him that.

Here’s another post about Bradbury that I especially like.

About Loren Rhoads

I am the author of the essay collection Wish You Were Here: Adventures in Cemetery Travel, co-author of the novel As Above, So Below, and editor of The Haunted Mansion Project: Year Two. In addition to blogging at CemeteryTravel.com, I blog about my morbid life at lorenrhoads.com.
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8 Responses to The Autumn People

  1. coastalcrone says:

    My birthday was last week also so I guess I am an autumn person – especially in years. I have been to this cemetery once several years ago and was in awe of those buried there. I even found the graves of Will and Ariel Durant; if i remember they were near a tree. I will look forward to your post tomorrow!

  2. Pingback: Cemetery of the Week #82: Pierce Brothers Westwood Village Memorial Park | Cemetery Travel: Adventures in Graveyards Around the World

  3. Jo says:

    Happy belated Birthday from another Autumn person. I am so envious that you got to meet Ray Bradbury! He is (well, was, I guess, since he won’t be writing any more, but IS because I read and re-read his books) one of my favorite authors — and I just re-read Something Wicked This Way Comes a few days ago, in honor of Halloween. I absolutely savor some of his sentences.

    Very nice post!

  4. Nice. I still wouldn’t have known what to say at his grave….

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