Things have changed since I published my first blog post on Cemetery Travel in February 1, 2011, but my origin story is the same:
I started visiting graveyards by accident. A series of missed connections in January 1991 (as the first Gulf War was just beginning) resulted in an unanticipated layover in London, where I picked up Victorian Valhalla, a guidebook to Highgate Cemetery. My husband Mason Jones wanted to visit the graveyard because John Gay’s photos made it look so lovely. In reality, Highgate was ravishing, full of dramatic marble angels taking wing.
As it happened, one graveyard led to another. Our friend Christine has suggested we visit Père Lachaise in Paris, because so many famous people came to rest there. As we wandered, we accidentally discovered my favorite grave marker in all the world: shackled in the granite, Prometheus raises one fist against the gods. If that doesn’t sum up my feeling about death, I don’t know what might.
So I started looking at graveyards because they were pretty, then because famous people rested there. I quickly learned that practically anonymous gravestones tell the best stories. I developed a fascination with history as reflected in burial grounds, which led to studying trends in mortuary decoration. Even though I’ve been intentionally visiting graveyards around the world for 30 years, I still have an immense amount to learn. This will be the occupation of my lifetime.
In my travels, I’ve discovered that graveyards are really very fragile. All it takes is a windstorm, a flood, or a fallen tree to do irreparable harm, not to mention the kind of damage a determined teenager can do. Cemeteries are vulnerable if they are not visited. My mission is to get people to go. The least I can do for the pleasure cemeteries have given me is to inspire and encourage other people to visit for themselves. People protect the things they love. With any luck and the right guidance, you’ll find something to love in a cemetery, too, whether it’s historical figures, beautiful statuary, wildlife, breathtaking scenery, or what have you.
What will you find on Cemetery Travel? I’ve featured over 175 cemeteries, churches, and tombs as my Cemetery of the Week. These are brief encyclopedia entries, something to give the flavor of a particular graveyard — enough to whet your appetite for travel — illustrated with my photographs or postcards from my collection or by photos readers have submitted to the blog.
I also review all the cemetery books I read, so if you’ll looking to build a library, I have plenty of opinions. You can find those by clicking on the Cemetery Book Review category.
Sometimes I publish a collection of snapshots taken on my or a reader’s vacations.
As to calling myself a taphophile? I find the term unnecessarily precious. I prefer to think of myself as a cemetery aficionado. I hope you will, too.
If you need more inspiration, I hope you’ll check out my bookstore.
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