Edith north of Boston, try to enjoy the heck out of the end of summer.
About two years ago a member of Sisters in Crime New England posted a call for submissions. Leslie Wheeler said somebody was soliciting essays for a collection with a theme of Mount Auburn Cemetery. The collection was to be titled Dead in Good Company, which was the title of the essay written by Kate Flora, one of the goddesses of the New England chapter.
I used to spend a lot of time in Mount Auburn. Birdwatching. Strolling with a beau. Exploring gravestones. Stopping in on my bicycle commute from Cambridge to Waltham and back. I also attended a memorial service there for one of my father’s cousins, who died way too young at age seventy a few years ago.
Mt. Auburn, on the Cambridge/Watertown line, is a really special place for me, and I’d experienced a number of firsts there. What did I have to lose by writing up a non-fiction, non-mystery piece? So I submitted my essay, “My First Time,” which was accepted by the organizer and co-editor, John Harrison. I polished the piece a bit, with John’s suggestions, and began to wait.
It took a long time for John and his co-editor, Kim Nagy, to get the book out, but it was worth the wait. The cover is gorgeous and and the wildlife photography within is stunning. The list of contributors is also impressive, including friends like Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ray Daniel, Sandra Lee, Katherine Hall Page, and Leslie, of course, as
well as former mayor Ray Flynn, the noted lawyer Alan Dershowitz, and many more.
The book is out now, and yesterday the editors, the authors, their families and friends, the cemetery folks, and all the spirits who inhabit Mount Auburn gathered in the Bigelow Chapel to celebrate the book’s release. The two editors spoke, as well as local mystery authors Bill Martin and Gary Goshgarian (aka Gary Braver), Steve Barnett, president of the cemetery, and radio and TV personality Upton Bell. Steve elaborated on the history of the cemetery – how it inspired others to create parks and green places of refuge – and John
Harrison touched on its importance also as a refuge for animals, birds, and plants.
The authors signed like mad, everybody ate and drank, and I had a chance to stroll the lovely grounds afterwards. (I was sorry not to see Hank, Kate, Katherine, or Ray there, but hey, it’s summer.)
Readers: Have you been to Mt. Auburn cemetery? What’s your beautiful place that brings you peace? And if you write fiction, do you ever dabble in non-fiction?
I’ve only been once, but would love to go back. It is so beautiful there.
Living in Virginia, Arlington Cemetery is a place that we visit frequently, mostly taking out-of-town visitors. If you can visit there when tourist numbers are down, it is a very peaceful place to walk. It is especially touching when you think of all of the sailors, soldiers, marines, and airmen laid to rest there and their sacrifices.
I’ll have to go there one of these days when I visit my son in Silver Spring, MD.
What a creative idea! I’ve only been to Mount Auburn once for an aunt’s service, but have driven by it hundreds of times. My late brother often encouraged me to take the time to visit – not sure why I haven’t to date – but it’s on the list now and I’ll check out the book.
( On another subject, not tall – but very cute, Edith.)
It’s really a lovely place, Marian.
I’ve never been, but it sounds like a lovely place, for the living and the dead. And you may be short, but you are mighty, Edith! You and Leslie look wonderful.
I haven’t been either but have read a lot about it and regret not going while I lived in the area. My place when I lived in Massachusetts was Sleepy Hollow cemetery in Concord. I’d go visit Louisa May Alcott, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Emerson on Authors Ridge. Once when my daughter was a teenager I took her there when she was having a very bad day. I thought I took her there because it was peaceful. On reflection I wonder if it was a subtle, things could be worse, message.
Funny, Sherry. Sleepy Hollow is indeed a very peaceful spot.
I was always too busy trying to find my way through Cambridge to do something wonderful like stopping to enjoy the cemetery. When you asked about a peaceful place, I thought right away of a stone bench at the edge of Bass Rocks on the grounds of the Eastern Point Retreat House in Gloucester. It’s a beautiful overlook, and time spent there never failed to bring me back in balance with myself.
I like the sound of the retreat house. Might check that out sometime.
Congrats on the essay and collection release!
I’ve never been there, but I get great peace when I’m in a redwood forest. That is the one thing I miss the most from living in Northern California.
I spent every summer growing in Sequoia National Park, Mark! I know the feeling.
My husband’s father is buried there, and I was there more than a year ago for a friend’s memorial. It is, indeed, beautifully landscaped and designed.
My favorite cemetery is Key West’s. It is flat and square and as in New Orleans the graves are above ground so they are above the water table. But I love the sense of humor of the interees, including the grave that says, “I told you I was sick.”
I love that, Barb! I’m usually looking at older gravestones, and have never seen any with funny stuff written on them.
I love The Old Burial Ground in Marblehead. I have ancestors there. Grounding.
I should visit that one of these days, Reine. Maybe when you come back here we’ll go together!
I would love that, Edith.
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