Tygh Valley, Oregon. Usually the trip to the cemetery is quite spectacular
Many who don't understand call me things like morbid, though my interest has little to do with the physical death represented in my favorite places. Again not my driving interest, but each time I visit a cemetery I am forced to reconcile with the fact of my own mortality. I would like to think it helps me be a better person in my daily life. My driving interest, why I do what I do, is something I have had a hard time admitting to myself; much less you, my friends. You'll see why.I grew up in Upstate New York and those of you on that end of the country know very well what lush and incredible history there is to be found in the cemeteries. Plentiful, occasionally vast, and chalk full of Victorian style monuments celebrating tragedy, mourning, love, mortality and the great passage into death. How I love those cemeteries! They're so honest, and in their own way vibrant.
I live now in the dead center of Oregon. Pardon the pun, there really aren't all that many dead out here. If you have never been west, all you have to do is visit my blog (cemeteryseeker.com) which is complementary to my photography gallery (eternaltouchstudios.net) There you will see the some of the best cemeteries the west has to offer. In some rare cases, it's everything you would imagine it to be with the abandoned homesteads and cowboy hats to boot.
These cemeteries here in the west are a different sort from the east in every manner. They're small, often hard to find (if not impossible) and dangerous in so many ways. Most pioneer cemeteries were marked out with wooden crosses and often have a dozen stone markers or less. There are no life size angels or family mausoleums of impeccable beauty. These cemeteries, some still in use, are often home to ground hogs digging leg breaking holes concealed by sage brush.
Less frequently an adventurous spirit may run across a rattlesnake, a nest of black widow spiders or belligerent rancher with a rifle. Worse than that, a belligerent rancher's hot-tempered prize bull has charged me. I got away, but barely. That's the reason for my blog. So that I can share my adventures with my fellow citizens so that they need not make the journey and should they feel the need, they could do so safely with my guidance.
Now you're asking, Why? If the cemeteries here in the west haven't the artwork nor depth in history (albeit recent and interesting anyway) that I love in eastern cemeteries. Why bother going at all? What else is there? Surely it's not fun, driving 150 miles in dry heat and dust down roads, which haven't been roads since the Model T, looking at old maps for abandoned mining towns? Actually, it's the time of my life. But not even the adventure is what I'm after. And trust me, it's an adventure when there's nothing in sight in 360 degrees but the dirt path you're on and rolling desert and fallow fields.
Old Wagon Road, circa 1890
The part that I had to admit to myself. The part that took years of denying, fronting and repressing. This is the part you won't believe, and the part that ensures I walk alone but for my lovely soon-to-be-wife. I go for the company. I refuse to use any other words or phrase other than in tune, or perhaps observant.
The big eastern necropolis of the east with angels and death monuments and spirits galore are fantastic because there, no matter the amount of living foot traffic, I can get in tune. The fewer visitors the better as the living seem to for lack of a better word, saturate the area. When there are too many people (living, that is) around they drown out the subtle feelings I get from beyond. Since many cemeteries here in the west that are active are for all intents and purposes almost brand new, many are "Memorial Gardens... With an old section." Even in a place with very little foot traffic, I can in almost no circumstances "tune in" when staring at a manicured lawn with fake flowers. No matter how awesome the view.
So I track down the silent ones so that they need not be silent any longer. Overgrown with nature, abandoned entirely in some cases, virtually nobody visits. In some cases it's like discovering it all anew. Here, with nothing but the sound of the wind sweeping the long open earth, I can hear just a little bit beyond what I'm supposed to. It is in these places where few living ever go, that I can be among those who have come and gone. My connection to this side of our world is at best thin, due to my ability to observe. I don't get along well with most of what our Modern American society has to offer, and I often feel I'm from another time and place altogether. I try not to judge it, or myself, in any sense. I try not to apply any meaning, spiritual, religious or otherwise. I merely observe and accept. I photograph the cemeteries I visit and process the pictures to bring out an artistic rendering. I photograph to capture what I feel with my heart, rather than what I see with my eyes. Though sometimes I just get lucky, and capture something truly authentic and moving that needs no editing at all.