When I received the invitation to have me and my blog, “Just an Untamed Taphophile”, spotlighted here on GYR, I was blown away. “Wow… how cool is THAT?” Yet, after a brief happy dance (we all have one - don’t deny it!), I kind of panicked. How in the world was I going to discuss my blog – myself! – for the Rabbit readers? Self-promotion? Definitely, not one of my strong suits. So, with Sheri’s unwitting help (Would you believe I actually considered for a nano-second trying to compete with Johan Mathiesen's post - as if anyone could! That was absolutely stellar!), I decided to take the coward’s way out by pretending that some invisible phantom was interviewing me. So, after quite a bit of time trying to think of questions/topics said phantom might pose that I hadn’t already covered over on “…Taphophile" the end result is this post.
TELL US A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THE WOMAN BEHIND THE BLOG:
Well, I’m not a comedian, yet I can, and will, find a reason to laugh every day. I’m not a singer, yet you will always catch me singing with abandon at every red light. I’m not a dancer, yet I do dance down the aisles to that tired old, supermarket music – every time. I’m not an artist, yet you can find the story of my life inked across my flesh in images torn from my own soul. I’m not a writer, yet I find comfort in the very act of unlocking the words within me and physically strewing them about. I’m not a photographer, yet often I would much rather observe the world through the camera’s lens than with harshness of my naked eye. I think that’s my personality in a nutshell – let’s move on, shall we? I do so hate delving THAT deep into myself!
DID YOU REALLY HANG AROUND THE CEMETERY ALONE AT 8 YEARS OLD? WHAT WAS YOUR MOTHER THINKING?!
I did… and I don’t KNOW what she was thinking. No, seriously, I grew up in what used to be a very small, close-knit community in New Hampshire (where I still reside, although it's not so small anymore). Our neighbors, the ones that weren’t related to us, were all friends and no one thought a thing about being gone on our bikes from dawn until dark. The cemetery in question was not far from home and, in truth, had become a favorite spot of mine well before I was “old” enough to ride solo or felt the need for a private sanctuary of sorts. Now, over 25 (fine… 35!) years later, it remains a favorite of mine both as a Cemetery Trustee and a crawler.
HOW DO YOUR FRIENDS AND FAMILY FEEL ABOUT YOUR OBSESSION? WHAT ABOUT OTHERS – DON’T YOU WORK IN THE PUBLIC EYE, AFTER ALL?
Besides being a Cemetery Trustee, I do kind of work in the public eye and visitors to my office are subjected to the trappings of my obsession all around my space. My favorite shots hang on the wall, and even my mouse pad and coffee mug are taphophile friendly. It is also so at home – with cemetery photos interspersed with pictures of my kids. My family has never taken issue with it or found it bizarre, nor have my friends, and all enjoy browsing through my photo albums (well, at least they pretend to find it enjoyable!). In fact both my daughters on occasion, out of view of their friends, openly share my affinity and have been known to accompany me on crawls. Similarly, my co-workers are not overtly weirded out by my choice of decor.
Everyone else? As is the case for most us, I’m sure, the reaction of others to my penchant for cemeteries often leans heavily toward disbelief and the all-too-common “ick face” as I affectionately call it. I'd like to think, however, that as time passes and the number of blogs, articles, Associations, and the like continues to swell out here on the interwebs, a shift in perception will follow. Crawling is, in my humble opinion, as universal an activity as, oh, I don’t know – bird watching - despite being less recognized or accepted. I think it's fair to say that there are taphophiles on every continent and that they range in age from pre-schoolers to great-grandparents. They also span all social classes, and all manner of personalities from “Emo” to “CEO”. Not too shabby statistics for a purportedly ghoulish past-time.
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WON’T PHOTOGRAPH WHILE CRAWLING?
I do tend to stay away from “new” graves/sections, and I also don’t photograph my own family’s plots. I know the latter could certainly be construed as hypocritical, and I make no excuse for it other than it’s a weird superstitious, personal "thing" I have. The former is simply because the pain of loss is far more palpable there and that, for me, is not what I’m seeking during my crawls.
WHAT DO YOU MOST LOVE/HATE TO SEE IN THE CEMETERY?
I love to see babies remembered decades after they pass. The picture below, which I’ve creatively dubbed “Flowers for Baby”, is one of my personal favorites. Over thirty years gone when I snapped this photo, and someone still cares enough to bring him fresh flowers. That, to me, just surpasses sweet.
Hate? The only thing I could say I hate to see is vandalism. Grief is a keenly personal emotion, and I could never imagine being offended by or disliking anything placed on a grave to memorialize a loved one. I can also stomach neglect to a great extent, but malicious acts drive me nuts! Stone tipping, spray paint, and even innocent “chalking”, which some photographers do to raise the lettering on older stones; all make me crazy. For the record, a spritz of water and a mirror to direct the sunlight works as well, if not better, to make the stone legible and ultimately does no harm (thus ends my rant... my apologies lol).
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE AMONG ALL THE MONUMENTS YOU’VE PHOTOGRAPHED?
It’s very hard for me to choose from the thousands I've shot, as all of them “spoke” to me for one reason or another – or I wouldn’t have photographed them. I'm as fickle as a toddler when it comes to favorites, and they change like the wind with each new cemetery I enter. If I had to pick today I would have to stay with the “Dane” monument below. I must confess, though, it was not the easiest overall capture given the lighting when I visited (read: lame excuse for a bad photo). Beyond that, I don't believe the expressiveness in her face CAN be fully grasped in a photo - she is a monument that needs to be seen in person.
IF YOU COULD VISIT ANY CEMETERY, ANYWHERE, WHICH WOULD IT BE?
There is no single answer to this question. My dream vacation crawl would start at Bonaventure, travel to New Orleans, extend overseas to Augsburg, and end with a leisurely stroll through each of the Magnificent Seven in England. THAT would be heaven!
WHAT ABOUT GENEALOGY? (Ha! Always a popular GYR question so I threw it in here for good measure.)
I am, in fact, the keeper of my family’s history. I became obsessed with it years ago after hearing the story of how my Great-Grandfather stowed away on a ship bound for Nova Scotia from Germany and, to date, have compiled obnoxious amounts of data (that doesn't even pertain to my elusive Great-Grandfather :sigh:). Similarly, I have sorted and chronicled boxes of old family photos and letters into some semblance of continuity. In short, yes, I’m equally obsessed with tracing my family’s roots and preserving whatever I can for those who come long after we’re gone.
ANY OTHER FASCINATIONS/OBSESSIONS?
Indeed, I have a boatload of them. Amongst others, I find the paranormal incredibly interesting and love stumbling across abandoned places/buildings. I also adore “Sleeping Beauty” photographs, although I don’t currently have any in my collection. Unlike crawling, that last obsession DOES seem to creep out not only my daughters but others, as well... but that's an entire other post!
LAST QUESTION! WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO BRING “JUST AN UNTAMED TAPHOPHILE” UP TO DATE?
Soon… very soon! I mean, really, how can I let it lie idle now?
AND THAT, MY FRIENDS IS THAT. Thank you to Sheri, GYR, and you, the readers of this post, for letting me take up a bit of your day.
Until we meet again... crawl with care.