Sunday, October 27, 2013

The Weekly MUSE: Cemeteries

Like I mentioned in the video, some people think cemeteries are SPOOKY, especially around Halloween. After all, cemeteries are where we bury the dead. And when we think about the dead, sometimes we think about ghosts. BOO!
On the other hand, many people find cemeteries to be peaceful. I fall into this category.
First of all, I’m not afraid of ghosts (wink). And secondly, cemeteries are a place full of Imagination. When I walk through a cemetery, I like to read the names on the tombstones and wonder what that person was like. Were they kind? Were they mean? What did they do for a living? What did they want out of life? Did they get it? In other words, what was their life story?
Often, I leave a cemetery very inspired. I guess that would make cemeteries one of my FAVORITE muses. Let’s dig deep (pun intended) and see what we can uncover about these restful places.
The first interesting fact that I uncovered is that cemeteries and graveyards are not entirely the same. Some people use the words interchangeably, but they are two different kinds of burial places.
A cemetery is usually larger than a graveyard and better taken care of. Graveyards are often overgrown with weeds and dead trees. Often, small graveyards are found near old country churches.
Cemeteries often resemble city parks. The lawns are frequently mowed and the gardens of flowers, shrubs, and trees are maintained by a crew of paid workers.
As you can probably imagine, it often costs more to be buried in a cemetery rather than a graveyard. And just like the living can show how much money they have by the type of house they live in, the dead can show you how much money they HAD by the type of monument built for them.
This man must have had lots of money!

This man probably didn’t.

Photo by: Cindy Funk
In a cemetery, you will find a few different ways that people are entombed. They are not always buried in the ground like the two men above.
Sometimes people chose to have their remains placed inside the walls of  a mausoleum. Mausoleums can be large halls filled with hundreds of tombs, or they can be smaller buildings for the remains of one person or family.
Inside the Crown Hill Mausoleum
The family mausoleum of Colonel Eli Lilly  
Here is one of the most interesting tombs that I found inside Crown Hill Cemetery. This family’s remains are entombed in this hillside.
In the United States, there are two main types of cemeteries: governmental and non-governmental. Crown Hill Cemetery is the third largest non-governmental cemetery in the United States. Anyone who can afford a burial plot is allowed entombment at Crown Hill.
Governmental cemeteries (national cemeteries) are reserved for those who have served the government of the United States, mainly the armed forces. The most notable government cemetery is the Arlington National Cemetery near Washington D.C. This is the final resting place for President John F. Kennedy. Take a look at this video to learn more about this cemetery.
Cemeteries are great places for walking and exploring or sitting and reading. During my Crown Hill visit, I saw several people enjoying the landscape – some dogs, too.
Cemeteries can also be great settings for your stories. One of my favorite holiday movies takes place inside a cemetery. Have you heard of The Nightmare Before Christmas? Take a look at Jack Skellington in the Halloween Town Cemetery.
And if you want to read a great book with a cemetery setting, check out Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman.
With this new knowledge, what kind of story could you write? Maybe these what if questions will help you get started.
WHAT IF your main character lived inside a cemetery with his/her pet.
WHAT IF your main character lived next-door to a cemetery. What if he/she saw a strange green light moving around the cemetery one night?
WHAT IF your main character’s dad was a grave digger? What if his/her dad got sick and he/she had to dig graves instead.
The possibilities are endless, and please leave your own what if questions in the comment section below. I’d love to see what you come up with.
So, grab a pencil and a piece of paper, and let’s begin. With your imagination, we can go anywhere. I look forward to seeing where you take us.
With Imagination,
Professor Watermelon
The word of the day is “entombed”. Here is the definition: to be placed in a tomb, to be buried, or to be interred.

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