Saturday, November 25, 2006

Fotos Para Los Muertos

You can walk on or weep over the grave of e.e. cummings, or rather EDWARD ESTLIN CUMMINGS if you put faith in the inscribed word. His is one of many corpses of the rich and famous feeding the green and brown residents of Forest Hills Cemetery.

Instead of fame by distant contact, consider the fall and winter in one of Boston's most splendid parks. A few photos taken today show a bit of what you can see in staturary, wildlife, art, and iconography.

Click on an image to see a larger view. Even these are compressed and from 100KB to 350KB -- easy even for the cable deprived.

The magnificent beech here is a delight for picnickers and climbers alike in leaf. You enjoy its grandeur only in the fall. It is one of several gigantic guards around Lake Hibiscus.

Not to quibble, but we country folk would call this a pond, as we suspect limnologists would. However, the frogs and waterfowl delight in it regardless.

This garden cemetery has always been a public park to the neighbors and management. The latter has recently brought in rotating art incorporated into the geology and flora. (You can get an art map by the main entrance and follow the dots-for-dummies to the signs.

As you enjoy some of the grand trees, a few can shock -- like those cloaked in mesh. These wraith trees (artist, Leslie Wilcox) take you just a little out of your comfort zone by not letting you passively enjoy autumn nature.

The cemetery is famous for its five Daniel Chester French statues (the Lincoln Memorial guy). It has numerous other classic Victorian pieces, both poignant and pretentious.

Yet its group memorials and monuments to more ordinary folk can be charming, particularly in the fall. Without the heavy foliage, these gems sparkle.

Consider for one the bronze soldier who marks the memorial to fallen Union soldiers in "the rebellion." His expression is at once resigned and resolute. This is not a call for further blood, rather the look of one who has experienced the best and worst humanity serves up while doing his perceived duty.

Nearby Mt. Hope has far more group memorials -- police, Elks and the ilk. Also, St. Michael, across Walk Hill from Forest Hills is more of a tenement-style traditional burial ground with its busts of stern patriarchs and matriarchs mingled with cherubs on infants' plots.

Instead, Fortest Hills' nature as a garden cemetery inspired the families of the corpses, as well as sculptors and headstone carvers, to higher art. While we personally love the older New England iconography elsewhere in town, the individual statements here are grand on their own.

Times could be tough in the early and mid-19th Century. The couple who had buried all three of children, young, could only memorialize them.

Likewise, the poor woman who remained behind both her child and husband ordered a strong statement for her family plot.

The relatively open spaces here aid in the appreciation of granite, marble and sandstone art. Particularly in the fall, the bare deciduous trees detract less from these works.

You might assume that this is almost over-arbored. Yet, as recent as the past two hurricane-class winds, Forest Hills lost over 150 trees, quite a few of them huge and old.
Again, we can't help but wonder, macabrely, whether the permanent residents themselves fertilize the trees. The grass is not golf-course thick and green. Then again, grass does not have the root structure nor the hunger of the woody mammoths.

What you can see at a micro level is the opportunistic and survivalist wee plants. In particular, the mosses and lichens manage to flourish in the smallest crevices. Likely windblown dirt sticks to joints and letters in tombstones enough to give these plants and fungi all they need to live.

One must wonder whether Mary Dow and her kin nearby would have been pleased at the green highlights on their names and dates so many years later.
The full fuzziness of moss provides a garish cuddliness to a cold stone, even in autumn. We can suspect by the next century, every character and integer will have its own verdant accent.

This garden also surprises with moving things. Lake Hibiscus attracts the nearly ubiquitous, noisome Canada geese. It also has much quieter, discreetly excreting families of box turtles that sun in the middle and mallard families that reproduce on the small island and keep a year-round presence. Foo on the DONT FEED THE WATERFOWL admonitions.

The reeds boom six months a year with bullfrogs too. They coexist peacefully with the squirrels' nemesis, the red tailed hawks. Those bushy tail rodents are lunch on the move for them, and they have no compunction keeping them from tearing one apart to the disgust of visiting moms.

However, a regular delight is the great blue heron or two. The one here was likely looking for a remaining frog in the reeds, when he found himself looking at us between him and the water. He paced a bit, but we managed to waltz around each other so that he could go to his pond and relative safety.

We may post some more, likely of the trees and some of the current sculpture now fully exposed. This coming season is not the best for picnics, expect for perhaps precious student and artist types. However, for all, this is a wonderful season to walk this park -- open dawn to dusk.



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