My personal blog as a 'grown-up' Goth and Romantic living in the Highlands of Scotland. I write about the places I go, the things I see and my thoughts on life as a Goth and the subculture. Sometimes I write about music I like and sometimes I review things. This blog often includes architectural photography, graveyards and other images from the darker side of life.

The Gothic subculture is not just about imitating each other, it is a creative movement and subculture that grew out of post-punk and is based on seeing beauty in the dark places of the world, and looks back to the various ways throughout history in which people have confronted and explored the macabre, the dark and the taboo, and as such I'm going to post about more than the just the standards of the subculture (Tim Burton, Siouxsie Sioux and Anne Rice et al.) and look at things by people who might not consider themselves anything to do with the subculture, but have eyes for the dark places. Goth should not be limited by what is considered "goth", inspiration comes from all places, the key is to look with open eyes, listen carefully and think with an open mind..

Friday, 30 January 2015

Graveyards, Mortality and Snow

Back in early January, I went on one of my lunch-breaks to a Chapel Yard cemetery in Inverness. I had an extended break, and had time to take the bus from work into the city and then have a quiet stroll. When I got back, one of my colleagues was asking where I'd gone on my break, and when I responded with a graveyard, asked me if I was visiting a relative, and then got surprised when I said that I was just there for a quiet stroll, and thought it would be quite morbid. I think this is a fairly standard reaction from most non-Goths, and some Goths too, and visiting graveyards for reasons other than visiting a specific grave or for a funeral seems alien to a lot of non-Goths, and quite normal to a lot of Goths. I had to get back to working, and so didn't have time to explain to my co-worker exactly what I find appealing - I just said that I liked the peace and quiet, and I didn't have time to take a bus out to the park.


Snowy graves at Chapel Yard Cemetery, Inverness. Phone-cam photo by me.

The full answer is a bit more complicated. 

It is mainly because I do indeed find graveyards peaceful and quiet. Unlike public parks, they get very few visitors. Usually, I am the only person there, and I am unlikely to be disturbed, which gives me time to be alone with my thoughts and away from the rest of the living.  I guess the fact that most people find them morbid, if not outright creepy, is one of the reasons that they remain a place of solitude. While I am an outgoing person, extended social interaction does tire me, and I need time alone to recuperate. Visiting a graveyard does not quite guarantee me brief isolation, but it is most usually solitary enough - some are more frequently visited than others, and I've been to a couple with paths straight through them and thus people using them as thoroughfares, but the Chapel Yard cemetery at the end of Academy Street in Inverness is at least not used as a short-cut, even if it is bordered by two busy and converging roads. Actually, considering its situation, it is surprisingly quiet, something which I attribute to the high walls surrounding it and the numerous trees, shrubs and hedges.

More snowy graves, photographed by HouseCat

Graveyards often have quite interesting masonry and sculpture - old mausoleums, grave-stones and markers, old walls, etc. I like these on aesthetic grounds, but they also serve as a reminder to put things in perspective: as Hippocrates said, "Life is short, art is long" - not just that the physical artefacts of human crafts outlive their makers, or that our deeds can outlive us, but that life is short and that learning any skill, or practising any art, or really doing anything well, is time-consuming and it is important to manage your time wisely - and that includes taking a break from things so that when you go back to them you are more productive. Yes, the graves are very much a reminder of human mortality, but rather than depressing me, this inspires me and reminds me to always live life like I will be struck down by lightning or traffic the next day; I try to make the most of things, avoid leaving things unsaid, and do my best to fill each day with experiences and productive activities.

Interior of mausoleum, note extinguished torch
carving on the far wall. Photo by the HouseCat

Death does not depress or frighten me; yes I wish to accomplish certain things before I am gone, but the fact that I will be gone does not upset me, and never really has. I don't believe in an afterlife, and my view on reincarnation is more that my soul will be recycled, and maybe the next thing I am made into will retain little flashes of me-ness, the way recycled paper sometimes has little bits of still-legible text or flashes of colour, but mostly that which makes me the person I am now will cease to be. These things have never scared me; it just seems logical that all things are born, die, and get recycled one way or another, even if its just the physical recycling of decomposition. Maybe this is why I am attracted to the Gothic; death does not terrify me, not even the prospect of my own demise, instead it just seems like another part of life, and therefore I am not put off the macabre, and if anything just as curious about it as I am anything else. Suffering frightens me, but not dying; being dead seems to mostly be awful for those left grieving in the absence of the deceased, and be merely oblivion for the one who has died. As such, reminders of death, such as graveyards and skulls, don't upset or make me miserable.

Details of the graveyard, with interesting carvings.
Photo by The Housecat, collage made in PicMonkey

Graveyards are also often rare green spaces in urban areas; especially those that do not come with much parkland, or come with parkland that is just flat grass for sports with little in the way of trees and shrubs. I often see a wide variety of birds, and sometimes animals - I often spot hedgehogs and squirrels in graveyards. Sitting on a bench and observing, or going for a quiet stroll, is one way I can get in my dose of "nature time" - something I need to keep myself grounded. For places associated with death, they are usually teeming with life.

I go to graveyards to find solitude, peace, perspective and life, and usually I find it in those places, even if they are places of death for others. 

8 comments:

  1. I take care of and live by several cemeteries, which are situated directly to the west, south and east of me. These burial grounds are historic, green of course, with lots of trees, wildlife and grave markers. As you mentioned, they are great places to find relative solitude. On moon-lit nights I enjoy walking around in them, observing the long shadows caused by the moon as it rises over the tree tops. Some people find my love of cemeteries morbid but...oh well!

    As for the afterlife, I'm not sure what I believe. I've had experiences with unexplainable events and beings--even in one of the cemeteries. Some sort of reincarnation and/or recycling makes sense to me; but then again, I know that the human ego has problems facing its own extinction. None of us have the answers. You're right though, there's plenty of reason to live life to its fullest.

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    1. As my access to various cemeteries and graveyards is that of a member of general public, my visiting hours are those during which the gates are unlocked for public access.

      I have my own strange experiences which lead me to think that such things as reincarnation make good sense, and that there is more to the human existence than the physical, but it is not the sort of thing I wish to share on this blog - I guess if I had separate blog for spiritual/Pagan matters, then yes, but not here.

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  2. You're not alone in visiting graveyards just for wander, and they're fabulous places to take a camera as long as you are respectful. Also you find strange things in graveyards like a housecat with parasol and camera 😃

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    1. Ah, that is because I was trying to get a good vantage point to photograph the church next door!

      But yes; one ought to be respectful. I try to obfuscate or outright not include any names and dates on headstones, and I do not clamber on graves or their markers, and try my best to keep to paths where there are paths, and to always shut the gate if it is that sort of graveyard where you're supposed to (a lot of rural ones, so that deer etc. don't get in). I do not shout, run around or make much noise, I always take my litter away with me, and I make sure to observe any notices.

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  3. Cemeteries are beautiful in my opinion. I could stroll for hours just enjoying the silence and admiring the statues. There is a sweet sadness to it and I cannot help but want it from time to time.
    Of course people find it awkward since they associate a graveyard with death and decay which is not altogether wrong but, the eerie feeling you have while being there cannot be found in many other places. :)

    unknownprettylies.blogspot.com

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    1. That sense of "sweet sadness" - a sense of melancholy at the transience of things, yet sense that even the worst things are fleeting; very few places other than graveyards have that.

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  4. Beautifully said. I feel the same way. Now I want to get out for a nice stroll. Maybe when the weather is a little warmer

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    1. It is rather cold and snowy here, temperatures often below -0°C, and apparently was around -12/-13 °C a short while back. It's very nice to look at, but I'm wrapped up in a cocoon of coats, scarves, gloves, boots, etc. often with thin gloves under my thick gloves, two scarves/a scarf wrapped around my head to keep my ears warm and my hair in place, under my hat!

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