Atlanta's Oakland Cemetery Is How I Do Tourism
At the end of Mom 2.0 Summit in Atlanta, I had a few hours to kill before my trip back to Canada, so I got together with my friend Heather, who always brings the promise of good food and site-seeing. She delivered with crazy fantastic onion rings at Six Feet Under and a photo walk through Oakland Cemetery.
Ever since I was a little kid, I have loved cemeteries. I found a peace and a calm in those places that existed nowhere else for me. Whenever we visited the town my grandparents lived in, I harboured a secret excitement, because there was a cemetery right at the edge on the other side of the train tracks. I would instruct my cousins to lay pennies on the tracks and feel for the locomotive's thrum while I slipped off to read headstones and trace the edges of gravesites with my feet.
Everyone seemed so small outlined in rectangles on the ground, even the ones I knew had been taller in life. If I was truly alone, I would lie down on top of one of the outlined graves to measure myself against a person 50 or more years gone to see how small I would look one day.
It didn't feel sad to do that. It felt liberating. It was an idea that set me free, because it confirmed for me that I must milk the moments I am here. There was almost literally no time to waste on bullshit.
I ended up wasting a ton of time on bullshit, anyway, because life is a messy process, but that old cemetery planted the seeds of what would later begin to heal me.
Oakland Cemetery brought me back to a taste of that peacefulness, that centredness, with everyone gathered for over two hundred years together, confederate soldiers and famous authors and wealthy mausoleum tenants and babies with tombstones that melt a little more with each rain..
I had a cousin who found me once lying before a headstone. I felt a horrible embarrassment rush over me, sweating itself out heavy in the heat. She started to cry, because she thought I would be cursed now, that I had trespassed in some unforgivable way. I was unable to convince her that there was no malice here, that the buried dead did not somehow carry death.
With rows and rows of lives I can only imagine, there is a library quiet in a graveyard, unread volumes. I would love it if we could open everyone like books when we have gone and read where we have been.