Saturday, October 4, 2014

Haunting walks

I had never been to a cemetery.  On a recent visit to Scotland, we were walking down the Royal mile, and I was somehow drawn towards the Cannongate Kirkyard. On a hillock, overlooking the city, it felt like a spot of untouched beauty, that endured the passing of time and the world that grew around, and stood it's ground, imposing. 
I can't help getting all choked up , walking through the gravestones, through people who were loved, some taken away before their time, their stories set in stone, to be read centuries later, by a stranger from the other side of the planet. 
It's the overwhelming feeling of feeling connected and yet disconnected. Intruding... yet not feeling like an intruder.

Down the road is another gem, the Greyfriars Kirkyard. I was most touched by the story of Greyfriars Bobby. Greyfriars Bobby belonged to an Edinburgh city police night watchman. When the watchman died, he was buried in Greyfriars cemetery. Bobby refused to leave his master's grave and spent the rest of his life sitting over it. He never left the spot for nearly fourteen years, till his death. He was then buried close to his master.

A statue and fountain have been erected to commemorate him, 'the most loyal dog in Scotland'

The beauty of the West Cemetery of Highgate, is unsurpassed. It was for me, like walking through Tolkien's Old forest. It probably is one of those hidden treasures in London. Forgotten paths, dead ends, moss covered graves, the stone angels that remind me of the weeping angels from Doctor Who. It's haunting contrast of the burning orange autumn leaves against the cool green moist moss, makes it a magical setting for tales of a distant past. I thought of Neil Gaiman's story of a little boy whose home was a graveyard such as this, in the care of ghosts.