Saturday, 9 June 2018

What's Left Behind in the Graveyard Maze

There's something really fascinating about instant cameras in this day and age. The fact that it prints immediately, and that you only have a limited amount of shots on the film roll make the moments more memorable, in a way. For a while I have wanted to go back to this particular graveyard in my town, which was once a place that I saw everyday from my bedroom window. Even when I moved house, the graveyard seemed to follow me, at least subconsciously. 

I have always found it a place of tranquillity and beauty, nothing sinister about it. As a child, it was just there, a part of everyday life, but in recent years I have dreamt of it on an almost regular basis. I have quite a few recurring dreams, so this was not distressing to me. In fact, the dreamy version of this cemetery is something that I can recall vividly; it sprawls across the hills for miles and miles - hundreds of acres, even - with each tombstone a work of art, packed in like sardines, and the early morning sky a dusky blue. 
Every dream has a different landscape, shifting into new things in each one, but somehow I know it is the same place, presenting a different guise. It is lush and crowded, covered with green. Unearthly, yet radiating peacefulness and a distant sense of melancholy, which doesn't quite touch me. Time stands still. It always does in the graveyard.
Eventually the sun begins to set, and a whole day has passed with me wandering the grounds or propped up against a tombstone. The sky is cast with buttermilk yellow clouds, and I lie down to rest. There is no point trying to get home, for I have walked too far to get back before nightfall. Yet somehow this doesn't worry me, I'm languid and calm. 

You can perhaps see why I was eager to get back. I find it a very interesting and pretty place, and although I don't know what my recurring dreams mean, I rather like them. It changes every time I visit, so this time I came armed with my Instax camera and a phone to take video footage.

I was not disappointed at all to find that due to the current weather, the entire place has been sun-bleached, adding to the sense of overgrowth and decay; one time years and years ago, I actually got a bit dizzy and fell as I walked through the grass. It was also summertime, in the midst of the ragged, angel-strewn paths. I was a bit stunned, so I just laid there, feeling the sun on my skin. The grass was dead, just as it was when I visited yesterday, and felt more like straw, scratching my arms and clinging to my hair and clothes. The heat and vast blue sky (which didn't quite make it into my photos, for some reason) reminded me of that day.

Perhaps due to budget cuts in my area, the graveyard seems to have withered and decayed even more since the last time I saw it. The church is boarded up, its peeling green doors double padlocked and coated with webs, and the caretaker's house has long been deserted, probably as long as I have been alive. The windows once had lace curtains, but now they have been torn down and replaced with wood painted black. Tombs have fallen from their foundations due to the recent snow, and the angels are bound with thorny branches. I found a pink silk rose, thrown nonchalantly to the statue of Jesus. Nearby, a bush had been dislodged from its roots and looked as though it had fallen from the sky, sitting next to the grave of a woman called Margaret. But despite the decline in care, wild poppies have sprouted in clusters around the entrance, and swallows dart through the air like missiles.

Last night I spent a few hours learning how to use a video editing software so that I could make this very short film. It is not perfect, or even good, by any means, but I had a lot of fun cutting clips and editing it all together! Here is the result:

The angel headstones are probably my favourite part of the place, which gave the name to my blog: "Nocturne des Anges". It can either mean a Nocturne piece of music, since I love classical music (especially Satie), or a nighttime scene, bringing to mind angels singing in the night.
If you watch, I hope you enjoy seeing the features of the graveyard as much as I enjoyed filming them!


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