Earlier this month, on a Saturday morning, I set out for my usual walk, not expecting the mist I stepped into outside; tiny, cool dots of moisture beading on my face and clothes as I walked. I hustled the two blocks to the entrance, breathing in the dampness.
But something drew me on past the greenway and to the wall of the cemetery.
Riverside Cemetery (established 1777) wraps around in the shape of an L from South Second Street to Front Street, and the river is its opposite border. I walked up Church Street to the entrance where columns of stone rise up and stand like guards for the graves. A gigantic magnolia tree shelters a number of headstones. On one of the stones is carved the name “Graves.”
I entered on the road where hearses pass through, carrying the dead to their last meeting, walked past a Civil War Monument that was erected over a hundred and thirty years ago and a family plot enclosed by hedges and overgrown with vines and spiderwebs, until I reached the edge of the cemetery where the land drops off to the river, and there I found a plot with my own name: Morgan.
Cemeteries are peaceful and interesting places to me. I like to walk around, looking at the names and dates on the stones and imagining the lives of the people buried there, the way the landscape must have looked back then, and especially grief of those who stood beside the tiny plots whose birth and death dates are only days or months apart.
Our family property in Louisiana borders a cemetery. Less than a year ago, we buried my father there. As I walked through Riverside Cemetery in Smithfield, North Carolina, I was reminded of an earlier walk around that other graveyard, decades ago, with my little daughter, taking photos in the October mist.