Tuesday, January 11, 2011
There are, of course, the trees to consider. Mount Auburn Cemetery has the grandest, most diverse, sometimes most bizarre trees...trees as varied as its monuments.
It was on my October walk with Kris that I first realized that weeping beeches must be grafted. A plant with the "weeping" mutation grows downward, or prostrate. How does a tree that grows downward instead of up ever attain any height? Wouldn't it just crawl along the ground? Well, apparently it would, unless the weeping branch is grafted, oh so very long ago, to an upright or standard trunk. Imagine being a normal beech sapling, minding your own bidness, growing straight up, then suddenly chopped off and topped with dreadlocks.
And here is the scar to show where it was grafted. Amazing. Mount Auburn is a place of reflection, wonder, and discovery for me. In looking at this scar, I suddenly made the connection with those rather ridiculous looking little weeping cherry trees everyone plants in front of their new condos--you know...the yardstick with the big foof of weeping pink-flowering branches atop it. They look like frothy pink umbrellas. Weeping beech: same deal. But much more impressive, especially given a couple hundred years. I enjoy discovering the hand of man where I'd never thought to look for it.
Each of these weeping beeches is like a citadel of privacy, especially in growing season when their leaves form a curtain all around. You push aside the long trailing fronds and enter a greengold world. I can only imagine what has gone on under these trees all these years. Lots of carving, apparently...and who knows what else.
Speaking of trees, we found a swarm of feral honeybees in a big hollow oak. Nice to see, rather rare. You can just pick out their golden dots in the round cavity. What a magnificent tree this was, and full of bees, too.
Oh the trees, the beautiful trees. Things weren't really turning color just yet in the warm and protected city environs. It's so easy to forget the headstones and just appreciate the forest here. That's what the birds do. They drop into Mount Auburn like tired pebbles on their long spring and fall migratory flights, and they find what they need in her thickets and shrubbery, in the sunlit canopy of her massive trees.
I come here to appreciate truly mature trees. We plant them in our yards when they're barely bigger than we are, and we so easily underestimate the real estate they'll carve out when they're full grown. We may never see them full-grown, in fact. That's for our children's children.
And just like in a forest, the trees are always replicating themselves. I don't know if the cemetery management wants another huge oak here, but these acorns aren't daunted. They're going to give it a go.
It is the contrast of burgeoning life with memento mori all around that brings me back to Mount Auburn Cemetery again and again. I could live here, mining her secrets and wonders, for years and never uncover them all.