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Mount Auburn Cemetery (The Mothership)

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Here's what it comes down to for me. Cambridge equals Mt. Auburn Cemetery. Yes, there are wonderful shops and restaurants, but I don't have any money to spend; I've nothing to my name but hope that this new book digs me out. My last "paycheck" came a year ago, when I handed in the last of 320 illustrations for the book. So I don't spend much time around temptations that cost anything.

But oh, the temptations that are free for the enjoying...

All I can think about when I'm in Cambridge is getting back to Mt. Auburn. Forget the fancy food and the beautiful clothes...everything I need and want is there.

The place has a surreal beauty that completely captivates me. An arch leading to a landscape such as you'd see in a dream, Elysian light streaking across the greensward. I yearn for this place in all seasons, but especially in spring and autumn.

There are plants growing here that I don't recognize, and that is delicious. Anyone?

Venerable specimens of pink dogwood. They take me back to Virginia. So nice to see them growing so tall and strong in Massachusetts.

They join the beloved plants that I do recognize. My father wrote little poems. One had the dogwood as a lady in a lace dress, holding out her arms, proffering plates of divinity. In this case, pink divinity.

My camera, set on zone focus, preferred the dogwood blossoms to the black-capped chickadee! D'oh! Frustrating, but dreamy nonetheless. Maybe I meant to focus on the flowers...

Everywhere there are robins. This, a nicely faded female. I love robin architecture. Sometimes they hold their wings so low and straight they look like they're using crutches.

Her tiny cousin, the hermit thrush, just passing through on its way north. You can tell a hermit from a long way away by the rusty tail, and its habit of raising that tail suddenly, as if it were jerked upward by a string, then letting it fall slowly. Lovely habit.

I always pat this dog's head. He doesn't seem so forlorn on a warm spring day. 

And who could, when the question marks are tickling the Viburnum odoratum, and its full vanilla-cookie scent wafts through the new leaves?

And the wooly fiddleheads are growing taller and taller?

And the geese are grazing in the goldgreen light? 


I believe your flowering shrub with creamy white blossoms is Fothergilla. See image at

I have a couple here in Ohio, and the best time of year is late fall when the leaves turn a delicious deep dark red-yellow.

Yes, I think you're right, Helen, that it's fothergilla. I was just about to post a comment to that effect. I've planted them recently in an effort to put more natives into my landscaping. So far, these have delighted me!

Posted by Renee Wright April 24, 2012 at 4:57 AM

Ahh, the writer's life financial--the upside is the riches really are elsewhere and you compound the interest when you write about them like this. Your talk at Drumlin was great, and the book has been much admired in this house. Just wanted to let you know that my daughter went out the door to the high school at the end of the block this morning here in Cambridge and ran back to tell us that there was a turkey in our next door neighbor's yard. I imagine it flying up Hampshire, hooking a left on Cambridge and obeying the one-way signs to circle the block before landing to check out the street construction.

Fothergilla for sure!

Posted by Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 6:59 AM

Thanks for these. Dogwood! Your previous Mt Auburn Cemetery postings led me there on a visit to Cambridge back in February, when it was all rather bleaker.

Others making the trip may be curious to learn that the cemetery has a website that helps one find particular graves. Then there's enjoying what one happens across.

Posted by Anonymous April 24, 2012 at 10:28 AM

I always love your musings and photographs of Mount Auburn Cemetery. That's exactly where I would go as well.

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