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Celebrating at Mount Auburn Cemetery

Saturday, August 1, 2015

It never even occurred to me that celebrating my birthday in a cemetery was anything to remark upon, until someone remarked upon it.
Mount Auburn Cemetery is one of my happy places. It's a place of great beauty, tranquility, comfort and happiness for me. I saw so many of my life birds there--warblers, vireos, my first summer tanager...the list goes on and on. 

When I was a student, I used to read between the Sphinx's great paws. I didn't realize that sitting there could be construed as disrespectful. When the leaves were golden and the air was sweet and I couldn't stand the inside of a library for another second I'd go nestle on her stony bosom and read there. 

We saw what looked like hawk pellets there, and Phoebe climbed up for a second to retrieve them.

Corey and I dissected them, agreeing that the robust claws and teeth said gray squirrel to us. 

We thought they were hawk pellets because they were too small and disorganized to be good owl pellets. Yep, hawks cast pellets too. Saw a harrier cough one up once, and ran to retrieve it when she left.

The Sphinx stares stonily at this gorgeous little chapel. Look at those flower beds! They look like hyacinths in May, or lupines in June--but this is late July. What are they?

An annual called Angelonia, or summer snapdragon. Angelonia salicarifolia (Scrophulariaceae). Native from Mexico to the West Indies. I love it, love it love it. I have planted one here and one there in my flower borders, but never massed them like this. Brilliant! Makes me wonder if they grew them from seed in the greenhouses. I want to try this too. Heat and drought tolerant. And...deer don't like it!

There are no deer in Mt. Auburn Cemetery, something which amazes me. It is very well fenced, but still...there are foxes, coywolves and wild turkeys...hmm.

A sourwood tree in full bloom. Those pendant clusters of creamy bells make a fabulous honey. "Hit's got a whang to it," said a gentleman from Bristol, Virginia. I think of him every time I taste sourwood honey. This is a very large sourwood. It's native to Appalachia, a small understory tree.

Daylilies, reaching toward the light, remind me of angels blowing their trumpets. Mt. Auburn's trees are so huge and mature it must be quite a challenge to grow anything that needs full sun.

Corey appreciates an ancient weeping beech. People have gone in the green rooms beneath its canopy and carved the heck out of it. Why do they do that? It's vandalism, pure and simple. I love finding beeches around Cambridge that haven't been carved, by virtue of being in the front yards of elegant homes. They're out there. You just have to look for them. It's a small miracle when you find one in a public place that doesn't have somebody's dopey initals on it.

Mt. Auburn Cemetery is paradise for tree freaks. Wonder what that weird-barked thing is? Well, trot on over and read the label! It's an arboretum, that's what it is, a bird sanctuary, a sculpture garden, a park. And a cemetery.

We love it here. The perfect expotition: Hodge in the lead, Corey and Phoebs entwined, me bringing up the rear, digging around, smelling flowers, reading labels, pontificating about this plant or this dropping or that tree or this flower. Bla bla bla bla. They don't seem to mind.

Hodge points out the Roxbury puddingstone that proud and prominent citizens of this Boston suburb used for their headstones. Pretty it ain't, all conglomerated as it is, but it's authentic. I like authentic.

Corey for scale. I wonder how they got that monster there?

On this expotition, we break with tradition (being hungry as usual) and have our Watertown Diner breakfast before our hike. Mmmm. Hash.

My favorite diner of them all. Hash. You must try the hash. Now, hash can run the gamut from pasty red Alpo (with subtle overtones of puke) to absolutely divine. WD's hash is stringy, slightly dry, exquisitely beefy (think rump roast flavor); it has small chunks of carrot and new potato, and the next time I'm going there I'm ordering just hash. So, so delish. Phoebe is now a believer. Her own mother turned her on to hash.

I love being around these two. The glow coming off them puts neon to shame.

Every now and then I force the shadowy, notoriously camera-shy but impossibly cute Hodge to submit to a quick snapshot. Follow @khmacomber on Instagram. 699 followers can't be wrong!


I don't think that it's disrespectful at all to sit between the sphinx's paws. It all depends on intent. Now if you want disrespectful, carving trees would be it. How would these people like it if some bozo came along and tattooed his initials on their skin without a by-your-leave? I feel the same way when I see that people have nailed signs or birdhouses to living trees. (Of course, birdhouses on trees are bad for other reasons as well.)

Posted by Anonymous August 2, 2015 at 3:45 AM

I love - and use whenever possible - the word "expotition." And of course, I always enjoy your visits to Mount Auburn Cemetery.

There was a magnificent copper beech in front of a hospital overlooking the Hudson River where I used to work. I wonder if it has survived the 30 years since I last saw it or if it fell victim to some renovation or other "improvement".

Posted by Gail Spratley August 2, 2015 at 2:50 PM

Always honored to be part of your Mt. Auburn and Watertown Diner expotitions. Next time, let me pay!


Posted by KH Macomber August 3, 2015 at 8:02 AM

They probably moved it there the same way they moved the house my grandparents lived in up in Maine, by draft horses or oxen, when there was enough snow to make an icy road. The houses in King's Landing, NB Canada were moved the same way, across the St. John River in the winter.

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