Friday, August 10, 2012

Congressional Cemetery, DC

Because we had gone on the prison tour so early we were out before lunch time and decided to go into DC to see the Congressional Cemetery. I've not been here before and was keen to see who would be buried here with such an impressive name.
I was a little disappointed with my first impression. The nameplate which had once arched over the main gates was now leaning against a wall and an old bell swaddled in cobwebs sat on top of a flat roof. The paths were over run with weeds and there didn't seem to be a lot of activity, no fresh flowers against a headstone or a grave area recently tended.
 But as we walked around we came across some beautiful grave stones and markers.
As the name of the cemetery implies there is also quite a few congressional members interred here.
This was also the home of a large flock of mockingbirds who flitted from stone to stone whistling and trilling as they went. Every one I saw was struggling with the intense heat, perched with beaks open as they panted but few sought the shade.
I loved this 'headstone', a giant rock turned on its side with pebbles marking the visits and a photo propped on a ledge.
There seemed to be quite a few persons of interest here but not many whose names I recognized. The website, click here, has quite a lot of information.
Some of the older headstones had some lovely terminology and the engraving was beautiful, obviously hewn by hand.
We came across a very recent grave with no headstone but a cluster of plants in pots on top in desperate need of water. I put my camera on a bench and dragged over a hosepipe drenching the plants, many of which were pretty hibiscus flowers. Too late I realized that while I was watering, my poor camera was also getting a good soaking from a leak in the hosepipe which was aimed directly at the bench. So much for my good deed. I quickly moved it and finished my watering. I slung my camera over my shoulder hoping the hot sun would soon dry it out, which fortunately it did, but I did get a couple of cool photos with blur filter effects from the water.
One grave had CDs and lots of origami birds spinning over it from the tree above. I found this in Wikipedia:
A thousand paper cranes are traditionally given as a wedding gift by the father, who is wishing a thousand years of happiness and prosperity upon the couple. They can also be gifted to a new baby for long life and good luck. Hanging them in one's home is thought to be a powerfully lucky and benevolent charm.
Several temples, including some in Tokyo and Hiroshima, have eternal flames for World Peace. At these temples, school groups or individuals often donate Senbazuru to add to the prayer for peace. The cranes are left exposed to the elements, slowly dissolving and becoming tattered as the wish is released. In this way they are related to the prayer flags of India and Tibet.
In Western countries, the custom has been extended from giving a senbazuru to cancer patients, to using them at funerals or on the grave.
A group of girls entered the cemetery, laughing as they walked towards a family member's grave, arms filled with balloons. They took photos of each other as they happily chatted and I noticed the balloons had '55 years old' on them. Not much older than me..
 Another child's grave but I've not seen one before with a sleeping child on top of it. Usually it's a small sheep, I found this one touching.
The sun was blazing down so intensely that as soon as I stopped moving I felt as though it was boring into me. I ended up seeking the sanctuary of the shade from the taller headstones and statues until finally we had endured enough and were driven back to the car and its AC, fanning over us with a soothing breeze. I know there were many resting places of so many important people that I missed but I shan't come back to this cemetery again, I was disappointed at its neglect. There was still apparent storm damage, a large fallen branch smothering a small group of headstones with many more headstones broken and shattered, pieces left where they fell in the grass. All of the stone paths needed attention, weeds removed and stones leveled. The overall impression of this place was, to me, sad and forgotten. I hope people visiting DC for the first time and coming here don't leave thinking all of the city shares this feeling of neglect. Another thing I disliked is a new policy that allows people, for a small sum of money, to exercise their dogs here. The thought of a dog defecating on a family grave disgusts me and I struggle to find this new policy acceptable, but obviously funds are low and desperate measures are sought.
Click here for an excellent article written last year. This cemetery holds so much history that it's almost a crime to let it fall into such disrepair, probably in this condition because it is privately owned. Maybe the government needs to look into purchasing what should be a National Treasure.


House History Man said...

Actually, the cemetery has come a long, long way in the recent decade; it was totally abandoned in the 1980s and 1990s, and now is a National Historic Landmark with a full staff. Preservation and upkeep of its 15,000 stones - some over 200 years old - is a constant job, and an army of volunteers and groundskeepers are employed on nearly a daily basis.

Debby Karalee said...

That is certainly good to hear and I hope it comes even further in the next decade ahead. I shake my head, though, on it being left abandoned in the first place.