Formerly "Neil Stone Updates"

Friday, February 10, 2012

Hidden Treasure

On a beautiful day last Fall, Neil and I went for a run together. I appreciated the company. He usually runs much faster and much farther than I do. As we plodded along at my slow pace he had the spur-of-the-moment idea to take me to a place I'd been asking to see since before his accident--the secret cemetery in the woods. He'd been there before with friends when he was filming a semi-historic video for a school project. Though he had agreed to take me there years before, it never seemed to be the right time or season to make the short trip.

I was surprised to see that the cemetery really is hidden. The unmarked path off the road leaves a quiet neighborhood cul-de-sac, then disappears into some dense woods. After sneaking through some one's back yard we found a less traveled path (grassy and wanting wear) crossed by many downed trees that we climbed over to continue the trek. Then, out of the corner of my eye I spotted the remains of a rock wall. Through a tangle of brush and wild roses we reached the entrance.

The headstones that are still legible show dates from the 1800s. The names are the same ones we see on the street signs in the surrounding towns. Only one is recent. The date on the only modern placard in the corner of the yard reads 1998.

Curious, I did some research. Why is this cemetery not tended to? Why is it seemingly unknown? Why is the path grown-over and blocked? I didn't find my answers, but I found this instead: Vanderveer Cemetery #1  I also found this map of my town from 1860:

Though the cemetery isn't marked, it sits right on the Vanderveer farm on the western edge of the map by the river. 

This place feels sacred to me. More than a hundred years ago, the path would have been well-worn, the cemetery accessible. Families would have come quietly mourning, their tears very real. I feel connected to them, not because of family ties--my roots are buried in other parts--but because I live on their land. I plant my little garden where they plowed their fields. I drive across what was their forests. I hope they don't consider me an interloper.

When I went back for a visit recently, I was comforted to find a Christmas wreath on the newest grave. My neighbors of earlier days may be gone, but they are certainly not forgotten. I'd be glad to take you there. Then you can remember them, too. 


Anonymous said...

Take me! This sounds like a wonderful place to mingle with a community of hospitable ghosts.

Love, Michelle (sis)

Lori said...

Yes, please! Come!

Garden Girl said...

Lori, if you send me some of the names and dates on the tomb stones i could try and see if I can get you any stories about them. What a cool adventure!

Trinyan Mariano said...

Lori--this is one of the most beautiful pieces of writing I've seen in weeks. You are already a writer. When are you going to start publishing some of your material more widely?