Yes, I know I’ve been gone a while, life interrupts. I’m sure I’m not the only one for whom life intrudes on plans and goals and at times makes complete changes to pathways and roads on which we travel. As I travel to my job out of town, I drive down an old highway that meanders over to the coast of California. I don’t get to travel that far, my stop is just forty miles from home. But in that forty miles, I travel from a populated, wi-fi, cell phone enabled area to an area that modern time has not yet found.
I see animals that still make their homes in Northern California, I see mountain creeks and trees that have grown in odd places. And I see wilderness. The wildness around me helps me to better picture how my ancestors lived in this same area 150 years earlier. I think of Marietta Henshaw Merritt. I think of Eujane and Roswell Graves. I think of those others I have yet to write about.
On my daily drive to work I see abundant game animals such as turkeys, geese, ducks, and deer. The water is plentiful. Eagles flying overhead tell me there are even more animals that I don’t see. In all that beauty I also see the hardships. Disease and hunger. Loneliness. Cemeteries.
I drive down this road that has twists and turns, hills and valleys. Times in which I don’t know what might be around that corner or over that hill, but I take the chance. The road on which I travel led men to seek out gold, and to create logging camps, to build cities and states. To build families and legacies. Today, I think of all those who came before me, sacrificing so much, working in conditions we will never truly understand, so that I have the freedom and luxury to choose where to live and where to work. And how to worship.
I think of my family tree and what it means to be just one small part of such a large group. Today, stop and look around, feel what life must have been like for your ancestors. And think on them.
Hi, my name is Susan and I’m a Cemetery Addict. Whew, glad that’s out. I’ve been a cemetery addict since I was a small child. On family trips we would be driving merrily along when someone would say, “There’s a cemetery” and the car would stop and we would all pile out to explore. Exploring an unknown cemetery was fun because you never knew who you would find. We would make up stories about the names we read and we wondered about their lives. That childhood love of cemeteries is with me still today.
Not too long ago a few of us decided to take a drive to Whiskeytown Lake in Shasta County, California. A friend of ours suggested we also stop at the Whiskeytown Cemetery. And armed with that information off we went. We stopped first at Old Shasta and did a little exploring and then we came upon a highway sign that said simply, “Pioneer Baby’s Grave”. So we walked down a short hill and came upon a small grave of a young baby buried in 1864, the only body buried in this old Jewish Cemetery. So sad, but his life is remembered each year by the members of Temple Beth Israel in Redding, California.
We continued our drive into Whiskeytown National Recreation Area. How beautiful. The lake was dedicated in 1963 by President John F Kennedy, a fact I was completely unaware of until we happened upon the site dedication. They have a small parking area where you can overlook the lake while listening to a recording of JFK’s speech. From there it was just a couple of miles to Whiskeytown Cemetery.
Wow! How can I explain Whiskeytown Cemetery? The sight of it left me absolutely speechless. I had never in all my years of cemetery walking seen one that looked like this. Each grave was decorated and I don’t mean the stones. Every single grave had toys or flags or tools spilling across it. There were fire trucks and gardens. There were beer cans and garden wind spinners. There were old graves and recent ones. But they all had one thing in common. The decorations. Some of the graves had lawn chairs for family to sit and remember, others had wooden benches. Each grave was filled with mementoes of lives that were lived. But what I saw most was a place to celebrate and not just mourn those who are buried there. I was awe-struck by all the love I saw as I walked past each grave.
Just across the cemetery road is a small pet cemetery with all the same decorations and remembrances.
I’ve been to some amazing cemeteries across the United States, some of the most memorable are Crown Hill in Indianapolis, Arlington in Virginia and Cave Hill in Louisville and now I can add Whiskeytown near Redding. Are you a cemetery addict too? What are your favorites in case I get a chance to visit your area?