Oakland Cemetery. A quite ominous name, for what I found to be such a lovely place. I arrived at the cemetery on a hot Friday afternoon in mid-February. After getting off at the King Memorial station, I then walked maybe four or five blocks and was immediately taken aback by the majestic gate that appeared to guard the entrance from the outside world: the living. Little did I know that there was much life to be found within its walls.
Immediately upon entering the gate, I was surprised at the sheer number and variety of plants that decorate its grounds. To be more specific, I think I found this intriguing, because what I saw contradicted with my existing schema of what a cemetery should look like. After all, what do most people picture when they hear the word “cemetery” or “graveyard”? Maybe uniform granite headstones with gothic writing? A gray sky? Plastic, aged flowers tattered from passing time? Much to my surprise, Oakland looked more like a well-monumented garden, than any cemetery that I had ever visited.
One of my absolute favorite parts of my visit was that the daffodils were in full bloom. Their bright yellow flowers beamed as if they were tiny suns blinding the passer-bys. They surrounded me and filled me with warm and love. (What I could only imagine was energy left from times not so long ago.)
From there, I traveled deeper into the graveyard following the cobblestone path. However, unlike the beginning, the mood seemed to shift. The dense daffodils were now thinning and yielding their space to empty trees, black against the bright blue sky. As I walked farther, the dead, brown leaves started to crunch under my feet. With a prominent sadness disrupting my thoughts, I began to notice something peculiar. I, unconsciously, had begun to walk on the balls of my feet. It was almost as if I was trying to be as quiet and respectful as possible. This then led me to ponder how and why the rhetorical space led to this particular behavior manifestation.
As I continued to walk, the cobblestone path then ended and changed direction. I thought this strange, but I decided it was probably best to start exploring the other side. However, before I reached the main path again, I came across a sight that took my breath away yet again. For as far as I could see, headstones and empty tree limbs filled the horizon. It made me really upset to see so much death centered in so much life. More specifically, the more immediate life of nature and the life of the city seen as skyscrapers in the distance.
After this sight heightened my sense of sadness, I then decided it was time to take a break. As a mentioned at the top of the post, the day that I visited the cemetery was usually hot for a February in Georgia. Because of this, I decided to sit on a shaded bench directly across from a willow tree. Once again, I could see flowers and green grass, changing my mood to be a bit more uplifting. While sitting I could hear birds chirping, the wind whistling through the iron gate, and the rustling of full green bushes. It was the culmination of my entire visit: both life and death. The green and flowers symbolizing life, and the empty trees and their fallen leaves symbolizing death. All in all, after deep reflection, I felt that Oakland’s natural aesthetic was representative of the cycle of life and death.