Thursday, October 18, 2007

Vermont Headstones

Continuing the posts from our Vermont trip, here are four images of Vermont headstones. This cemetery is west of Brattleboro, near Marlboro College. We visit every year, in part because we enjoy the beauty and uniqueness of the stones, and it gives the boys a chance to get out of the car and walk around for a bit before we head home at the end of the trip. Although they used to run through the cemetery, playing hide and seek behind the stones, the kids now stop and read the names and dates, remarking on the deaths of the children and infants. It's hard for them to understand the hard reality of high infant mortality during that period, and comprehend how lucky they are to have been spared the uncertainty of life in a world punctuated by periodic epidemics.

Most of the stones date from the early to mid 19th century, but a few, like the first one pictured here, date to the 1790s. They're particularly interesting because of the thin black stone from which they're sculpted. I'm not sure of their geologic specification, but they have a shale-like quality and appear fragile. The angel represents a dramatic departure from earlier 17th century New England stones, in which images - including skulls and depictions of demons - reflected the Calvinist notion of the uncertainty of one's salvation and the potential torments of hell for those not among the "elect." Set in a quiet spot, above a farm with fields of grazing horses, it always reminds me a little of the cemetery on the hill overlooking Grovers Corners in Act 3 of Thornton Wilder's Our Town.




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2 comments:

Falconmyst said...

I love family history and all the traditions we've handed down. Do you think kids having sex is a good one? The State of Main thinks otherwise...

One Wink at a Time said...

Very interesting post, Bri. I'd never seen a memorial quite like Margaret's, mentioning both her present and past husbands... did I interpret that correctly?
I have a friend who travels frequently to little, out-of-the-way cemeteries and does tracings or rubbings of headstones. I once thought it was kind of a morbid hobby but now I think it's pretty cool.