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Why Do You Explore Cemeteries?

Dear Diary,
A question was asked of me:

Why did you start exploring cemeteries?

It's creepy. It's weird. It's morbid. Are you depressed?

Maybe. Okay. I guess so. No.

(Possibly one of the most emotional cemeteries I've visited - Highland.)

If you've read here for even a short amount of time, you'd be aware that I possess an unrelenting curiosity and an interest in the STORY aspect of our history. Those two quirks inspired my journalism major, my first job out of college, and now that I'm a writer without a proper byline, this blog.

Only recently did it lead me down isolated, abandoned paths into historic cemeteries, where the lives of those who lived long before me commingled with my presence at their graves. I told the story of those who were deemed "unworthy" of a burial on the consecrated gound at Highland. I told the story of Mary Jane Twiliger, whose legacy was twisted into an unfortunate urban legend that inspired a Megadeth song. I found the abandoned, undocumented, and destroyed cemetery from the mid-1800s containing the graves of young children, yet was ironically surrounded by suburban family homes. I also wrote about The Hart Island Project that works to identify those buried in mass graves in New York City's potter's field, and the unsolved homicide of a young woman in 1920s' Minneapolis.

Cemeteries are a window into the past. They're also peaceful and serene. In the words of fellow Minnesotan Bob Dylan, regarding his visit to New Orleans, "the past doesn't pass away so quickly here." The same applies in cemeteries.

(The very detailed headstone of a woman who died of TB.)

I like to read the carved inscriptions on the headstone, if they're still legible. Some are in another language. Some unfortunately, are worn off from the passage of time. I think about what the dash separating the date of birth and the date of death symbolized. Sometimes, a quick google search pulls up the truth. Others, especially if I'm standing before the grave of a child, are a mystery. It doesn't stop my imagination from speculating though.

(Curiously, an address is listed on this baby's headstone.)

Many of the graves in the cemeteries I've visited date to a time when Minnesota was unsettled, and still considered "the wild west." Over two hundred years separate the arrival of the first European settlers to dock in the original colonies to when Minnesota was granted statehood. I'm sure life then was hard.

Related Post: The Minneapolis Pioneers & Soldiers Memorial Cemetery

I am not a born and bred Minnesotan. I'm a transplant - a Minnesotan by choice rather than by birth. Cemeteries have helped connect my place here with a part of the story that preceded my chapters.

In those brief moments, it feels as though my story intersects with theirs.

And from there, I find a renewed purpose to start writing.

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