Peace Comes Out of the Fog

I do love Mendocino.  

The sheer ruralness of this town has kept it pristine in many ways.  The town is a quirky seaside Victorian village with stunning ocean bluffs and unparalleled scenic beauty.  Overall it has a very New England feel to it.

However, having said  that, it is also the same place I would go for inspiration if I suddenly had to write a horror film.  It is that eerie here.  Very Alfred Hitchcock-ish at every turn.

It’s rarely sunny (except for today).  The weather changes on a moments notice and the fog comes rolling in out of nowhere.  It blows briskly up the rugged ocean cliffs and sits heavily all over town.  The type of fog where you can’t see ten feet in front of you as the ocean buoys call out, moaning in the distance. 

Scary and ghost-like is what comes to mind.

What doesn’t help matters is the hilltop cemetery on the side of this little town.  The cemetery is old and the headstones have a stereotypical haunted-cemetery look.

Everytime we are in town I have avoided this graveyard at all costs, mostly because of the thick fog which makes the fright factor so high.  Just thinking about it gives me goosebumps and chills.

But today it was perfectly sunny and a beautiful sixty degrees.

As I walked by the cemetery on my afternoon mocha run, I found myself stepping over the low fence that surrounds this old graveyard.  I was fascinated and interested in those that rest there in peace.  It was serene and calm.  Not haunted and frightening as I always had imagined.

I think it’s the old style of these gravestones that always spooked me.  You never see these at modern cemeteries anymore.  Aren’t they cool?

I love this shot.  It is very peaceful in its own way.

I was surprised at the detail of some of these grave markers even though they were over a hundred years old.

I believe this was a family from Ireland.

Some of the markers were extremely simple, with nothing on them to distinguish them from anyone else.

Many of the stones actually listed the cause of death.  Does this mean he was drowned on purpose?  Because that’s what it sounds like. 

This stone was broken and left on the ground.  I’m sure there is no family around to care for these old plots.

I was also moved by many of the child graves (and some adult ones) listing the amount of years, months and days they had lived.  For me this showed each moment alive was precious.  I had never seen this before.

Another very young wife.  Everyone died so young back then.

Sometimes I just liked the name.

This grave was only about twelve years old but put a smile on my face.  I’m not sure what all the coffee cups mean but I’d like to hope they have been left by friends who have stopped by to have a cup of joe with the deceased.  I find this very heart-warming.

No words on this stone just the infinity symbol.  How fitting wouldn’t you say?

This post was not meant to be cryptic in any way but to show the uniqueness of such a place.  I will no longer cast off old cemeteries as frightening places to visit.  Overall, it was unbelievably peaceful.

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68 Comments

  1. Alisa 1

    I’ve always loved cemetaries, especially old ones. I kind of always felt like a dork for it and had trouble admitting my weirdness until we went to Tennessee last summer and visited the Civil War sites. You can’t help but be moved by it all. Especially like you said when they’re so old, and have so much detail. Those look like they’re very well taken care of.

  2. Philly 2

    Love old cemeteries !
    You found a good one!

    #1

  3. Cass 3

    I get the hebegebe’s at cemeteries…but maybe I should rethink this.

  4. I like wandering through cemeteries as well. Sometimes I’m looking for names, other times just a great shot, but I always end up feeling very introspective.
    This was a great idea for a post, thanks for sharing your afternoon!

  5. Those are great shots…you are giving my good friend Tombstone Annie a challenge!

  6. I have to tell you…having grown up in California and now living in Massachusetts, your description of Mendocino sounds a lot like New England. Our weather changes on a dime most of the time and you can’t throw a stone 10 feet in Massachusetts without hitting a dozen old graveyards.

    I used to be freaked out by graveyards but after living back here I’m not. I like going through the really old ones and reading the headstones. There is one graveyard in Boston whose headstones still bear the marks of when the Red Coat British soldiers used them for target practice and shot at them with their muskets. That in and of itself is very cool.

  7. Beautiful captures of the markers and stones!

    This post makes me wonder what we will lose as more of us choose cremation… and there just is not the ground available as there once was.

  8. When we went to England ( I was young then) old cemeteries were one of my favorite places to visit. Sadly, however, the much older gravestones had begun to be weathered away. Nothing lasts forever.

  9. I used to always hold my breath while passing cemeteries. I don’t know why. They scared me and, oh, I don’t know, holding my breath seemed to help. Now I love old cemeteries. It’s interesting to look at the headstones and wonder about the people buried there.

    Some of the headstones in your photos are very well preserved. I wonder if they were made better with deeper engraving (or more raised lettering) or if the weather there is milder. I would think there might be salt in the air which could be abrasive.

    The coffee cup grave is interesting. I’ve seen full beers left on headstones, or sometimes one full and one empty. I don’t know whether that’s sad (as in if the deceased had a problem) or touching (having a beer in memory of an old friend). I like the gravestone with the infinity symbol best, though I do wish there was some hint to the mystery.

    Ann mentioned what might be lost as more people choose to be cremated. I plan to be cremated or have a green burial on our property or somewhere in the country. Either way, I want a marker for posterity’s sake. I want something that doesn’t look like a regular headstone and that will look nice in a natural environment.

    I’ve got a cemetery post to do soon–if I can ever post photos to Blogger again!

  10. *chills*

    (that infinity one is amazing, though. I really, really, really like it.)

  11. A little out there for sure. And while the superstitious side of me avoids graveyards like the plague, you did make it somewhat interesting.

    The one with the coffee cups looks like it is frequented by a heavy coffee drinker who while speaking to the deceased’s stone, seems to emotionally throw down their coffee cup. Who knows though. I’m sure we could come up with multiple theories – but interesting either way…

  12. I think that is a lovely cemetery.
    Is that a stone egg beneath the infinity symbol?

    An old friend used to comment every time he drove by a cemetery, “Look it the dead center of town.” I wonder if he still does?

  13. I love old cemeteries. You got some great pictures.

    The day was cleared because the wind has been blowing down our way on the SF peninsula along with all the smoke. We can hardly see!

  14. Steph 14

    I think old cemeteries are beautiful. I’ve never been to one that old, but it is so interesting to look at stones that are over 100 years old.

  15. Lennie 15

    Ah, you have stumbled upon one of my favourite places to take photographs — old cemetaries. I don’t find them creepy at all, although I know not everyone shares those thoughts. I particularly like the statuary, especially stone angels. I have some angel photos up on my Flickr site and have many more to go up. Funny thing though … while I like visiting cemetaries, I wouldn’t want to live in one! I don’t mean that as in I-want-to-live-forever, I mean that I would rather something more, um, interesting be done with me after I’m gone. Medical research perhaps? Ashes scattered somewhere? I don’t really know, I just know that I don’t want a graveyard to be my last address :-)

  16. What a lovely post. I like the stones with all the information… you can imagine them making their way from Ireland and across the plains or fighting in world war one.
    It looks like your weather is beautiful and mild. Unlike the baking the rest of the state is enduring!
    Enjoy!

  17. I love old graveyards and that looks like a particularly good one! Between that and the cool glass beach Mendecino sounds like a very interesting place to visit–I want to go! Thanks for sharing all the cool pics!!

  18. I find graveyards to be so peaceful. Been chronicling tombstones from some years now for http://www.findagrave.com. Their goal is to chronicle every single tombstone in the US and around the world. It’s important to get pictures, as with age many of them fall apart. Your pictures are wonderful, Ca thy.

    That one picture with just the mother and father stones? Nearly every time, they are at the base of the large main family stone. Many times it will also include children, young or unmarried, of the couple, too. Sometimes an aunt or grandparent is buried there as well.
    AND, it used to be that the majority of stones listed the exact span of someone’s life (aged 20 y’rs, 7 mo’s & 6d’ys.) Lovely!

  19. Brenda 19

    Thanks for the great memory of Mendocino. I lived in California and now live in Colorado, Mendocino was my favorite part of California and I visited there often because it calmed me so much. I love visiting old cemeteries and reading headstones. Very interesting to see how long they have been there. I just visited a really old one not long ago in Silverton, Colorado. I enjoy your site.

  20. Julena Jo 20

    Beautiful photos, Cathy. My favorite was the grave with the coffee mugs. I would love to think that maybe someday (in the far, far future!)people might stop by my grave site to have a cup of coffee and talk. What an honor!

  21. Marcy 21

    I love the pictures, Thank you for sharing them. I’ve liked to look at old cemetaries around Texas too, there are some very old ones with just a bit of creepy thrown in for good measure.
    Have a great day!

  22. Lovely post… so haunting, such history… so many lives, so many stories…

    Enjoyed the description of Mendocino. Would love to see a few photos of the area (graveyard and all) with the fog blanketing everything. Maybe Stephen King should use this town as a setting in his next book!

  23. Harmony 23

    I love old cemeteries! I don’t know what it is about them, but they are so peaceful and majestic….

  24. Jeff 24

    The coffee cup one gave me shivers but was so cool. Around here you can drive out to the country and just find tons of old cemeteries like this and as creepy as this sounds it is very relaxing and calming to walk around them and read.

  25. Teri 25

    In Reno NV they have a lot of old cemeteries and they refer to them as the Alkali Angels. They even wrote a book about it. It’s so interesting just to look at the names and dates and imagine what a harsh life some of them must have led compared to ours. I used to think creepy too, till I started reading the headstones. Some even had poems encrypted. Beautiful in a weird way.

    The cemetery looks so serene with the Monterey Pines. Nice Pictures!

  26. Jules 26

    I love old cemeteries. I went to Boston a few summers ago and took lots of pics of a couple of the cemetaries there. The headstones are amazing.

  27. Paula 28

    I love old cemeteries, and all the history and love that surrounds the headstones. Nice pictures!

  28. My husband goes nuts because I always want to stop at the cemeteries in older towns. I think it’s in part because the Northwest has such a short history in terms of settlement. It’s fascinating to piece together people’s lives by their headstones. I’m always amazed by the number of small children with elaborate headstones, and I feel so fortunate to live in a time with better health care.

  29. CJ 30

    I have a long standing fascination with old cemeteries. I actually go to them when I am upset about something and they calm me down. I write about them and help care for them – to me we have a responsibility to them. For many people my fascination seems maudlin, but I think that people don’t want to faced the reality that we all die.

  30. Every Memorial Day, when I was little, we’d make the rounds to all the different cemeteries with our freshly cut flowers. I don’t think a relative went un-visited. My mom still does that.

    And, it never failed, a lot of the old country cemeteries we went to were right by the “Dead End” sign. How appropriate. ;)

  31. Old Cemetaries are beautiful in a strange way – When we were in France we found one that was spectacular – the cryps were huge almost like small houses in and of themselves – this cemetary was multi level as well. Very unique

  32. Claudia 33

    When I die I want to be cremated and my ashes churned in cement to make a block that gets thrown down in the ocean and eventually becomes an ecosystem for the life below the sea.

    PS – The coffee cups, in my case, were it my grave, would have been wine glasses, *snort*

  33. Stephanie 34

    I grew up in Daly City, CA, just a stones throw from Colma, where there are more people under the ground than above it. I thought it was cool being able to see the old gravestones and mausoleums anytime of the year. You can get an area’s history by looking through its cemeteries.

  34. jules 35

    Am I on tombstoneannie’s blog?

  35. Wendy 36

    I’ve always found graveyards to be peaceful. All bar one particular one in Edinburgh (where I used to live) made me feel ‘uneasy’. I’m not prone to moments of superstition – but I didn’t like being in that graveyard.
    Seeing the children’s grave makes me sad though. Poor wee tykes.

    One tale I’d like to share is of my friend Dan. Unfortunately he lost his mother at 2 years old and never knew her or had memories of her. He still missed her though, as a child would. His father moved the young family from Banff in the north of Scotland to Edinburgh and Dan had never visited his mother’s grave.
    One weekend DH and I decided to hire a car, for no real reason, and we invited Dan to share in our vehicular escapades. As we were driving back from Blackpool (another story) he asked if we could use the car to travel to Banff so that he could visit his Mum’s grave.
    Absolutely we say.
    Next morning we take off for the 4 hour drive with CD’s and hastily made sandwiches and head for Banff, not knowing where we were going when we got there, and hopeful that the graveyard would be easy to find. We arrived and found a graveyard near the waterfront. VERY small, and nothing seemed to date past the mid 1800′s. Odd.
    I can’t remember who asked, but one of us asked a local “is this the only graveyard?” and directions were duly given and remembered. When we arrived we were overwhelmed by the size of it. hundreds and hundreds of gravestones lay before us on a shallow hill. We looked around “Where do we start?” (it’s not like there’s a directory at the gate), and we decided to split up. Just before we did, we spotted two old dears walking through the rows and I joked “They’re probably updating their Christmas card list”.
    Uncanny.
    The old ladies approached me and asked “Are you looking for someone hen?” … “Um… yeah. My friend’s mother” and I caught Dan’s eye and motioned to him to come over. Dan gave the ladies his mother’s name and approx year of death, and we both look at each other with raised eyebrows and an air of skepticism. The old dears banter between themselves as they’re not familiar with a lady with that surname – and then one of them declares “I know who you mean!!! She’s buried with Bobby Smith” (we’ll say – I can’t remember) and off they went, and lead Dan, Scott and I STRAIGHT to Dan’s Mum’s grave. We were amazed. She was buried under her maiden name and with a gentleman that Dan didn’t recognise – but there she was. “Mother to Ben and Daniel”.
    We left Dan to tend to the grave and plant the Busy Lizzy plant we’d bought for him on the journey up (thinking it would last longer than a bunch of flowers).
    Dan was grateful, and we thought nothing for having done this for him. He was and still is a very dear friend.
    I’ve never forgotten those two auld dears… and all joking aside – I think they were updating their Christmas card list. :)
    Sorry it’s so long. Just seemed an apt story to share. :D

  36. Such a lovely setting for such a peaceful place. Thanks for sharing this!

  37. Lore 38

    I really enjoyed this post. Your photos transposed me in that serene place and I was left with a feeling of slowing down and enjoying the moment. Thanks Cathy :)

  38. Lee 39

    I always go to the oldest cemetery when I am visting a new city that way you will know who were the founding people and get alittle insight and history of who lived there. Thanks for sharing. I found you by way of “The fun house”

  39. I love visiting old cemeteries but only in the strong light of day (being the die-hard Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan that I am, I know what happens after dark!) There’s so much information hidden there and some really fascinating people.

  40. I do wish I had the picture taking skill…very well done!

  41. leslie 42

    Love these photos!
    Reminds me of where all of my family is buried in Fayette City P.A. The cemetary has grave stones from the late 1700′s. Everytime I return there I love to look at all of the old grave stones. I do find it strange that they often put the cause of death on the stones in the old days! But it makes for some interesting reads!

  42. I have always had a major facination with cemetaries. When I didn’t have kids, I used to go and photograph the tombstones when they were intricate and beautifully carved.

  43. I love visiting old cemetaries – I don’t find it creepy, it’s like a way of connecting to history to imagine all the people who have lived and died before us.

    Great, evocative post.

  44. Alanna 45

    I too have memories of a little old cemetery near my childhood home. I’ve always been intrigued by the stories of the people who are buried there. I agree…there is something so peaceful and so much meaning in old cemeteries like this. Thank you for sharing!!!

  45. Carol 46

    My grandparents lived right down the hill from a cemetary. As kids we used to play hide and seek among the tombstones. The oldest section of the cemetary always made me feel connected to people in the past. The more recent section creeped me out. Does that really make any sense? Probably not but I think as a child I thought the older section people were already at rest and the newer section maybe they were still working on it! (chuckle) Thanks for sharing your beautiful pictures and helping to remember a time at my grandparents who have long been buried at that very cemetary!

  46. very cool post. Leave it to you to come up with something so original! I love Mendacino and fog! Nice cool fog and 60 degrees sounds great! It was 99 here yesterday.

  47. In the late 1970′s, I spent lots of time (like 10 hours a week) in cemeteries, working on extensive family history research. And then for about 8 months, I worked for a tombstone dealer, setting stones on graves. Pretty morbid job…

  48. What a cool looking place.
    Now go back during the fog…..I dare ya.

    peace
    #2

  49. Mendocino seems gorgeous. I’ve never been to California, but man between glass beaches and old cemetaries with a New England feel…Mendocino seems like the place to be.

    (As an aside, I’ve always had a thing for old cemetaries, which has worked out living in Philadelphia. We’ve got some old ones. And I love how there are little gravesites in the middle of my neighborhood, more often than not, right next to some old church or what used to be an old church. I don’t think the new ones compare.)

  50. Nice photos! I love cemeteries. I am in cemetery heaven living in New England. My favorite is Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, MA. Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louisa May Alcott are buried there on Author’s Ridge. Very cool.

  51. I have always loved old cemetery’s. I love looking at the stones, I love seeing a picture in my mind of a family and learning a little bit of their history.

    At the little church that my mom use to go to as a child right down the road from where her old house stood…are my grandparents graves, and her baby brothers and sisters that died. Also other relatives of theirs…it tells about them…

  52. shelly 53

    It always intrigues me to read the stones

  53. Jessica 54

    Cool pictures! I also like the one with the coffee cups. lol. Thats pretty cool.

  54. Elle 55

    Wonderful post, Cathy! Very interesting!

  55. Flea 56

    Sixty degrees? I mean, the headstones are cool and all, but 60 degrees?! Don’t talk to me, woman. Sixty degrees. Fft.

  56. Sassy 57

    I absolutely love old graveyards, the older the better. My favorite being Sleepy Hollow which i was lucky enough to visit about 8 years ago. The headstones there are very old, and oh so interesting. It is one of my fondest memories of visiting NYC. Shhhh don`t tell anyone, cuz it`s a tad creepy but, i took a few teaspoons of grave dirt from Washington Irvings Grave. You never know when you might need some.

  57. grace 58

    two places i do my best to avoid: graveyards and hospitals. heeby-jeebies and bad smells.
    meanwhile, willie nelson had a song called “mendocino county line.” was he referring to this mendocino? just wondering.

  58. When my daughter was young she will tell you we visited many graveyards just like this. We were in search of my husbands ancestor who was a United Empire Loyalist. She used to sing to the children which may sound macabre but what else can you do in a cemetery when you are unable to read the headstones and do research into the past.

  59. I’ve always loved reading old grave markers. They seem much more eloquent than the ones today.

  60. Erin 61

    I enjoyed your post. We have many many graveyards like this in Ohio and they have always fascinated me. Quite a few of our graveyards are mixes of the old headstones like you pictured and the new. We even have a cemetary listed as one of the 100 best places to birdwatch (Greenlawn cemetary in Columbus) in the country. James Thurber is buried there. I’ve never thought of them as creepy, more like testaments to those who came before us. However, if they were perpetually foggy, this might change my way of thinking . . .

  61. Tipper 62

    Very neat. Love the coffee cups too.

  62. I love old cemeteries. Especially the old forgotten ones. There is one in WV where I’m from, up on a hill where my Dad and I used to explore the woods. I’d like to go back there and take pictures.

  63. Maria 64

    Beautiful! There are a couple of great cemetaries around here (Southern Oregon), such as Eastwood Cemetary in Medford, and even better, Jacksonville Cemetary. I’ve taken loads of pictures at both places. When I was in college, I shot part of a music video in Central Point Cemetary, which was really great.

  64. i LOVE old cemeteries.
    when we lived back east i always wanted a house right next to one, or to buy a property that had an old family one on it. hubunit was so pleased.
    i’m also always on the lookout for prospective headstones for myself. cause i need to pick that out.
    i do not want to spend eternity buried under some hideous polished marble thing.
    i particularly liked the one pictured with the name ‘martha’ – that may need to end up in my top ten fave’s.
    cathy, any way you could email me your picture of that one?
    thanks for sharing you wonderful pictures and thoughts!
    lindaloohoo – http://www.wheresmydamnanswer.com

  65. Vonda 66

    I have always loved cemeteries and have spent lots of time wandering and looking at headstones. There is one on campus that is called the Pioneer cemetery and it is a lot like the one you show. There is a man who walks through there and plays the bagpipes (he says for practice) but somehow it warms my heart to think he is playing for the long gone souls.

  66. megan 67

    I have always loved old cemetarys Thanks to my dad when I was young. We would travel from Ca. to S.D. and he would stop and look for old ancester’s graves. Now I love walking through them and each grave marker tells a little story. I actually have family (on my husbands side) in that very graveyard.

  67. I love visiting old cemeteries. They are fascinating and I am drawn to the sories I can pull from what the stones say…

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