How to Pass Time in a Pandemic, When You're Really Into Ghosts
Since the great Quar began (quarantine), we in the US, and in New York State specifically, have been allowed legally to head out to hiking trails and parks, and local open spaces for fresh air. Ryan and I do not live in NYC, so we're not under the same guidelines as those folks (and many friends), and one side of our house faces woods, a river, and rolling hills. We're extremely lucky, privileged at minimum, to have a yard, access to many trails and preserved lands, forested hiking areas, and a 6 million acre state park in the Adirondack Mountains which we have private access to. It's actually almost disgusting how lucky we are during this time. Just the lawn alone, is a haven.
We're spoiled. What else seems spoiled, though, is all the public trails, especially "rail trails". Installed primarily in the last 10 years or so in our area, the unused railroad tracks (thank Big Oil for all the cars and shoddy public transportation in the US) around usually suburban towns have become a huge draw for bikers and walkers.
And joggers, but those people are a bit sadistic. They're welcome on the trails too though.
I say the trails are spoiled because they've become crowded with people out using them now in the pandemic. I'm all for exercise and fresh air and I believe we deserve that in a time of such limited resources, but different accessibility makes it so some people have no green space to be in right now. I hate the inequality of this global crisis, like anyone, but I am also glad that we're in some way able to force light to be shed on the unspoken societal hierarchies that have kept us pulled us apart for decades. Space, being the most evident when there is an obvious lack of it, or an obvious disuse of it.
There is perfectly good green space around us; green, lush, mown even. Usually planted with specific types of trees and laid out with an artistic eye. They're cemeteries. And you likely know someone who stays in one, eternally. This is a time when being alone or with a limited group, but being able to enjoy the natural world, have to marry and stay within a working relationship for several months at minimum. The green spaces of cemeteries may have a few impediments, as in large stones, but the rows and rows of generally neatly ordered monuments are not scary, and not going to bite. They're there to be read, to be admired, and to be respected.
But hardly anyone seems to be going to these places. Ryan and I visited the largest cemetery in the city of Schenectady the other day, on one of the warmest Spring days we've had. We saw a man walking his dog, 3 college kids, and some people having a minimal family funeral and interment. For the 100 acres that the cemetery boasts, they were nearly all empty but for us. We even left the truck running nearby as we wandered through the stones, filming and soaking up sunshine, just to stay close in case of people. But no one came by, came close, or even looked our way. The amount of parkland was nearly unused as people stayed indoors (fine) or in their yards (also fine).
What surprises me is that these places are not the obvious location of enjoyment that I imagined they'd be in a time like this. I know that being paranormally-minded is something that gives myself and Ryan a gigundo bias toward wanting to be in cemeteries, but I think of them as parklands with reading material (mostly dates and prayers, but still), as well as places where something of the Other could be experienced. They're incredibly well-landscaped, and most of the ones nearest to where we live are historic, and were designed just before or during the Victorian era. The 1800's is when the Rural Cemetery Movement kicked off, and moving bodies and their headstones to rural plots of green, unspoiled landscape was popular.
That's why your city parks aren't full of headstones, by the way. Those folks got a posthumous ride to a new visage in a field a couple centuries ago, or even more recently.
Many of those once rural cemeteries have ended up back in the middle of cities and suburbs as the towns grew up around them for the past century and a half. Most extremely old cemeteries on the east coast from the 16 and 1700's are left where they are, built around, or at this point entirely forgotten. We have family burial plots in the woods around here like you wouldn't believe. Technically they are all public access from dawn to dusk, as per the law. Are people seeking them out for a small respite from the indoors? Not like I'd have thought. Being into the paranormal means you've already got a radar on these types of locations, and if you're like me, you have a physical list (or several) of must-visit burial plots.
Now is the time! Go through those cemetery gates, wander between the stones! We're literally within the middle a social and physical time where these green spaces are offering their natural respite to us. Cemeteries deserve our attention to keep them maintained, safe, and the way the people there would want it to be: respected and honored. They've been surprisingly under-visited since they went out of fashion as parkland, and places where people would picnic, spend time at the graves of family, and clean up the property. That popular way to spend time outdoors stopped being en vogue in the early 1900's as we created more parks and designated recreational spaces.
So, cemeteries have long been seen as places for the dead, and the dead only. There is no better time to flex your taphophilia than during this pandemic. Solitude and social distance is one reward, and even with so many people at home, cemeteries are the least likely areas you'll see anyone having a picnic or soaking the sun, but legally and ethically (unless stated otherwise), it's your space too. If you've ever wondered if it's too weird to be a tombstone tourist, worry no more. You'll be visiting with folks who may not have had family come by in years or decades, getting a perspective of your local history and the people who formed the place you live, and if you pick up just one single piece of litter, you'll instantly level up as a Really Good Human.
In light of these very strange, quarantined times, we're doing a series of local cemetery strolls on our channel, starting with The Vale, that 100 acre one in Schenectady, NY. It's a gorgeous cemetery located within the Stockade district, where the city began in the 16 and 1700's. Haunts abound in that area, between homes, businesses and that very cemetery.
Check out our socially distanced midday cemetery stroll here:
Thanks for reading,