A Quiet Place: Historical Narrative

It’s just a small plot, a few grave stones scattered around in the tufted dead grass and contained within a wooden fence. The stones kind of look like teeth, teeth when they are rotting, loose, and missing inside of a jaw. This is not a macabre place though, but rather one of tranquil repose, situated between a small forest and a children's playground. The running trails paved around it pose a stark juxtaposition between the modern world and the old world of the cemetery, lending it a nostalgic and wondering feeling, one most people choose to ignore. 

I went to this place in the springtime once, to clear my head and photograph the dandelions amongst the toothy gravestones. The grass was swaying and the chatter of children from the plastic playground was muffled by the small hills separating death and life. This cemetery does that. It calms the mind and brings about feelings of mortality and feelings of being alive. 

Even in the winter time this spot holds the same calming effect over a person. The dandelions are gone and the grass around the gravestones does not sway and bend with warm breezes, but it is quieter in the winter and void of children’s chatter, a perfect place for contemplation and exercising of thoughts and whirling minds. 

The gravestones in this cemetery are old, very old for today’s standards. Ancient, even. The date of birth on one stone reads “1797” and the death date reads “1844”. Thirteen bodies lie interred in this cemetery, and the plot belonged to the Stoner and Steiner family who owned a farm on the land where Overlook Park in Manheim Pennsylvania sits. The farmhouse and the graveyard are some of the only artifacts from the past still standing, and they are surrounded by modern trappings such as running trails, a library, and restaurant. 

While walking through this park, or entertainment center, I notice and ruminate on how interesting it is that not many people stop and look at the old gravestones or admire the old house. Maybe it’s because the house has now been turned into a building for wedding receptions, a hollow host for gaiety and fleeting moments that end in divorce. The cemetery is stagnant, nobody else is allowed to be buried there. It is part of some historical preservation situation, with too many complexities and rules for a part of the past that existed without complexity and rule. Joggers run blindly past this cemetery, they don’t even glance upon it. They keep sweating and running and moving blindly on some path only they can see. 

This place may even be too small to be dubbed a “cemetery”. It is nonexistent, old, decaying, and silent. It only comes to life in the spring, when the dandelions pop up around it like sunbeams and the grass begins once more to sway in the warm breezes and the children begin to scream and whirl around on the merry-go-round. But right now it is cold and quiet and nobody notices.

photo by: Rachel Adshead