Cemetery road trips – Sault Ste Marie edition

I have been thinking about road trips a lot lately.

During a normal year, my friends and I would be discussing plans for our next one. I have been itching to research locations and plan travel routes. But alas, just like last year, it looks like it will not be happening this year.

Cemetery road trips are one of my favorite things to do in the summer months. We all would pile into one vehicle, chit-chat, and listen to music while cruising along to our cemetery spots. We usually pick a city or town and stop at all the cemeteries along the way. After visiting the cemeteries within that city’s limits we would also explore the outskirts, sometimes finding hidden cemeteries that we didn’t find in our research. These are great ways to spend time together, make memories and explore our backyard!

Bruce Mines Cemetery ©2019

The last road trip we did was in 2019. We visited Sault Ste Marie. Normally this trip would only be about a 3-hour drive, but it took us a whopping 6 hours! We made so many stops along the way and took our time exploring. We visited some very old cemeteries, full of the history of the town, as well as some newer ones. Lots of discoveries were made, including one of the largest cemeteries I have ever visited before! We visited 11 cemeteries in total that day. We didn’t beat our record, but it was a very good attempt! Our record so far is 13!

We also took some time to do some sightseeing, and visit some of the history museums there; the Canadian Bushplane Heritage Centre and the Ermatinger Old Stone House. We heard some interesting ghost stories from the staff at the Old Stone house and it prompted some interesting discussion and exploration while we were there. We did not find any ghosts though. It’s a beautiful house with some really interesting history. Getting in some sightseeing was a bonus for that trip.

We have also gotten into the tradition of visiting any Starbucks that we can find, and always end the day at the local Casey’s for supper. A favorite restaurant that we no longer have in our own city. It’s a great cap to the day, followed by a much quicker drive home while we debrief on the fun and experiences of the day.

So for this year, instead of grand travel plans, I will stick close to home and visit my local cemeteries. Re-visit my favorites and take more time to explore those that I have not been to for a while. There is always something new to find and photograph! 

Update: After writing this blog post I did just that! I had a mini road trip adventure this weekend. I’ll have a new post coming soon with some new photos.

Crosses for Change

A few weekends ago I visited Crosses for Change. A large roadside memorial that has been making headlines in the local news. 

It started with one white wooden cross, representing a life taken by opioid addiction. More and more white crosses are added almost every day. 

This sea of white crosses can be found in the downtown core, on the corner of a busy intersection. It stands as a memorial to those lost to the current opioid crisis.

This haunting memorial has definitely made an impression on people, in some very different ways. For some it stands as a call to action against the opioid crisis. For others, it is a place of mourning – a place to grieve for lost loved ones. For our cities homeless population, it is a grim and constant reminder of their current struggles. 

I am reminded of a quote I heard a long time ago, although I don’t remember where I heard it from; “Cemeteries are not for the dead, they are for the living”. I think about this almost every time I visit a cemetery. This roadside memorial to me, is a good example of this. These crosses represent the memory of a person, but there are no bodies here. They are buried in cemetery plots, within cemetery gates. But this little field of white crosses for all intents and purposes is a cemetery – in downtown Sudbury. 

For further reading on Crosses for Change and the opioid crisis in Sudbury:

Northern Ontario has had the highest opioid death rate in the province during COVID-19 | Sudbury.com

The white crosses memorial downtown is having unintended side effects, outreach workers say | Sudbury.com

Rows of white crosses in downtown Sudbury, Ont., honour those lost to opioid crisis | CBC

The field of crosses that won’t stop growing | Globe and Mail

Cemetery Appreciation Month

I just found out today that May is Cemetery Appreciation Month.

It’s not an official declaration by any means, but those in cemetery circles have been celebrating; and that is good enough for me! Cemeteries are often seen as taboo, so seeing them celebrated makes me very happy. 

Cemeteries are a beautiful place to visit and right now with COVID-19 ravaging the world, cemeteries are a great place to social distance as they are not often bustling with people. 

So in honour of Cemetery Appreciation Month, I have created a little bucket list for myself.

Volunteer some time to fulfill some photo requests in my area for Find A Grave.com – This is a great way to explore, take some photos and help others. Using Find a grave, anyone can request photos of a particular grave. This is usually used in research, most commonly genealogy.

Visit a cemetery I have not visited before – This is a great opportunity to take a little road trip.

Visit my favourite local cemetery – It’s been at least a year since I have been to Eyre cemetery, here in Sudbury. This is a great opportunity to pay another visit.

Have a picnic in a cemetery – I am taking a cue from a new Instagram account I follow for this one – cemeterylunches “Promoting death positivity one meal at a time”.

Happy Cemetery appreciation Month!

April showers bring May cemetery flowers

Spring always makes me think of cemetery flowers.

Flowers may not be the first thing on your mind when visiting cemeteries, unless of course you are bringing in an arrangement. But you may start to notice them more and more, dotting the graves, as well as the green spaces in between. Wild flowers can be found snaking through the grass and reaching into all corners of a cemetery plot.

Abandoned cemeteries are usually filled with wild flowers as there has not been anyone to weed or tend to the ever growing vines. They add a lovely pop of colour to a green space.

I have seen some plots completely filled with wild flowers, where families have made the entire plot a flower bed. I imagine their loved one must have been an avid Gardner.

You also see fabric or plastic flower arrangements. These must have been so beautiful when they were first placed; clean and bright. Over time these arrangements take on a different kind of beauty – weathering the elements and time.

St. John’s Alsace Cemetery ©2019

Springtime also means that the snow is melting, making cemeteries more accessible. Trudging through the snow is never fun. I have been slowly making plans for some road trips this spring/summer to visit some new-to-me places as well as some of my favourite spots.

Thankfully cemeteries are not usually a bustling place so being able to physically distance while exploring is great.

1 year ago today…

At this time last year, I was exploring New York City with my boyfriend by my side.

It was his first time visiting the big apple, and my second time. We did a lot of the touristy stuff; strolling in Central Park, walking along the Brooklyn Bridge, and admiring the twinkling lights of Times Square. It was an amazing trip, that was full of surprises. We visited an amazing restaurant called Ninja New York and enjoyed some sake and delicious sushi.

We had the good fortune of finding Obscura Antiques, the curiosity shop that was featured on the A&E’s television show – Oddities. It was so fun to talk to Mike and Evan, after dreaming about visiting their shop for ages. It was good timing as well since they have now closed their brick and mortar location. I also had the chance to visit not 1, but 2 graveyards, while in New York. We had taken the Big Red Bus tours and were making our way to the Brooklyn Bridge. We got off just down the street, close to the Charging Bull statue on Wall Street, and walked back towards the bridge.

I just had to stop in and take some photos. I was a little unprepared as I had not brought along my DSLR with me on this trip, but I did have my iphone with me. I saw some beautifully carved slate stones, with memento mori and deaths head skulls littered among them. Both Trinity Church and St. Pauls Chapel graveyards are filled with them. You may have noticed I have a deaths head skull as part of my logo. The craftsmanship in these stones is so detailed and has lasted over 300 years. Looking at the iconography on old stones like this always fills me with so many questions. I will have to go back with my proper camera and take some time exploring the grounds.

Trinity Church Graveyard – New York City, NY ©2020

Notes from a cemetery

Spring is just starting to wake up after a long winter sleep. Now that the snow is melting, and tombstones are beginning to peek out from the snowbanks. 

I have only visited cemeteries in the middle of winter once in my life, and it’s not something I plan on doing again. Yes, it’s beautiful; stark white contrasted against dark stones just visible above the snow. Pristine smooth snow blanketing the ground. But this is also why it’s not very fun to trudge through. Deep snow up to your knees, hidden stones create a tripping hazard, dangerous to you the intrepid explorer, and to the stones themselves.

When I visited those cemeteries in the middle of March, back in 2011, I was visiting one of my best friends in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. It was my first time visiting that part of Canada, and I wanted to take advantage of the time I had there. My friend was very kind to accommodate me, although she didn’t join me in the stone fields. She did chauffeur me around, though, to two different cemeteries; the Pioneer Cemetery and Woodlawn Cemetery. 

Pioneer cemeteries are my favorite to visit. They are usually the oldest and have beautiful old stones. They tell the stories of the original settlers of a town, and sometimes have much more information on them than modern stones do. Many names found on the gravestones in a pioneer cemetery are often on street signs within that town. 

I loved visiting those cemeteries, and think about my time wading through snow to get that perfect shot, or to get closer to an interesting stone I spotted from far away. I also remember how cold it was, and how my boots were filled to the top with snow. It’s not something I have ever attempted again. 

I prefer to spend my winters editing batches of old photos from the previous summer. Recently I have started organizing them for social media and this new website.

Now that spring is almost here; I am starting to plan this summer’s road trips and maybe a tour around my local cemeteries. It has been a while since I checked in on them. It’s always a pleasant surprise to find new and unique stones in a place I have visited many times before.

Woodlawn Cemetery – Saskatoon, SK ©2011

Introductions

Hello, My name is Chantal and I am a taphophile.

I have always had a deep love of cemeteries and graveyards. It may sound a bit morbid, but I have always found beauty and peace in a cemetery. The combination of nature, art and history is what I find really appealing. A cemetery is a great place to go for a quiet walk, to learn about the history of a place, or to learn about your ancestors. Over the years I have visited many cemeteries and love to take pictures of what I see. I like to focus on details of headstones, iconography, interesting epitaphs and mementos left behind by loved ones.

After realizing I had folders upon folders of photos I wanted to do something with them, not just keep them to myself. So I decided a website would be a great place to showcase them. I’m still working out the details on how I want to organize them, but I’m sure that will evolve over time.

I choose WordPress because it looked like a great way to showcase my portfolio but also include a blog option. I am in no way an avid blogger, but I do get the urge to write sometimes. So please do not expect a perfectly kept up-to-date blog! I’m hoping to write about my favourite cemeteries, road trips, newly explored cemeteries, cemeteries in the news and other cemetery related things.

I will also be slowly adding photos as I go!

If you are interested, I can also be found other places around the web; Facebook, Instagram and ViewBug.

Thanks for visiting!

Woodlawn Cemetery – Kicthener, ON ©2019