I had almost given up on what I’ve been calling a “proper autumn”, as October came to a swift close and the trees around the city were still green or going straight to brown. Where was the fabulous fall foliage I had so eagerly anticipated when I moved back east? Here and there a maple was turning orange, but where was the glorious explosion of color that I remembered?
Of course, I sort of forgot that Pittsburgh lies significantly south of Bar Harbor, ME. The trees weren’t taking their own sweet time dressing for the party, nor were they intent on arriving fashionably late – they were just carrying on as they were meant to, and when they peaked it was at precisely the right time, and rather suddenly.
On Oct. 30th a friend and I were talking about how the trees still hadn’t really turned, and then the very next day we found ourselves exploring Allegheny Cemetery amid a riot of fantastic fall foliage. Overnight some giant hand slopped orange and red and yellow paint on maple and oak alike – party dresses indeed. The trees spun their skirts and sent color careening, and my friend and I gleefully ran among them, joining the dance.
Halloween is a grand day for visiting a cemetery that is old and drenched in history, and I’ve never enjoyed a graveyard more. I (perhaps morbidly) have started to think of the place as my backyard, since one corner of it lies only moments from my house. It is huge, covering 300 acres, with large parts of it still undeveloped. There are bits of woodland in it, open fields, at least one cave, lots of little hills and hollows, a deer population, and a huge variety of plant life (native and imported). Deep inside it the noise of the city fades and you can believe you are far away in the wilds somewhere.
Oh, and of course there are an overwhelming amount of interesting tombstones, mausoleums, monuments, obelisks, and even a few sarcophagi. Most of the famous family names associated with Pittsburgh are represented, as well as such notables as actress Lillian Russell, and Stephen C. Foster, the “Father of American Music” (he penned songs like Oh! Susanna, Camptown Races, and Beautiful Dreamer).
That day my friend and I were more interested in the trees than in the long dead, although I couldn’t resist at least one attempt to visit the underworld.
To no avail though – the Wharton mausoleum was thoroughly locked up.
It was overcast and threatening rain, which only made trees like the oak near the Moorhead mausoleum look even more vibrant.
Somber, or spooky things were discovered (as is fitting in a cemetery) as well as cheery things like bright-eyed deer hoping for apples.
The final resting place of Civil War veterans.
An old monument, the names almost entirely obscured.
We encountered an older fellow who told us the deer would practically eat out of our hands if we brought apples – but we left the feeding up to him!
The rain started spitting, our camera batteries died or ran out of space for more pictures, and lunch was calling, so my friend and I finally left. She made me swear to return the following day for what promised to be sunny pictures, and I obeyed. November 1st in Allegheny Cemetery was lacking in melancholy, but I can’t imagine the ghosts or anyone else minded.
I can only imagine what wonders ice and snow will work on the cemetery! The winter will be a good time to research more of the history of the place and the folks buried there as well. I plan to enjoy my “backyard” thoroughly, and respectfully, for a good long while.