Posted by: Sally Ingraham | September 29, 2014

“Dust thou art, to dust returnest/ Was not spoken of the soul.”

Sept. 27th 2014

Sometime last week it became autumn. That’s always a great day! Autumn is my favorite season – the time of spooky stories, pumpkin beers, brilliant foliage, and serious cemeterrying. I went to Boston to wish one of my sisters a happy birthday this past weekend, and was joined while I was there by the rest of my sisters. They know that I love cemeteries, so all 5 of us plus a few other friends spent part of a gloriously sunny afternoon wandering around Mount Auburn Cemetery.

Sept. 27th 2014

I could have spent much longer exploring America’s first “garden cemetery”. It was established in 1831, with the intent to be a more pleasant place than the typically dismal church side graveyard. It’s landscape varies from steep to rolling hillsides, with trails leading into hidden groves and grottoes. It doubles as an arboratum – there are thousands of trees and about 700 different species and varieties. Many of them are very old and very large. The cemetery succeeds in being a peaceful, beautiful place where folks can wander and ponder the sentiments found on gravestones like this one:

Sept. 27th 2014

I like that quite a bit. I wonder who said it? who is buried beneath it? who thought it was the fitting thing to put on their stone?

When I’m in a cemetery I often think of a book I once read by Peter S. Beagle called A Fine and Private Place. It’s about two troubled people who meet in a cemetery, in the afterlife unfortunately, and fall in love. It’s lovely and melancholy and would be a perfect book to revisit during this autumn season. The title (and inspiration for some of the plot) comes from Andrew Marvell’s poem To His Coy Mistress – 

The grave’s a fine and private place

But none, I think, do there embrace.

My very much alive sisters and I did quite a bit of embracing over the weekend, some of it in the cemetery (but of course not in the grave) and enjoyed some of that real! and earnest! life that the tombstone above shouts about. Pumpkin beers were drunk, and a 13 lb. salmon was smoked. Board games were played. Music was listened to. I discovered the band A Hawk and a Hacksaw and remembered that autumn is an excellent time to listen to the accordion, if it is pumping out the wistful, somewhat unsettling sounds of Balkan and Klezmer and Eastern European-inspired music, thusly:

View of downtown Boston from the tower - Sept. 27th 2014

I spent my anniversary in Boston (seen above from Washington Tower in Mount Auburn Cemetery) , but I’ve lived in Pittsburgh for a year now. This time last year I was pretty excited to be here, and I am pleased to say that this is still true. The trees are starting to turn, Southern Tier’s Imperial Pumking is on tap once again, I haven’t finished exploring Allegheny Cemetery yet, and I’ll begin a brand new job/adventure in a few days. I still live with one of my best friends, and I’ve made some very good new ones in the past year. I lost the hat that I brought with me from Oregon (the one I’m wearing in the picture from last year’s arrival in Pittsburgh post) but I found a new one that has been treating me well – just like my new home!


Urban hiking in Pittsburgh – I almost never leave home without that hat, that bag (complete with “I read banned books!” pin), and my camera in hand.


  1. Autumn in Southern California is more a construct that we create than an actual season. We just don’t get the turn of the season like others do so we have to create it for ourselves by pulling out the pumpkin lattes, the fall decor and the candles that remind us of what we should be seeing this time of year. I tried to do this last week and my family told me it was way too hot to be thinking about fall. True. I love it though.

    • It was 80 degrees in Boston over the weekend and we couldn’t get into Walden Pond park because so many people were there swimming! Regardless, the light is autumnal – even in CA I hope!

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