I'm finding it a lot harder then I thought it would be to decide which photos are "artsy" and should be shared here, and which are "touristy" and should be shared over at Beach Treasure. A lot of the photos could go both ways. Today I put up a bunch of Stonehenge pics over there and there were dozens more that were even more artsy. But, a decision was made.
I love gargoyles. Love'em. And since one of my sons has taken gargoyles as something of a "totem animal" for himself, I love them even more. I was really excited about seeing as many as I could while I was in England (and let's not even start with the gargoyles in Paris, which will send me into shivers of excitement - patience my bloggees, patience) and I wasn't disappointed. It was amazing how many different kinds of gargoyles there are, actually. We tend to think of only the scary monster type ones, but there were monster gargoyles and animal gargoyles and people gargoyles and bird ones and mythological ones and angel ones and.....
A lot of them, like the one above, have been weathered over the ages into something completely different from what they started out as. I'm not sure what this one was shaped like originally, but I thought he was a bit goofy and a bit frightening at the same time. Like the sludge monsters that make an appearance in movies.
Between the gargoyles and ceilings, I could have spent the entire vacation with my neck craned up. This wouldn't have been a terribly good idea however, since they also have lots of stairs and cobblestones in historical areas, which means basically EVERYWHERE. But I did look up as much as I dared. This beautiful ceiling was in a church in Lacock. This particular church had been recently used for the wedding of some relative of Camilla Parker-Bowles....does she have another last name now that she's married to Prince Charles? Anyway, the church was still filled to overflowing with the flowers and greenery from the ceremony and it made it smell wonderful. I wish, along with the visual images, I could have snapped "photos" of smells and sounds and textures as well.
I don't just love this photo, I LOVE this photo! This gentlemen (and isn't he the quintessential British elder) was caring for the cemetery with a hand clippers. Carefully bending over and taking care around the gravestones and flowers. I doubt I could even bend over like that anymore without... well, I could bend over like that. What I doubt is whether I could straighten up again afterwards.
I can't tell you how many times (which is sort of odd really, that I've been to cemeteries and/or landfills so often) I've come across cemetery caretakers in the States who follow the protocol of tossing all the flowers, fresh, faded, or plastic, into the back of a pick up truck, and dumping them at the county landfill, and then having a clean shot at running over the dead with a nice efficient power mower.
And that's when the cemetery allows you to leave things on the graves in the first place. It's no wonder that many of our ancestors and loved ones are abandoned to their graves when we are so discouraged, as a culture, from keeping them in our lives, from visiting them. I found the exact opposite at cemeteries we visited in England and Paris. There, there was much evidence of visitors and offerings at gravestones, even very old ones. I was particularly enamored of the beautiful highly enameled ceramic bouquets and statues that were left on graves in Paris. Just the fact that they weren't stolen or vandalized (although we saw evidence of vandalism, not in graveyards, but in other historical settings) was amazing.
Of course I'm generalizing here, and I'm being slightly unfair. I have seen offerings and visitors at American cemeteries. Some very touching. And at some of the smaller cemeteries, the rules are less strict. I haven't visited every cemetery in every part of the US nor have I visited more then a handful of cemeteries across the pond. But from what I've seen, it makes me think that we're a lot less comfortable with the concept of death in America then folks are in Europe. Of course they've have a lot more history of dealing with death then what we have over here. Overt history that is. I'm well aware that history in the Americas did not begin with Christopher Columbus, even if the school books pretend it did. I only mean that Europe has a much longer written and visible history then we do. As William commented while walking down the street somewhere in England "You can't walk two steps over here without bumping into something historical!"