Saturday, May 29, 2010

Grave Reflections . . .

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The following shots are from the same stolen afternoon out a few weeks ago now on which all the bright yellow rapeseed was photographed. Immediately adjacent to the glowing yellow fields, so bright with Spring life, I found a cemetery hidden there on the hillside. And as you know by now, I am not one to resist the siren call of the silence in such places, where one can quietly think grave thoughts.
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This first is the wall at the back of the graveyard which sides on the yellow fields . . . (and if you'd like to see a truly magical interpretation of some similarly yellow fields in Romania, just click here to transport yourself across a Floating Bridge of Dreams . . .
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The children's corner of some cemeteries is always particularly poignant. Leaves me feeling lucky to have survived as long as I have, and to consider each additional day a gift . . .
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A renegade pansy had somehow seeded itself in one of the paths through the place. A very deep purple . . .
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A detail of the above . . .
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I've never seen an "unknown soldier" tomb in a small villages cemetery before, this is a rare occurence. In some of the large national military cemeteries the "unknowns" abound, but in a tiny, civil cemetery, this is the first I've ever encountered. I wonder how he ended up here ? From which war ? Who was he ? And somewhere does someone yet grieve for him ?
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On another part of the outer wall there was a fading memorial from WWI . . .
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A close up of the face, before he's lost forever. Already the name is gone . . .
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53 comments:

Stickup Artist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Stickup Artist said...

Oops. Made a typo on my first attempt.

I'm over here while you're at my place. And I will say the same back to you. And what a find! You must have been so jazzed. I've never seen the plaques with portraits before. They are extremely touching as is this post.

Love the close up of the purple pansy. It's so dramatic. What a work of art.

Each day is a gift, so true.

Steve said...

Somebody's son, somebody's daughter... all so sad and humbling.

TechnoBabe said...

I'm an angel lover so the angel photo is my favorite but how could I not love the pansy? The old wall at the graveyard next to the yellow field of flowers is beautiful. That is a great photo.

the fly in the web said...

The photograph of the rape field beyond the wall was superb...that acid yellow....but the whole series on the cemetery was very moving.

ALeks said...

Wow Owen,these are special for me,I love old graves and the atmosphere around them,you capture the spirits of those who went before us so well and the freshness of colours are working very well for my tired eyes,great,thank you for sharing!!
Have a beautiful weekend! Aleksandra

French Fancy said...

I love the way that photos are put on to the stone. It's not done in England which seems such a shame.

The close-up of that pansy is astonishing.

pRiyA said...

Amazing flowers. I love the texture of the stones with lichen growing on them.

-K- said...

Beautiful and well thought out portfolio of a single afternoon. I love the bright yellow mixed with the low hanging clouds in the first photo and how sad the last unamed grave is.

Clytie said...

You took me all over the place here ... the enchanting yellow of the field next to the wall, the poignant angel shot of the children's corner, the absolutely beauty of the pansy, then to the mystery of the unknown soldier ... and lastly to the fading and nearly forgotten memory of a hero ...

Wow.

Catherine said...

lovely shots - I am a fan of graveyards too - look at my last post about the English cemetery here in mexico - I think you will like it - from one grave fan to another!!

Vagabonde said...

What a poignant and lovely post. I like to go to old cemeteries too. There is one in Savannah which is spectacular. Here in Atlanta the Historical Oakland cemetery is beautiful when the dogwoods are in bloom. Last year I paid a visit there and made a post on it, here is the link if you’d like to look at it. http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/2009/05/historic-oakland-cemetery.html

Roxana said...

oh! not only so lovely but so truly touching, now i won't be able to look at a rapeseed field with the same eyes again... i will always feel the presence of those lives and centuries hidden, buried all around us, making us what we are, allowing us to be - while the flowers are gorgeously and innocently blooming, without fear and memory.

(i am so happy you liked my fields, i was so anxious to see your reaction... :-)

THANK YOU

...louciao... said...

A renegade pansy!

Lots of exciting textures and brilliant colours to feast the eyes on here. Pithy thoughts to sink one's teeth into (try saying that 5 times in a row!).

In many ways, I would think that all soldiers are unknown. Except perhaps to each other.

Ann said...

spent time catching up on your blog....had a lovely time! As usual,I felt like I took a mini-vacation ....many thanks!

Karine A. said...

je suis en train de lire " l'angoisse du roi Salomon" de romain Rary, et il y a dans ce livre quelque chose qui me fait immanquablement penser à toi.
Une manière très sensible de considérer le passé et le " disparu" pour le faire revivre dans l'émotion et le coeur. Dans le livre, cette sensibilité touche le " vieux" avant qu'il ne disparaisse.
Je crois que cette lecture devrait te plaire...

Bill Evertson said...

If only our desire for conflict was in the graveyard not the men and women lost to wars not of their making. PS -That rapeseed photo is intense!

distracted by shiny objects said...

On a weekend full of hype about sales and grill out and ball games--not that there's anything wrong with any of those activities--this is a quiet and lovely tribute to those we've lost. Thank you.

jeff said...

Ciao amigo !
Juste de passage...
Eeeennnfin ! Tu t'es décidé à changer d'en tête et à laisser ta barque sur le rivage pour venir à notre rencontre !
J'aime assez ce nouveau relooking qui est tout de même plus vivant que ton mur gris et ses moisissures ! Bon, c'était un style aussi...:)
Voilà ! Juste pour te dire ça !

Excellente fin de journée Owen !
Passe une grande semaine...

A bientôt...(8]

Merisi said...

Such poignant images!

Owen said...

Hi Stickup... for sure, gifts to be enjoyed, these passing days...

We are so lucky as to be able to go out and drink in the world, and capture brief instants with these fabulously exotic toys that we privileged people get to play with... a digital camera... what a magical tool to get to use, compared to early film cameras, we have almost no limits now... and can really celebrate all the light that's flashing around out there...

Owen said...

Steve,
"sad and humbling"... sad, humbling, poignant, and yet something profoundly uplifting, it is almost a drug perhaps these visits to cemeteries and the moments of silent meditation therein...

"they were,
they are no more,
we are,
we may still go far..."

Owen said...

TechnoB.
And it is angels like you who keep me keeping on in these pages, angels who drop down out of distant skies, and touch our lives... thank you...

Owen said...

Dear Fly in Web,
Many many thanks, a very acid yellow at that. In the previous post a few down about rapeseed fields, several comments pointed out the bad side of such agriculture, the spraying with pesticides, the air pollution around such fields with pollen and other molecules... but for me it's a color thing, I can't get past the vivid colors...

Owen said...

Aleks, I hope your eyes will be feeling less tired soon... and a thousand kind thank you's for your note here, I'm always pleased if someone has found something in these little visual essays which speaks to them... graveyards are places that stir all sorts of emotions in me, and I love the peace and quiet and history...

Owen said...

Hi FF,
The aging photos on many older graves were something which drew my attention to cemeteries in France very early on in my time here, back in '86 when living as a student in Paris I had already started noticing, and photographing such images... sometimes they speak volumes about the person long departed. And a shame to see the photos, the last traces disappearing... which is another reason I photograph them, to save a last bit of memory... but also because they are works of art in progress, they are evolving, not quite like the portrait of Dorian Gray, but almost...

Owen said...

Hi Prya... you are welcome to look for as long as you like, on Sundays and Mondays admission is totally free here...
:-)

Owen said...

Hey Kevin,
I really appreciate your note here, I have alot of respect for your work... Thank you so much...

Owen said...

Hello Clytie,
Love your comment, and well, that is sort of the goal, to provide high mileage "entertainment" in a short space... Am happy if this got you travelling, however vicariously...

Blogs and blogging are such a strange and wonderful phenomenon, I'm still trying to analyse and understand my feelings and relation to all of this... and trying to figure out what works for readers out there, and what doesn't... it is always a pleasure yet a challenge to put these pieces together...

Owen said...

Hi Catherine, many many thanks for referring me to your recent post about the graveyard in Mexico, I did indeed go take a look, and found it fascinating...

Owen said...

Dear Vagabonde, I had a very nice trip to Oakland Cemetery thanks to your instructions ! That was quite a post, working in Père Lachaise as well, beautiful. And I LOVED your Mothers Day post...

Owen said...

Roxana, Roxana,
You speak in poetry you know...

If only the ground around us could reveal all her secrets, we would be so rich in history, but then, secrets are good to imagine also, and some secrets are better to leave lying well buried and long forgotten.

I love the connection made between Romanian (roamanian!) and French rapeseed fields, and I wonder who the next blogger will be to contribute to our fledgling atlas of yellow glorious light around Europe, around the world ???

Bises... and I am touché if apprehension of a reaction was causing suspense... but I think you knew I was going to love them... those magic yellow, grainy fields of yours, where the pollen is palpable in the skies...

Owen said...

Lynne !

I propose a toast to renegade pansies ! And to men who eat quiche and revel in renegade pansies ! Am I not a real man then ???

Yes, another toast, that first one went down mighty fast.

And once we've had four or five such toasts, then we can start trying to pronounce your enunciation challenge of "Pithy thoughts to sink one's teeth into", I'm sure after toast six or seven it's going to start sounding like "Pissy throats to think one's teeth into", imaginings of vampires shall fill the air....

Ah, where was I... ah yes, as for unknown soldiers, I couldn't say, though I was a soldier once, I didn't know myself, and certainly don't know the "I" which I was back then, it was a "he" who enlisted, and I can't imagine why know, and am just fortunate I didn't end up a photo on a stone looking out at the rare photographer who may yet take an interest in past tragedies...

Owen said...

Ann, you are so very welcome, take your time, do look around, the archives go back with hundreds of serene moments of reflecting on images that tell my totally obscure life story here... but I am wonderfully touched if anyone finds something of interest here...
Thank you...

Owen said...

Chère Karine,
Mille fois merci pour la recommandation concernant ce livre... j'avais besoin justement de qqchose de nouveau pour un peu de lecture cet été, bien que sans doute je vais travailler trop et me reposer peu... mais bon, il y aura des dimanches... Mais cela a l'air bien fascinant, et je suis touché profondement si cela te fait penser à moi, obscur crapaud que je suis, crapaud au visage de chameau...
:-)
Merci Karine...

Owen said...

Bill,
You've hit the nail on its proverbial head... if only we could bury the will for violence... Many thanks !

Owen said...

Dear Distracted,
I could go for a ballpark frank hot off the grill by a tailgate outside the ballpark... that is something that has disappeared from my life entirely... but long long long ago in my distant youth, I worked at the stadium in Philadelphia where the Phillies and Eagles played, before the stadium got demolished to make way for a new one...

Thank you profoundly... for these kind words...

Owen said...

Jeff ! Cher Jeff !

Tu ne sais pas à quel point ton passage me fait plaisir...

Mais, mais, mais, mais merde ! Ce n'était pas des moisissures !!! Ce n'était pas du moisi sur cette image que j'ai remplacée... c'était du lichen, qui n'est pas du tout la même chose que le moisi... et ce n'était pas un mur, c'était une pierre tombale, donc c'était un peu mon message secret que seul moi comprenait, sur le passage du temps et la nature éphemère de la vie, mais quand même l'éternité du repos qui nous attends tous à la fin de notre petit chemin ici dans ce bas monde...

Mais je suis bien content si tu trouves plus de plaisir dans mon bateau de reve... ce n'est pas un yacht qui m'inspirerait, mais c'est ce bateau ici que j'adorerais monter à bord, et voyager dessus, fièrement traversant flottes et vagues sur ma brave barque verte...

Et imagine une seconde combien de tonneaux on pourrait charger à bord ?!

Ciao Mister Pix, content de te voir en circulation...

Owen said...

Hi Merisi,
Many thanks for dropping in here, really appreciate your visit... I love the poignancy of such places, I guess I'm even something of an addict...

Funny, I was just over visiting your place in Vienna when I saw you'd dropped by, after seeing your comments on a few other blogs I love and visit often...

@eloh said...

I've tried a couple times to leave a comment.

I don't have the words. Pictures like these... that's where -one is worth a thousand words- must have come from.

Catherine said...

J'aime ta remarque Owen....." A close up of the face before he's lost forever. Already the name is gone . . .", ce soldat aura été "vivant" dans la mémoire d'une famille sur 2 ou 3 générations, j'imagine.....puis, seuls, sa photo et son nom pour l'identifier.....et aujourd'hui, le temps poursuit son oeuvre d'effacement.
Un parfait inconnu passe par là, et comme par magie tu ravives son souvenir. Avec ton appareil photo comme seule arme tu fais reculer l'oubli qui tend à l'ensevelir.
Ces derniers jours, nous, tes visiteurs, aurons tous posés nos yeux sur ce qu'il reste des traits de son visage, imaginant la malchance de naître à un mauvais moment, et de voir écourter sa vie, disparaître alors que tant d'années s'offraient à lui.

Le soldat inconnu aura été une vingtaine d'années la joie d'une famille, puis pour de longues annérs, une blessure au coeur de cette même famille, faite d'imcompréhension et d'interrogations.

Matière à penser......Beaucoup d'émotion et de pensées sur la mémoire si éphémère de la vie de chacun.

Peter said...

A very special feeling about these old, abandoned, graves! A specific beauty!

I already posted about the majority of the Paris cemeteries, but this makes me wish to go back for a "second look"!

Virginia said...

Oh Owen what a wonderful post. I often think I haven't mastered the "feel" of the cemeteries I've photographed. You most certainly have here today. The second photo took my breath. The closeup of the soldier's headstone is just lovely as well. I will try to do better when I'm in Paris this trip. I am so sorry to miss you . I would love to meet you one day.
V

Amy said...

Purple is my favorite color, but even if it wasn't, I'd be in awe of this vivid pansy. Gorgeous flower portrait. And very lovely photos of the headstones. The fading WWI memorial is especially touching...

Owen said...

Hi @eloh,
Although you may have had trouble finding words, the few you found here leave me feeling particularly honored and humbled... I thank you... you are the most wonderful @eloh I know...

Owen said...

Catherine, merci pour ce petit mot si riche et profond en reflexions, tu as bien sondé une bonne partie de ce que je ressens dans ces endroits, devant ces traces qui s'en vont lentement, un rayon de soleil, le froid d'hiver, la glace de la pluie, la neige, qui accomplissent leur travail lentement mais sûrement. Merci Catherine... j'espère que l'on se reverra bientôt, avec d'autres bloggeurs dans Paris ?

Bises...

Owen said...

Hi Peter, I often have the feeling that one can walk through the same cemetery more than once, and not see the same things, especially in the larger places that Paris has to offer. One could spend months in a place like Père Lachaise...

A bientôt j'espère, j'ai un peu de vacances très bientôt...

Owen said...

Hi Virginia,
Yet your photos from Père Lachaise have all been lovely...

Also, I'm confused about the "sorry to miss you part" if you are here in mid June, I will be around Paris, and am on vacation from work as well, am not travelling anywhere, and hope to get into Paris several times during my time off from work, so it would be wonderful to see you if it can work out... will get back to you in email...

Owen said...

Amy, many thanks... it is amazing what one finds if one goes out with eyes wide open... deep purples and tomes of history in tombs...

Lulu Sorcière said...

Merci pour ce si beau billet Owen ! Il est bien rare en effet de trouver des tombes de soldat inconnu, dans les p'tits cimetières de village ! Et les tombes des enfants sont si émouvantes, la douleur des parents s'y blottit.
Il y a beaucoup d'émotion à photographier ces tombes, l'attention qu'on leur porte à travers l'objectif, fait revivre les âmes, à travers les croix, les indices, les dédicaces, la guerre, la vie, la douleur, la douceur d'un autre temps nous envahissent.
Les promeneurs attentifs comme toi, perpétuent la mémoire, quand la loi des hommes décide qu'un jour, il faut laisser place aux jeunes, même dans ces si petits lieux de paix.
Bises !

Ann said...

What a beautiful old cemetery.

Oakland Daily Photo said...

Another beautiful and touching post. Taking us up close and personal in the photos, makes your experience almost palpable. And color me surprised that the daffodils are blooming already.

Julie said...

Thank you for linking this post to Taphophile Tragics, Owen. I appreciate the contribution.

I am nearly always moved to tears by memorials to children in cemeteries. We only get one shot at life, and to have it end at the beginning is mean!
The child's grave is very similar to so many here, with its wrought iron fencing.

I have not seen an 'unknown' soldier grave other than in the larger city memorials here in Australia either. However, France probably had so many more unidentified soldiers than we did here in Australia. I love how the markers say 'Mort pour France'.

That final image of the fading photograph is so very sad. But in reality, not unexpected. However, I think that everytime another person thinks about an untended grave, the person therein is remembered in a significant way. I guess that is one of the reasons I am a taphophile.

Again, thanks for the repost, Owen. I enjoyed the journey through the cemetery, and agree that the shot of the rapeseed with the electricity towers is hallucinogenic!