Details from the Cemetery

My writing is heavy on details. I put my words together with a fine brush, filling in all the nooks and crannies. (My editor constantly reminds me not to tell EVERYTHING.) This is a strange phenomenon for me because when I was heavy into photography, my images were large, sweeping vistas taken with wide angle lenses. This may go back to film school, where they taught me always to have an establishing shot to place the viewer in the location. Then, go in close for the minutia that is relevant to the story. Well, here in Aruba, I came across this old cemetery, which as the sign says, was for Jewish Portuguese people. Have a look.

The place is quite old by any standard, especially for the Caribbean whose history is often swept away by hurricanes and changes in government. By my count, there were only seven graves inside the walls. The largest one in the rear features a Divi tree growing up through it.

However, the detail that struck me most was among the arch-covered graves in the center row. It’s the small one on the right. Someone’s child didn’t survive and ended up here next to his elders. Wow, that’s all the detail I need to make this place interesting and the stuff of a story. Of course, graveyards are a no-brainer, and not just for mysteries. You’ll find all kinds of things that represent both the living and the dead, the beliefs or lack there-of held by those interred as well as the visitors still alive.

It strikes me when I see people leaving things behind for those who’ve passed away. I suppose it’s a soothing notion, a comfort to remember and contemplate. It must be part of the human condition because the activity goes back into pre-history. Certainly the Egyptians reached an all-time high with their temples to the dead that were staffed by priests and kept flourishing for years after a Pharaoh or other significant person died. Then again, details can be striking and a single person with a single flower is more powerful than a priestly retinue in a smoky temple. At least, in my way of telling stories it is.

Published in: on August 10, 2008 at 10:56 am  Leave a Comment  
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