• Jan Thoreen Lewis


Updated: Mar 1, 2019

or “Why I’m Fascinated With Morbidity”

I doubt if you’ll notice, but there’s not a June Newsletter forthcoming.  

#1 – I don’t have any real news.

#2 – Having just arrived home from Europe, 4 of our grand kids & their dad showed up at our door on a surprise visit from their new home in Utah.  And, SURPRISE, I got to entertain & love them for 3 days!

#3 – This left 0 (that’s a zero) time to think of anything newsworthy in the next two days before we needed to be ready to leave on a 10-day-family-visiting/reno-checking/possessions- moving/camping trip in the Cortezish area.

#4 – I’m whipped

Having gotten that off my chest, I want to talk briefly about cemeteries.  I’m so glad you asked why!

Massacre Cemetery at Deerfield, MA (There was an Indian attack in this charming village 1704 during Queen Anne’s War. The 47 people who died were supposedly buried in a mass grave here.)

I blame it all on my father.  I had a marvelous dad who was a history teacher for most of his career.  And I’m not talking about the kind that makes you memorize dates and names of long-dead men who you will never, ever care about again.  He was the kind who made history come alive.  

He made you want to smell sweat, hear horses thunder into battle, and taste food that would gag your 21st century self. When I was 8-years-old, our family ventured on the long American highways for an entire summer to discover history with Dad and Mom.  And did we ever. I saw my first mummified native American, my first 2-headed stuffed calf, and my first jar full of formaldehyde and something resembling a person. But not. And . . . wait for it . . . cemeteries! These were my favorite part of being in a New England village churchyard, at Gettysburg, or in a dusty Boot Hill cemetery in the Old West.

My imagination came alive with possibilities!  Who were these people? What did they do? Did they die violently (remember, I was 8)?  Could a little child’s bones really be under this angel tombstone?  Did some people actually get laid out on a slab above ground and shut in???  Macabre, far-fetched ideas about death and burial fascinated by little brain.

Well, the fascination has continued, if with a somewhat more sophisticated veneer.  Now, it’s the history, the stories that draw me in as well as the quiet and the beauty.  And, I must say, Europe is filled to bursting with these stories!

In May, my cousin Bev and I were exploring the Old Town of Miltenburg, Germany when we heard the words “old cemetery” from a guide.  We both have radar for those words, so we had to find it.  Up worn broad stairs, by mossy rock walls, around cobblestone pathways, and under ancient shade trees, we found the Mother Lode.  Not just an “old cemetery,” but a really, really, REALLY Old Cemetery.  And more than that – a magical, silent, reverent, and holy place of rest.  We didn’t get to explore or touch the beautiful stones, but only to admire from the ancient stairway and watch golden light touch the grass and markers like a caress.  

It was enough.  My curious soul was satisfied, and the stories that hovered there could rest as well.

All I did was paint this little 4”x 6” watercolor sketch that evening.  It’s still enough, for now. I’ll paint it many, many times again in the days to come.

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