Saturday, February 26, 2011

Symbolically loaded

This is another of the Chariton Cemetery tombstones that I admire, located just south of the main entrance drive perhaps a block in. I don't know anything at all about the four members of the White family whose graves it marks --- just that I like thier tombstone.

It is of a transitional type, marking the shift from marble to granite as the preferred material of tombstone makers. The base and the urn adop are of marble, but the shaft is highly polished pink granite. I know of at least one other smaller version of the type --- marking the grave of David Arnold at Salem Cemetery. The stone probably was erected soon after David White died during 1882. His wife, Amanda, lived 30 more years --- until 1912.

George White, son of David and Amanda, and George's wife, also an Amanda, are memorialized on another panel of the tombstone's base.

Granite had the edge so far as durability is concerned, but took much of the artistry out of tombstone art as it replaced marble, turning potential poetry into craft. I happened last week onto a pamphlet published about 1900 by the Stantons, who owned the Chariton Cemetery then, actively encouraging patrons to buy granite tombstones --- not marble --- citing the durability factor. Not long thereafter, marble was practically a thing of the past in cemeteries.

The wonderful symbols carved into marble on the transition panels between base and shaft on the White tombstone are among the things that make it so interesting. The cross and crown expresses faith.

This probably is a fraternal symbol, but if it is Masonic it isn't the one I'm accustomed to seeing carved into stone.

And finally, an especially beautiful depiction of a sheaf of wheat, the symbol of harvest, more appropriate for the women here --- who lived much longer lives than the men.

The urn atop the tombstone appears to be flaming, although I'd need a ladder to be sure of that and it seems unlikely I'm going to go quite that far. Whatever the case, the whole confection is a good reminder that if you pay attention to detail while wandering around a cemetery you won't be disappointed.


We've had two consectuve overnight snowfalls here --- nothing dramatic; four or five inches Thursday night, another one or two last night. A pretty good reminder that winter's not quite done with us yet, however.


In addition to the ongong culture wars, I've been watching this week  from beginning to end the episodes of "Foyle's War," a British detective series set during World War II that followed another favorite series, "Inspector Morse." Great stuff.


And finally, I rose before dawn to bake bread this morning --- then realized soon after pouring four cups of boiling water over two cups of old-fashioned oatmeal that I didn't have the molasses needed as part of the next step --- to be added before the hot oatmeal mixture was entirely cool. That meant a quick trip to Hy-Vee (and packing down the snow on the driveway I'd planned to shovel before backing over it). Then the phone rang. But I got to the grocery store, got the molasses, baked the bread --- and all was well.

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