This week’s WordPress Photo Challenge really speaks to me. The prompt challenged bloggers to “share a photo inspired by a poem, verse, song lyric or story.” Photography and poetry go together like beauty and melancholy, like joy and sorrow. Opposites attract and complement one another, each bringing out the best in the other. Appreciation of these seemingly incongruous pairings is one of the biggest reasons I’m a fan of Romantic poetry, and John Keats in particular. His “Ode on Melancholy” is one of my favorite poems. It reminds me that life is full of deep sorrow and unbridled joy, but one cannot exist without the other, and neither one lasts indefinitely. Keats’ lines also suggest that beauty is, perhaps, best appreciated in a sudden fit of melancholy:
But when the melancholy fit shall fallSudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,And hides the green hill in an April shroud;Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,Or on the wealth of globed peonies. . .
Maybe this predilection for life’s contradictions explains my love of cemeteries. I’ve never found them to be morbid and off-putting. While it’s sad to think about loved ones who have died, I actually find cemetery visits very conducive to reflection. Having a place to momentarily indulge my emotions helps me to get my thoughts in order, and allows me to make room to fully experience everything else that life sends my way.
I also enjoy visiting cemeteries when I travel to new places. These photos were taken at Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, North Carolina, just one stop on a road trip from York, Pennsylvania to Pine Mountain, Georgia with my mother and grandmother. While driving around Charlotte, this cemetery seemed like an inviting place to stop. Its somber and serious beauty was arresting, and we found ourselves quietly wandering for more than an hour. The monuments and headstones were beautiful tributes to the dead, while gorgeous, perfectly unblemished magnolias seemed to bloom in celebration of life. It was the perfect place to “glut thy sorrow” on natural beauty.