It is the perfect winter’s day. Bon hiver.
The sun leaked out of a swathe of blue sky, the wind took his paintbrush and dusted our pale cheeks pink. Armed with rubber wellies, a camera and high spirits, we took to the hill which led to Highgate Cemetery.
It is a palimpsest of bodies, memories; the iron gates lock in centuries of death. Cracked slabs of grey distort the damp, buckling earth and gravestones scramble over one another, pushed upwards by plants nosing for sunlight. Serenity creeps between the trees, guardians of souls long since departed, and a jackdaw hops from branch to branch.
We meander through the park north of the cemetery, and pause to remind ourselves that we are still in London; there is a village ambiance permeating the scene. Perhaps it is the intensely intimate nature of graveyards. Families pass with their dogs, and the sun is warm on our cold faces. We remember our childhoods; what pleasure our parents must have taken from the simple act of a Sunday afternoon walk with us. What innocence in watching a child run.
How is it that we share so many years of our early lives with parents, with siblings, yet we are virtual strangers to those same people now? Is it by process we leave them, or by a single conscious act?
What peace there is to be drawn from death. We demand so much from the world during our time here, and all we need, in the end, is a rectangle of earth in which to lay our tired bodies to rest. We become the dark earth. We are fascinated by death because it is inevitable. Life belongs in the grey zone, but there is more beauty in black and white.
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