I was just in Northern Virginia and Maryland last week and got to visit two cemeteries unexpectedly. I’d wanted to visit Arlington National Cemetery yet again (one of my favorite places) and I also wanted to visit Rock Creek Cemetery in D.C., a cemetery many people have recommended to visit. Time and schedule didn’t allow for those.
However, when I was at my sister in law’s in Rockville, Maryland for an early spring dinner and her husband mentioned that F. Scott Fitzgerald was buried a mile away in St. Mary’s Cemetery. We popped over.
It’s not a remarkable cemetery, necessarily. Established in 1819, it’s an old churchyard. Not too many recent burials. But it’s perfectly small and human scaled. And it’s in the middle of town, aside two major Maryland Routes. A calm patch of greenery and trees. Useful and important in its everyday-ness.
The next day we were in Leesburg, Virginia – a Hollywood version of a small old town in the horse country of Virginia. On a little walk off a main street, we asked a woman gardening if she could tell us where the oldest cemetery in town was. She paused a bit and pointed with her garden tool to the side of her garden and said “I think it’s right next door”. Literally.
It was the Old Stone Church Cemetery, the Methodist Church’s oldest property in the U.S. Again, this was nothing dramatic or grand. But it was the size of half a block or so, surrounded by a mix of small pre-Victorian Virginia homes and larger post-US Civil War gardens and houses. A true human-scaled community space.
In this part of Virginia there are many small cemeteries. And many tiny family plots, standing alone, usually fenced off, selected sacred spots to the family memory.
So – small, human, near vibrant human activity, accessible, personal. Sounds ideal for many people’s needs and desires, right?