Friday, December 12, 2008

children under glass

Three days of warm rain erased all trace of winter in the cemetery; Monday's fringe of snow and rime is washed away. I run along the sluicing paths with the jays scolding me as if I were responsible for the hard rain that disarranged the brambles. A strange hint of the holiday season appears, though, in the wreath-bearing caissons pulled by the groundskeeper's Jeeps.


It's a season for children, and the December rain makes the graves of the young more forlorn. There are many, of course, a few marked with sculptures like this cherub (whose picture I took when the snow still lay about):

More remarkable is the "Boy in the Boat"—the grave of Louis Mieusset (1881–1886), a white marble sculpture of a boy in a wave-tossed dinghy, encased in an elegant vitrine:

I've run by Louis many times, always marveling at the improbable glass and the snow-white stone. Without the vitrine, of course, the marble would quickly change color as algae and lichens colonize its porous surface. Safe in his little aquarium, the paper-white boy retains his pure, virginal glow.

When I looked up the story of Louis, I learned that his was not the only child sculpture under glass at Forest Hills. On Lobelia Path not far from Lake Hibiscus stands Grace Sherwood Allen (1876–1880), who predeceased Louis Mieusset, in a simple little booth. Grace, too, is done in innocent white marble (perhaps her grave inspired Louis's). But by the time I stopped to take her picture, her monument and its protective sleeve of glass were clad in green steel to protect from the coming storms.



I'll pay Grace another visit in the Spring. In the meantime, Louis, too, has received his winter covering, the white boat hidden in its dark winter harbor.

7 comments:

Shamus7474 said...

I encountered Louis Mieusset for the first time this summer while biking through the cemetery. I was mystified. Is he covered up for the winter as well?

Matthew said...

They covered him up the day after I took the photo!

Shamus7474 said...

Well, I'm glad that the cemetery takes such steps to protect these sculptures. I'll have to pay them another visit in the spring.

Matthew said...

It's quite comforting to see how much care cemetery staff take with the place as a whole.

dpolsby said...

Why is it so weird and affecting, the idea of these perfectly still, pristinely white child-sculptures suddenly shuttered in for the winter? (I.e., in a way that exceeds the feeling one gets from their having been permanently encased in glass.) I dunno. But it is, somehow.

Great posts, Matthew....

Matthew said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matthew said...

Thanks for commenting, Daniel!& of course, this is chilling, too, in a way. It's like a second coffin, a reminder and reenactment of the original interment. And I can't help thinking of deep time, in the fullness of which these vitrines will be broken frames.