Friday, December 5, 2008

Fallen trees

Among the thousands of gravemarkers at Forest Hills there are many pieces of rough and uncut stone. But the Hamilton family monument is unique, at least so far as my runs have revealed. It's made of a section of fossilized wood--a petrified log.

The mid-morning light wasn't ideal, and my photographs don't catch the rich reds, sienna browns, and milky colors of the mineralized log. But the cavities of lost limbs and striations of the grain are visible on close inspection, with living lichen in greens and yellows dotting the long-dead wood.

Petrified wood can be quite ancient. The trees of Petrified Forest National Park in Arizona date from the late Triassic--dinosaurs would have brushed among their branches. I don't know where the Hamilton family's log came from; petrified wood is found throughout the world, wherever trees have flourished from remote antiquity to the present.

The pedestal only gives the name Hamilton in raised capitals. On the ground in front, spread out like schoolchildren in a row, are small rectangles of polished red stone cut with given names.

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