In Australia, they don't bury bodies in suburban plots. That is, you won't find a cemetary (in the grounds of a church) in between the pub and that row of semis built after the war, what our Aunt Gert got when she got married in 1951. Graves as part of a normal village or town landscape are something that British people are so used to seeing, they'd be unlikely to take much notice of them at all. In Australia cemetaries are large sprawling places, like enormous housing estates for the dead, which are surrounded by slightly more affordable houses becuase nobody wants to live next to planted corpes.
Some might say graveyards are depressing places, but I disagree. Since I've been back in England some of my happiest moments have been those solitary walks and little sits in church cemetaries. The parish church in Saxmundam is one such lovely ancient place of worship, set high on the hill with views over surrounding fields and busting with memorial tablets, monuments, statues and tombstones. One that caught my eye yesterday was a monument with four sides, each dedicated to a child that one poor couple had lost in the early 1800's, aged 4-25. What sadness this family must have endured. Why did they all die young? Were there any remaining children? So many questions. And nearby lie the parents, themselves eventually also committed to the earth, like us all eventually meeting their certain destiny.
So why is this observation uplifting? Carrying around the burdens of everyday life can get damn tiring; all that worry, anxiety, fear, concern, doubt. Some days they are are like feint watermarks, on others they feel like imaginary monsters perched lumpily on our shoulders. Mr Stress on the left pulling sharply against Mrs Anguish on the right, who's digging in her nails for good measure. We live in a world that is constantly reminding and advising on the pursuit of happiness: don't let youself be left behind in a pool of misery when there are countless books, therapies and mindsets that will free you permanantly into a blissful life of constant joy. Ultimately, there is only one thing we know for certain, and that is that our days on this earth are numbered, the day will come which is our last. Really, there is no thought that can snap us out of our foolish petty preoccupation with all that is perceived to be shit in our lives, as swiftly as this.
Which is why cemetaries are wonderful places. Walking around and reading of families, generations, children, Grannies (even dogs, this is England) who have lived their lives, long if they were lucky, fleeting if not, for better or worse. They are all joined in their common fate, death. Life, while we have it to enjoy, is the greatest gift and one that we need to celebrate and give thanks for daily. What marvellous good fortune to be the one standing on the grass reading gravestones, heading home for a nice cup of tea.
Forget the self-help books, give me a good graveyard any day.