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Many old cemeteries are well known nowadays as arboretums or bird sanctuaries, albeit not their original purpose.   Some well-known examples are Mount Auburn in Cambridge, or Swan Point in Providence.  Others may be more locally known, like Fairhaven’s Riverside or Southbridge’s Oak Ridge.  Wander through the older sections and you will see beautiful tree specimens- a great time to do this is in spring when the trees are flowering and migrating songbirds can be observed flitting above the branches.  These old graveyards harbor something else: curious and beautiful works of art.

We have the pleasure of hosting the Gravestone Girls, Brenda, Maggie & Melissa, as part of our winter lecture series.  I’ve heard rave reviews about their program and am looking forward to their visit.  Inspired and intrigued by their “art for the here-life” I took a late afternoon walk at the Wales No. 2 cemetery, the oldest in town.  The sun was low in the sky, the air brisk but with very little snow I was able to see not only tracks of deer, squirrel turkey and fox, but the carefully carved stones of some of Wales’ founding residents.

Unfortunately, and equally unfortunate that this is a common problem, there has been vandalism at the site.  The old, thin stones toppled or smashed, the artwork and epitaphs written to guide the souls of the dead now in ‘oblivion’s obliterating, destructive, devastating grasp’  (a partial quote from one of the most famous characters in Wales, Absalom Gardiner).  It is comforting to know that there are people like the Gravestone Girls who are preserving this unique aspect of our past.

The Gravestone Girls will be at Tupper Hill on Saturday February 6th.  The lecture starts at 1:30pm.  Reservations are required.  This is a popular lecture and space is limited.  Click below or call 413-267-9654.

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