Finding Beauty in the Old City Cemetery

Finding Beauty in the Old City Cemetery (Sacramento, California)

Back in 2012 when I’d first started writing this blog, my daughter and I took a walk in the Old City Cemetery in Sacramento, CA. It was a beautiful day to be out among the flowers and stonework.

This is a large lovely space on the edge of downtown. One gets lost in the peaceful spaces.

Whenever I’m there I think of people I once knew, but I also think of the future.

I doubt if there are any ghosts there. It never feels like it and none have ever shown themselves to me. Just memories of life and love.

Clara was fascinated by the mausoleums. We both wondered at the beauty of the carvings and the stories the monuments told about those who were buried beneath them.

And there are no Vampires there. We don’t live in cemeteries unless forced to.

A complete listing of everyone buried there can be found on the web site along with other historic information, location and visiting hours, plus parking information etc.

It is a really lovely place and worth the time to take a significant bit of California history.

From the Sacramento Old City Cemetery Web Site:

City Cemetery History
Prior to the establishment of the City Cemetery in 1849, burials were conducted in an area not far from Sutter’s Fort, but its lower elevation and closeness to the American River caused it to flood frequently. These old grounds, however, continued as a privately operated cemetery, named New Helvetia, for some twenty-five years before reverting to the city.  Over the years, tombstones and monuments were removed, vandalized and even stolen. Eventually, in the 1950s, the city authorized the construction of Sutter Junior High School (now Sutter Middle School) on the site
Alhambra Boulevard to 32nd Street, I to J Streets. A historical marker can be found at the edge of the sidewalk along Alhambra Boulevard. Unclaimed remains were re-interred in special plots at both the City Cemetery and East Lawn Memorial Park on Folsom Boulevard.

The Sacramento City Cemetery was established in 1849 with a donation of 10 acres by Captain John Sutter. The cemetery follows the Victorian Garden style, popular throughout the mid and late 1800’s.

Among the first interments in the City Cemetery were over 600 victims of the 1850 Cholera Epidemic.  Today, the Old City Cemetery is the final resting place of more than 25,000 pioneers, immigrants, their families and descendants. Among the more notable are Captain John A. Sutter, Jr., Sacramento city founder; lawyer and art collector E. B. Crocker; storekeeper turned railroad mogul Mark Hopkins; William Stephen Hamilton, the son of Alexander Hamilton; three California governors and many of Sacramento’s earliest mayors.

Many changes have taken place over the last 150 years.  The cemetery continued to expand through 1880 when Margaret Crocker donated the final acreage on the hill, bringing the cemetery’s land holdings to nearly 60 acres.  At one time, a greenhouse built by Mrs. Crocker, the Bell Conservatory, overlooked the cemetery along what is now Broadway.  Today the cemetery covers approximately 44 acres and is the final resting place of over 25,000 individuals.

Thousands of early settlers are buried in the Historic City Cemetery. They represent the historical and cultural diversity of Sacramento. The monuments are symbolic of Victorian funeral customs. Numerous group plots honor members of the Pioneer Association, Masons, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Volunteer Firemen, the Improved Order of Red Men, the state government, Donner Party survivors, Civil War and other military veterans.

Docent-guided walking tours are offered on some Saturdays (see calendar). Self-guided tours are encouraged at all open cemetery hours, during all seasons.  Maps and brochures, including Walking Tour of Medical Pioneer Grave Sites, are available at the Archives Mortuary Chapel.

Archives Photo Gallery

 

A Tale of a broken down car on a not so lonely road.

It was 1932 and my brother Val and I were driving home for the holidays. We decided to drive rather than take the train. It provided us with more freedom and a chance to see some of the back roads of America. In 1932 almost everything was a back road compared to now.

Let me back up a bit. I told a version of this story, about six years ago, without as much detail.

Anyway, we packed up and took our Packard Dualcowl Pheaton on the road. What possessed me to wear silk and fur is beyond me now, but that is just how we did it in those days. Val as always looked dapper and totally relaxed. Val and I are less than two years apart in age and act and look too much alike to be taken as anything other than brother and sister.

Over the years Val and I have had a lot of adventures together, starting when we were children. In the 1860’s and 70’s we pretty much ran the streets as young Vampires anytime we could get away. Sometimes our brother Aaron would be with us. Rarely would our eldest brothers Max or Andy be with us. We saw people nailed to floors, public hangings, fights, and acts of violence that made no sense what so ever. We spied on artists as they painted or had affairs, or did both. We saw dog fights, cat fights, rode on trains and horses, and tried to do things that, as Vampires, were nothing but trouble for us but well worth the effort. We saw Werewolves, Ghosts, and some things we still haven’t been able to explain. We helped the helpless and even exacted revenge where it was appropriate. We kept secrets that we still keep.

So there we were, in 1931, driving on an dirt and gravel road with no name, across the edge of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, on trails that are older than old when something in our beautiful car blew smoke and sputtered and stopped.

It was night, which is no big deal for us. We could see the eyes in the woods. No big deal. Woodland creatures respect as they respect all predators. A couple of bears came cautiously close, black bears. We started to sing and the animals left. No need for bear spray.

“Now what?” I asked my brother. I was absolutely starving and needed food badly. Sure in a pinch an animal would do but human company would be nice. More than nice.

We walked down the road for a mile or two when we could smell the scent of human kind in the air and saw lights through the trees.

Then sounds. Mournful singing. Singing in weird monotone voices, pitched high and ancient sounding.

There were old songs handed down from generation to generation without benefit of written music or any written word. I was sure most of the singers couldn’t even write their own names. I remembered ancient ones singing songs like that when I was young. They were songs as old as the mountains and older than the memory of men.

These were people who had mined, and farmed, and settled the remote edge between California and Nevada. It was a place of unmatched beauty, wonder, and mystery. It was also a place where it cold snow any minute, a face I reminded Val. I did not want to be stuck in the snow and have to wait for someone to dig me out in the spring.

We came to a white washed clappard building, not a church because there was no steeple or cross. It was a meeting house. In neat black script above the door was written Oak Hall – Welcome All. The door opened and an arm motioned for us to come in.

The room was full of folk, plain folk of all ages, singing with unified voices songs of the hills. They sang of life. They sang of lust and greed. They sang of love. They sang of  the spirit that is deep in us all. They sang of all that they knew.

Then they looked at us in their basic work clothing. We were rich city folk, like two people who’d just come off of a movie set. We might have well been John Barrymore and Greta Garbo.

The man who waved for us to come in took us to a table near a stove with a pot of coffee, and a table with cakes and cookies.

“Our car broke down about a mile back. Is there a mechanic in the group who can help us? I can fix a tire or replace a belt but this is beyond my expertise,” said Val.

“The fancy Packard?”

“Yes, that is us. Wrong car to take on a cross country trip.”

“Mrs. Jeeter over there, the one in the blue dress, said she saw you and your wife drinking from a flask when you were pulled over earlier today, between here and Bodie. She said she was surprised you weren’t driving all zigzaggedly. Don’t worry about her, everybody around her partakes every now and then. We don’t care what the government tells us what to do.”

“My sister. This is my sister, not my wife. This is Miss Juliette Todd. I’m Val Todd.”

The man held out his hand, “John Cutter. Glad to meet you. Now that I look at you a bit more I can see how you look alike. Come on in and warm yourself up. We’ll have someone come out and look at your car in a bit.”

Another man, a giant of almost seven feet tall came up to us. He was wearing a black suit with worn work boots. “Don’t be afraid,” said the tall man who was obviously one of their leaders. “We know what you are. You’re people of the night. Show us your fangs.”

Val and I froze as they gathered around us. Then when our fear built up they started to sing.

We are all different
Children of the Earth
God’s blessing
On us all
God’s blessing
On us all
There is no evil
Only fear
There is no evil
No evil here.

Then they sat us down and offered us their wrists. They told us stories of Vampires and Werewolves, of Demons and Ghosts. They told us of all creatures and of their vision of all living in unity. Two of them admitted to being Werewolves. They all had stories of Vampires who’d rewarded those who had helped them.

They said they’d welcomed us because we were lost. They invited us to join them at their Thanksgiving table. There would be fresh turkey and greens, cornbread and black eyed peas. There would be pie and root vegetables found in the forest. There would be kinship and understanding.

We stayed for the feast. And we talked of their kin and traditions. We also told them of our family.

They all wanted to touch us. They all wanted to share their blood with us. We sang the songs with them into the night. We learned their songs and they learned a few of ours – or at least some popular songs of the day.

Val and I slept through the day, and when night came again they walked us back to our car, which started just fine.

I think about those people with their calloused hands and bright eyes. I think of their mismatched untrained voices that sang in unison like an unearthly wind or a chorus of lost angels.

And to this day Val and I are thankful. We never could find that road again and nobody we ever talked to knew of these folk we spent our Thanksgiving with. I’m sure they were real and not just ghosts in the woods. I’m sure this Thanksgiving one of their great grandchildren is listening to the story about the time those rich Vampires came to visit.

Thanksgiving isn’t just about who you want to be with, but maybe who you need to be with. We’re thankful for all of them. And thankful for the haunting memories of music and fellowship. Most of all we’re thankful for good intentions.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

2019 Nano Pablano Cheer Peppers. 

Juliette’s Monday Book Club: A Trio of Escapes – Fiction, Travel, Poetry

Under Currents

By Nora Roberts

IMG_6927

I’m currently reading Under Currents.

I’ve been reading books by Nora Roberts for years. I’ve loved her stand alone books. I’ve loved the trilogies. The books in the J.D. Robb In Death Series are my absolute favorites.

This one is different. Below is the official description but that doesn’t describe this book completely. I had a difficult time reading the first few chapters. The descriptions of violence and brutal child abuse were graphic and disturbing. Sure, I read a lot of horror but this was beyond that. I’m not saying don’t read it. Stories of abuse need to be told. Stories of surviving need to be told. Stories of overcoming such horrors need to be told.

Do I like the book? So far so good. I’m still reading. That’s a beautiful thing.

Official Description: For both Zane and Darby, their small town roots hold a terrible secret. Now, decades later, they’ve come together to build a new life. But will the past set them free or pull them under?

Zane Bigelow grew up in a beautiful, perfectly kept house in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Strangers and even Zane’s own aunt across the lake see his parents as a successful surgeon and his stylish wife, making appearances at their children’s ballet recitals and baseball games. Only Zane and his sister know the truth, until one brutal night finally reveals cracks in the facade, and Zane escapes for college without a thought of looking back…

Years later, Zane returns to his hometown determined to reconnect with the place and people that mean so much to him, despite the painful memories. As he resumes life in the colorful town, he meets a gifted landscape artist named Darby, who is on the run from ghosts of her own.

Together they will have to teach each other what it means to face the past, and stand up for the ones they love.

 

Riding The Iron Rooster
By Train Through China

By Paul Theroux

IMG_6926

Written in 1988, this book was recommended to me by my dad. I couldn’t put it down. Riding The Iron Rooster took me on a live long love of books about travels, but this one always stands out.

Official Description: Paul Theroux, the author of the train travel classics The Great Railway Bazaar and The Old Patagonian Express, takes to the rails once again in this account of his epic journey through China. He hops aboard as part of a tour group in London and sets out for China’s border. He then spends a year traversing the country, where he pieces together a fascinating snapshot of a unique moment in history. From the barren deserts of Xinjiang to the ice forests of Manchuria, from the dense metropolises of Shanghai, Beijing, and Canton to the dry hills of Tibet, Theroux offers an unforgettable portrait of a magnificent land and an extraordinary people.

Riley Love-Lyrics

by James Witcomb Riley

IMG_6924.jpg

Years ago, so many I can hardly remember, I picked up a small red volume of poetry at a book store. This one always stuck with me.

Her Beautiful Hands

O your hands–they are strangely fair!
Fair–for the jewels that sparkle there,–
Fair–for the witchery of the spell
That ivory keys alone can tell;
But when their delicate touches rest
Here in my own do I love them best,
As I clasp with eager acquisitive spans
My glorious treasure of beautiful hands!

Marvelous–wonderful–beautiful hands!
They can coax roses to bloom in the strands
Of your brown tresses; and ribbons will twine.
Under mysterious touches of thine,
Into such knots as entangle the soul,
And fetter the heart under such a control
As only the strength of my love understands–
My passionate love for your beautiful hands.

As I remember the first fair touch
Of those beautiful hands that I love so much,
I seem to thrill as I then was thrilled,
Kissing the glove that I found unfilled–
When I met your gaze, and the queenly bow,
As you said to me, laughingly, “Keep it now!”
And dazed and alone in a dream I stand
Kissing this ghost of your beautiful hand.

When first I loved, in the long ago,
And held your hand as I told you so–
Pressed and caressed it and gave it a kiss,
And said “I could die for a hand like this!”
Little I dreamed love’s fulness yet
Had to ripen when eyes were wet,
And prayers were vain in their wild demands
For one warm touch of your beautiful hands.

Beautiful Hands! O Beautiful Hands!
Could you reach out of the alien lands
Where you are lingering, and give me, to-night,
Only a touch–were it ever so light–
My heart were soothed, and my weary brain
Would lull itself into rest again;
For there is no solace the world commands
Like the caress of your beautiful hands.

This is a charming volume of poetry that is near and dear to me. Today some might consider this book might be considered overly sentimental or by some sappy. Screw em. I like it. You can like it too. You can like anything you want.

Inscribed on the inside:

To the Elect of Love, – Or Side-By-Side
In Raptest Ecstasy, Or Surrendered Wide
By was That ear No Message To Or Fro
Between The Loved And Lost Of Long Ago.

My version was published in 1905. The book originally came out in 1883.

You can get copies of this online (free digital) or find it in used bookstores. There are also new paperback versions.

img_6925-e1568651704329.jpg

summerreading

Happy Reading.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

Travels North

Last night I watched the lights over the river canyons and listened to the trains pass through Spokane, Washington. The night was hot but peaceful. In some ways it was different, yet in other ways reminded me of my own home which also backs up to an urban wilderness of a sort.

Spokane is a lovely city, but unfortunately it is so hot – in the high 90’s F.
F could stand for Fahrenheit or it could just stand for fucking frying. I don’t take to heat well, even if I wasn’t a Vampire (which I am, for you who are new to this blog, just deal with it.)

We’re here for the 2019 USA National Roller Skating Figure Championships. After driving up from the Sacramento area we settled into our airbnb at the end of the road, on the edge of a mountain, in the middle of a city.

As we drove though countless little towns through the middle of the high desert I think of how isolated lone Vampires survive and sometimes even thrive (in their own weird ways) in these places.

Most of them feel isolated and cut off in the company of others and prefer the isolation of wide open places, high deserts, or endless fields of wheat, with nobody for company except cattle, dogs, and the occasional cat.

There are those who have regulars, truckers and others along the isolated stretches, who come in for sex, companionship, and a rest from loneliness, in an unknown exchange for blood.

Others go into town every few weeks or months. They load up on food, go to Target, visit the art museum, see friends, then go back to their desolate abodes. These are the ones who savor their solitude but also occasionally appreciate the company of others – when they want the company of others.

Of course we’re happy to explore and be in the community with others. We’d wanted to do and see more here but it is 97F today and way too how for most Vampires (or anyone) to be out moving around. We also don’t know the city so every trip is an adventure of unfamiliar streets and neighborhoods.

Spokane is a lovely city. I wish we had more time here to savor the culture and the company. Alas we must leave soon.

It is only 4:00 p.m. but we’ve settled in for the night. Will we watch horror movies? Hell no, we’re watching The Bachelorette because we couldn’t get live stream last night. We’ll watch Hannah tell Luke P. what an asshole he is, again, in so many words. We might also watch Queer Eye or read. If the wind dies down I plan on taking a glass of wine and sitting out on the edge of the canyon and watching the lights on the hill, the trains going over the bridge, and maybe catch a few stars in the northern sky.

May all of your travels be save and sound. May you find what you need, and what you desire, and what you deserve.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

 

 

The Quiet Beauty of San Miniato al Monte

Last week, it seems like yesterday, and it seems like a hundred years ago, I was at San Miniato al Monte monastery and cemetery in Florence, Italy.

The church was built in the year 1018 with no power tools, and workers who no doubt couldn’t even write their own names. It is beauty from a dark time.

It was an unexpected, moving, and beautiful find.

We (my husband, children and I) expected to find an old monastery at the highest point in Florence. We did not expect to find the huge cemetery surrounding it.

There was not enough time to spend there. I could have spent a week looking at the hundreds of touching statues that spoke of memories, but there by those who loved and those who lost their hearts. So many dates were from the 1940’s. So many were children.

The ghosts lurked far from us, watching us walk through the rain. More than anything we could feel the love and the loss. It is a special place where those who are no longer remembered by anyone now living, are still touching our hearts and souls.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman

26730725_10212855303476508_201613236014742989_n

26195505_10212855306436582_2500467273330357744_n26195834_10212855303636512_5310699758333483996_n26195998_10212855299596411_2762944758445194418_n26196017_10212855297356355_526641969071177299_n26219452_10212855302356480_801144938818368761_n26219550_10212855303876518_246123699135398469_n26220078_10212855304836542_6433028331430450479_n26229555_10212855301836467_4770998036840317026_n26229655_10212855300676438_1333328975695836872_n26229666_10212855297636362_2777791237780483894_n26229863_10212855300036422_9063269072208566477_n26229974_10212855304396531_5362361404976923240_n26230134_10212855298316379_7120235551191506739_n26230412_10212855303996521_7398906361242086395_n26230484_10212855306356580_6042058784612898349_n26231499_10212855306396581_6102393943254503123_n26231718_10212855303076498_6641161591847888345_n26231809_10212855297596361_2978441295296477063_n26239260_10212855298116374_3462125764032123707_n26239949_10212855299636412_7171456904490501958_n26730725_10212855303476508_201613236014742989_n26730974_10212855302876493_4465871728614615735_n26731276_10212855304276528_7470856049574842863_n26731425_10212855298916394_5685643488885081487_n26731613_10212855299916419_3917641583841875086_n26733716_10212855301236452_5557130534295673676_n26733880_10212855299036397_2128845207336362514_n26734230_10212855301796466_7115870245270538320_n26804857_10212855298556385_779950847361261615_n26804957_10212855301156450_7798444550370430898_n

Bonjourno

Bonjourno

Florence Italy Lover's Bridge

A perfect January day in Florence, Italy.

I am home from a two week adventure in Italy, complete with Christmas trees, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” style adventures, and finding those lost shadows, and romance for the soul.

So many handsome men, so many cute dogs, SO MUCH ART.

26167418_10212813074740816_7344292004177549822_n

And coffee. Oh the coffee.

And the wine.

I’ll be posting my stories soon. But I’m back for 2018 with new features, new blog posts, new insights on parenting, relationships, elders, tall tales, and critters.

When we arrived home around midnight this morning we were greeted by rain and the sound of millions of frogs.

It is always good to travel, but it is good to be home.

~ Juliette aka Vampire Maman