Sunday, February 24, 2013

M A Campbell, 1801 - 1803

    I took these photos in the cemetery back this October past. I'd been talking with my good friend Michael who has a fondness for owls and cemeteries, and it occured to me that I had never photographed something interesting in Forest Lawn. There is no shortage of interesting, singular, quiet and beautiful aspects to and monuments within the Lawn. This has left no shortage of photos left to be taken; and so I am always up for the opportunity to document and share new sights with all who may be reading here. With that thought in mind, I took my camera to M A Campbell's monument, thinking I would quickly write up a blog post. I find myself four months later finally coming across the pictures in my camera, and organizaing and uploading them.

    I first came to know M A Campbell's monument when on a tour one beating warm summer afternoon in Forest Lawn's air conditioned trolley, one of my favorite guides began discussing what I have always thought of as "tree stones." These gravestones made to look like old trees, from a mostly older time, spanning a wide period between the nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries. My guide mentioned the art of these tree stones was popular and symbolic for a considerable amount of time-- and in many instances, the condition of the tree is related to the life a person lived. Cut or broken branches are a sign that the person in memorium died young, cut down in the prime of their life. Such a clear metaphor, one that never occured to me before I was told it. In doing some of my own digging and researching online, I haven't found much on the origin of where these stones might have come from. Some sources credit a society founded in 1890 with the start of this practice; however, I've personally seen many of these that  were made from as many as ninety to one-hundred years before 1890. My own thoughts figure the stones were a common practice, and this society co-opted them and made their own versions for their members, as can be seen here. 

   But I digress. M A Campbell's tree stands in something of a clearing in Forest Lawn. On the original 80 acres, not far from the Pratt Monument I have written about. The tree stands rather by itself, which seems unlike so many places in the older areas of the cemetery. I had walked and ran past it many times, and even took photos of it, but when my tour guide that summer day mentioned that one of the Lawn's tree stones had the detail of an owl looking out a hole in the tree, I took immediately to looking for the stone in question, and quickly found it. What I had loved about M A Campbell's gravestone before was the open book resting on the tree, with the words of a life written on the pages, open. It had never occured to me to look up, really up, and see the owl sitting in the top of the broken tree.

    The feel the owl brings to the stone fits rather beautifully into this spot in the cemetery. The first time I read M A Campbell's dates on the stone I was confused. At first glance, I took the person's name to be "Ma," a likely nickname for a grown woman, quite possibly a mother or grandmother. But a reading of the dates shows M A Campbell was a two year old child at the time of her or his death. A child who was born in 1801 and passed on in 1803. A child who had a family willing and able to construct this elaborate, artistic remembrance. I don't believe a two year old would have been called "Ma," but it is possible. Rather, I believe that M A are "M. A.": the child's initials. Standing for what first and middle names, I may never know. There is nothing I have found on the Internet or beyond. Only this monument, a tree, standing as testament to a life ended so soon after it began-- a life with immense potential and roots large as this tree; a life ended, this broken tree, which nature has reclaimed, with our owl standing guard in his residence above.

    The book of a life, the tree of a life, the natural end to one's life. Simple truth, standing alone in this silent clearing in Forest Lawn.

 You can see my whole album of M A Campbell in October, here: 
M A Campbell, Forest Lawn Cemetery, October 2012

All Photos Copyright Bryan Ball Photography, All Rights Reserved. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

"Sunnyside," Washington Irving's Home; Terrytown, NY

 Back in October, I made one last stop before leaving Sleepy Hollow. While the running around and taking the last few photos I wanted to was the last thing I officially did in the Village of Sleepy Hollow, before heading back home and across the state, I stopped at Washington Irving's home, "Sunnyside" in Terrytown.

 I wasn't sure what to expect. I hadn't seen a photo of the house or grounds before heading there. I only knew it lay further down the Hudson than anywhere else I'd been in Terrytown during the weekend. You park-- or at least on the Columbus Day weekend-- in a parking lot of what I believe were corporate offices of Kraft Foods, and take a shuttle bus a few miles down the road, and turn onto a narrower, winding road surrounded by trees and near woods, and a few very large houses. Very large houses.

 You come at the end to a parking lot next to what I can only describe as an antique looking-garden, and a small house. There is a declining hill and several buildings, and the sizable house that is Sunnyside at the base of the slope, right on the Hudson. For twenty dollars you can make it onto the grounds, and take a tour of the house.

 In Sleepy Hollow the day before, another tourist had mentioned that Sunnyside seemed to be more geared toward children-- but I still wanted to go, see what it was like, and walk the grounds that were home to the talent who wrote the legend of the Horseman.

 Sunnyside does have a lot to offer children and families. The sprawling grounds offer room for all sorts of activities, and the crew that manages Sunnyside takes full advantage that fact. There is story-telling (which I sadly missed), crafts, a playground, even outdoor cutouts you can stick your face through and have your photo taken as Ichabod, the Horseman or Rip Van Winkle. Which I may or may not have partaken in. There was scarecrow making for the children-- something that I would loved to have done, regradless of my age. But this activity was apparently only for the little ones. Sadly.

 Washington Irving's house is neither extremely large or small. The grounds, even with children running around shouting in the distance, are cool and calming, and as you walk to the front door alongside the Hudson River, you know this is an ideal place for a writer to be. Work, live. You understand. I took several photos outside the house, but none inside; they were not allowed. The tour is quick, taking you in small groups to Irving's library and workspace, dining room, hallways and kitchen. In each room is a person dressed as a member of the household staff, and they speak of how Sunnyside was a fully functioning home and estate, with the Irving family, a staff or servants and raised livestock.

 After the tour you leave the kitchen you come out into the courtyard-- where there is a rather ominous looking small structure: Irving's ice house. Designed by the writer himself to look like a "Gothic chapel" the ice house was a necessary function the household depended on to store ice in for the home, for refrigeration purposes. Without knowing the function of the ice house, the place is quite odd looking-- a small and unusual elegant shack of sorts, with large saws on the wall.

 After walking around Sunnyside for a while, I came to the refreshment stand next to the gift shop. Where I may have had pie and hot apple cider, the last official event of my Sleepy Hollow weekend.

 I hope to go back to Sleepy Hollow, someday. What I wasn't able to do as tickets were sold out the entire time I was there and well before, was see The Great Jack O'Lantern Blaze, an attraction the woman at the Sunnyside refreshment stands attested to the worthiness of. "Blaze" takes place at the Van Courtlant Manor, and consists of more than 5,000 individually carved jack o'lanterns put together in a variety of displays. I would like to see that. And I would like to go back to the cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, and explore. More, take photos. Of course. Yes, I think I will go back there someday.

You can see my complete Photo Album for my "Sunnyside" visit here:
Sunnyside, Washington Irving's Home; Tarrytown, NY

And you can read all the posts from my Sleepy Hollow Weekend 2012 here. 

 One last note to leave the writing of Sleepy Hollow on, for now. Here is a photo of myself I couldn't resist taking the first night, the first time I saw the Horseman's bridge, the Old Dutch Church and the cemetery.

All Photos Copyright Bryan Ball Photography, All Rights Reserved. 

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Leaving Sleepy Hollow

My last morning in Sleepy Hollow. Consisted of a few things. I had wanted to get proper photos of the Sleepy Hollow town sign, try and get as close as possible to the lighthouse, photograph another statue of Ichabod and the Horseman's ride I had seen the first night.

 It was cooler than the two days previous, but pleasant. Passing the cemetery again a last few times, I so badly wanted to go back in-- but knew there was no time.

 The lighthouse stands in the Hudson, looking neither very old nor new-- but seems perfectly suited for the waters off Terrytown and the Hollow. Because of confusion on my part and trying to find out more about the lighthouse online, I thought there might still be tours going on that Monday (though it was the Columbus Day holiday) but some more Internet digging showed the tours were done for the season. After some driving, asking a local person, and more driving, I was able to find a waterfront park that overlooked the lighthouse, almost directly. I didn't see the sign that you had to have a valid Westchester County resident's ID until I was on my way out, however.

 In the photos of the lighthouse, you can see the Tappan Zee bridge, some geese and New York City in the distance, miles away. The park was mostly deserted, dare I say ghostly-- and very relaxed. I could have taken photos there all day-- and, looking at how some of them turned out, I should have taken more-- but there was much more to be done before heading back home.

 I was able to stop by the village sign and snap some photos, and some of the local high school's sign (the school stands right behind the village sign). The high school who's team name, of course, is the Horsemen.

 I was able to find again the spot where this stone carving commemorating Irving's story was, by the front of the entrance to the "Horseman's Hollow" haunt. There is something small and serious about this carving-- and what struck me most about this was the decisive side the statue takes on the story. In the stone, which looks as if it would fit perfectly amongst the graves of the cemetery, the horseman chasing Ichabod has clearly covered his head with a sheet. One of the things I love most about the legend is that-- like all good ghost stories of its kind-- it leaves the reader, listener not knowing. Was Ichabod felled by the Horseman's specter-- or something more humanly sinister, at the hands of Brom Bones? I found it interesting that I finally really looked at this in the light of day. Here, it appears the sculptor believes the Horseman was not a ghost, but Brom Bones. But why, then, I always wonder, would Brom want to attack Ichabod-- after Ichabod had just lost Katrina to Brom? Did Katrina also reject Brom? Was Brom simply an insufferable bully? Or was the ghost real? For all its beauty, the story never tells you-- though this piece of art makes a guess.

 And so I left the Village of Sleepy Hollow, with one more stop to make it Terrytown before beginning the trip back across New York State, for home.

View my complete Photo Album here:
Leaving Sleepy Hollow

All Photos Copyright Bryan Ball Photography, All Rights Reserved.