I have been in this city for a fair number of decades, but I do not claim to have seen all the sights. I had a few hours between work and visiting with a friend, so I set out to visit Volunteer Park.
I soon found out that I had been there before. Multiple times. One of the quirks of Washington is that we have so many parks, it is hard to keep track of them all.
As I strolled around the perimeter, I saw two more places worth taking in. The first was a mini park. Nothing grandiose. I do not think it had any great draw to it. Unless you count the view. Here, in a land surrounded by concrete, condominium buildings, and underground tunnels, was a break from all the manmade constructs. Here was open air, a panoramic view, and encouragement to catch your breath.
Next door is Lake View Cemetery. I do not know that I have ever properly visited a cemetery. My parents have a burial plot on the side of their church building. But taking the time, going out of one’s way to visit and walk past the tombstones? That was new to me. I went into the office and asked the receptionist if she had any suggestions. The first landmark she mentioned was Bruce Lee’s grave. She mentioned the nice views, the city founders, the hilltop; by the time I left, she had essentially recommended the entire cemetery.
I walked around for forty-five minutes. I stopped and looked at monuments and plaques that were interesting. I recognized names from Seattle’s history and street signs. I saw the humble plaques and the towering statues. I cannot say that my opinion on cemeteries changed.
My personal stance on death is that you do not need the body. When my brain stops sending signals to the rest of my body, say goodbye. Rip out the useful organs, give them to people that can use them, and dispose of the remains without too much fuss. You want to remember me? Read my book. Want to do right by me? Be nice to people. But do not name anything after me. Do not let me take up more space once I am gone, because it will not be me that is there. I do not want my ashes preserved or a coffin.
Obviously, others have differing opinions. People want to be remembered. It can provide closure if you can see the person’s body. Maybe you feel closer to someone if you have a monument you can visit. That might be the lens that others view cemeteries through.
To me, it feels like we are constructing monuments that will let us live on after we die. How much difference is there between a stone obelisk and the Space Needle? Does a tomb vary that much from a skyscraper? They all start with a manmade structure, but what should matter are the people contained within (or under.)
From where I was standing, it did not make a lot of sense to me. A hunk of marble would not replace the person that I missed. Statues are nice, but they are still constructs, not people. If others find value and meaning from cemeteries, then I certainly want to respect that. As for me? No connection. Perhaps I have not lost enough people yet? Maybe I will see in a few years.
Volunteer Park- that I get. Open green spaces. Room to walk around. And it has the water tower. The water tower is offline at the moment, but it served a purpose. (883,300 gallons of water fit in that tank.) It had function. There just so happens to be a nice brick structure around it. A nice change of pace; you can go up the stairs and see the sights. This sort of construct makes sense to me. Water. Tourism. Variety.
With so many parks (and cemeteries) around, I do not have to love every single one. We can share the city. Done properly, the living (and no-longer-living) can carve out their own little spot.