I love visiting cemeteries. Many people find them foreboding places meant only to be visited in order to see the grave of someone who's passed away, or for a funeral... but not me. This does not mean that I dwell on death or the dead, or even find death an easy thing to think about. I see cemeteries as public gardens, sometimes well landscaped, and always places that inspire reflective thoughts. I will often meditate, or elevate my awareness to a much more focused and rich place. Old and ancient cemeteries take this to an entirely different level.  

I visited Pere Lachaise in Paris three years ago for the first time, drawn like many, to seek out Jim Morrison's Grave. That destination was not the highlight for me that day, but rather, the age and condition of the gravestones as well as the large number of sanctuaries. The sanctuaries often line the cobblestone pathways in such close proximity that they appear to be a meandering wall. Many of these structures are narrow and tilting in what would appear to be a procacious manner. As if the skyscrapers forming the canyons in NYC were planted without squares.

Visitors come to Pere Lachaise to visit family, friends, and famous people interred here, such as Marcel Proust, Oliver Wilde, and of course Jim Morrison. Others come here for a peaceful walk, smoke (Parisians do love their cigarettes), or lunch, much like a walk around a pond or in the woods. Once a suburban Paris cemetery, Pere Lachaise is now the largest cemetery in Paris. Although Pere Lachaise is over 200 years old, it is still an active cemetery, as I witnessed on my recent visit.  

Strolls up and down the winding cobblestone roads, and off into smaller formal and informal paths, present so many old structures. Some structures are better kept than others, and some appear to be completely unmaintained... glass broken on sanctuary doors, open rust sores bleeding iron oxide carried by intermittent rains. 

Like a cemetery itself, one might find this structural aging process hard to find pleasure in, and even disturbing. But as I am drawn to cemeteries, I find fascination and deeper meaning in these imperfections. In some ways, they mirror life and the aging process as our bodies show signs of care or lack thereof as we grow older. In the wrinkled face of 90-year-old person is the beauty of experience and wisdom. In the abrasions of moss and cob-webbed tombstone is a naturally formed mural of art. From within an ancient unmaintained sanctuary, sprouts a blooming rose seeking sunlight.

Drawn by her peaceful garden in Paris, this gallery represents my discovery of some of the organic cemetery murals of Pere Lachaise.

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