Find-a-grave-ing – an unappreciated hobby

A few weeks ago, my sister texting me, asking “wanna go find-a-grave-ing?” I immediately replied “HELL YES!” and we made plans for the following weekend. Then I told Jon and he said “What? I’m working this weekend. Can’t you reschedule for a time I can go with you?” Ok… so we did. Then I told my mother, and she said “Oooh! That sounds like fun. I’d love to go… but I won’t bother you young people… you go on without me.” (I’m 46 btw).

Who knew that so many people loved cemeteries? But why shouldn’t they? Myself, once I got past my youthful avoidance of mortality, have come to love them. They are peaceful, interesting, and often, uncrowded. You go to a park and it’s full of kids and dogs and people and blah blah blah. A cemetery is usually deserted, with the exception of a dog walker or two and maybe a family visiting a departed relative (but dog walkers are more common).

SOOO… what’s find-a-grave-ing? My sister and my parents (and sometimes myself) like to dig into geneology and they’re often hunting for a long lost ancester or two. I find it very strange that even though my father’s side of the family is from Minnesota, and 4 out of 5 of us ended up in Maine that there is a big Maine connection to the Ebinger side of the family. Norridgewock, Bangor, Vassalboro, Augusta… our relatives are buried all over this land. We’ve found most of them, though, so now my sister has taken to finding other people’s relatives!

If you go to Findagrave.com, you can look for graves of your relatives, and you can also request that other people look for graves for you. So, for instance, if I have an ancestor buried in California, but I live in Maine, I can ask some nice Californians to look for my grave and take a photo. That way I can find out interesting info, like death date, etc. So my sister found a list of graves that needed finding in Augusta, and away we went!

I should also mention that this is a common pastime for me and Jon as well. He likes to take photos and turn them into 3D images and his favorite subject is gravestones. We’ve frequented many cemeteries from Portland to Bath to Brunswick and Augusta, so we know our way our a graveyard. But this time, we went to Riverside Cemetery in Augusta (known for being right behind the Dairy Queen, which we did take advantage of), and Mount Vernon Cemetery, part of Mount Hope Cemetery. My fitbit tells me I got 12,000 steps in that day (pretty good for this lazy gal), and we had a lovely day of walking and familiarizing ourselves with all the surnames of Maine – Clarke and Pullen and Haskell and Morse, Allen and Norcross, Kimball and Storey. I love that nearly every name I came across, I knew someone with that last name.

Here’s some photos. I was looking for James Thwing and I couldn’t read these. I thought maybe I could digitally enhance them.

I also found some Fennos. It’s a name I’d never heard before but apparently we have some in the family. Now my sister has turned me on to a mystery of the Vassalboro Farriss’es – William who was married to Elizabeth, who died in 1807 BUT he married another women in 1806!!! I’m on it. I love a good mystery.

Down the rabbit hole, and into the garden.

Down the rabbit hole…

My mind does not work linearly. I’m a “down the rabbit” hole kind of explorer and I love every minute of it. I think that’s why I’m good at trivia. Because at some point, I’ve read lightly about almost every topic after stumbling upon it from a search for something else. What I love about this way of exploring is that I get the feeling that I’m in the middle of an expanding circle that keeps getting more and more interesting. And so many things often converge that tie into each other and inform one another.

I’ve noticed this about some of my hobbies and interests. An area that I’ve been intrigued by for a very long time is related to plants and nature and medicine and fragrance and self care. I often think that if I lived in another time and place, I would be the village herbalist or a shaman or the procurer of food for my pioneer family. I’d completely be the one looking at that wild mushroom saying “I’m sure it’ll be fine! Here, I’ll just try a nibble.”

I love the idea of self sufficiency and being able to get everyone you need from the land outside your door. I’ve recently been buying things from a local herbalist. She grows or forages all of the plants and concocts them into formulas. I buy them somewhat randomly and I don’t really know if they work, but I get a kick out of it anyway, and it’s made me want to try to grow things again.

My relationship with gardening is not awesome. I love plants and flowers, and I love CREATING a garden but that dastardly maintenance kills me (and all my plants) every time. There are some hardy souls in my garden. The dogwood that really shouldn’t survive in a Maine climate, but does anyway (thought it took 10 years to blossom). The China Girl Holly that wasn’t particularly healthy when I got from Lowes or some such place, but has grown into a beautiful and healthy specimen by my front door. The bearded irises that grow and spread and bloom and are beautiful, no matter how much I dig them up and move them. The PJM rhodos that got overgrown and leggy until a few years ago, I cut them down hard and they survived and thrived.

Last year, I decided it was time for a garden rejuvenation, so I started by clearing out a very large weedy area and this year, my plan is tackle the front garden – really the most visible part of my yard. It’s about a 24 X 24 foot space with the dogwood in the middle and rhodos by the house. So I’ve been manically thinking about what to plant. A few things are on my mind:

  • Herbs and plants I can make tinctures out of so I can play medicine woman – and also use for cooking
  • Flowers, and plants that I can harvest for fragrances (tying into my new candle making hobby – maybe more on that soon)
  • Edibles other than herbs, like lettuces and greens to feed those voracious bunnies.
  • Flowers for cutting so I can always have a beautiful bouquet in the summertime.

I love the idea of mixing all these things together into something wild and beautiful like an English cottage garden. For expertise I’m relying on my mom (who proclaims “Oh I don’t know what I’m doing! I’m just dig a whole and plant it! – and comes up with the most gorgeous garden in all the land), and my good friend BH&G – with lots of garden plans that I can steal from.

But right now… it’s still March. I want to think spring is here, but it’s really not. So for now, I’ll dream and plan, and stay awake plotting and digging and smelling and enjoying the garden of my imagination. Here are some photos from last summer of areas that I plan to improve or build upon this year.