09 November 2010

A French cemetery

In France, the main story on the news today is that November 9 is the 40th anniversary of the death of General de Gaulle. Charles de Gaulle was not only a military and political giant in France, but also a major figure on the world stage for 30 years, from the begining of the Second World War until 1970.

That made me think about cemeteries. We visited one on All Saints' Day — La Toussaint, November 1 — over in Faverolles-sur-Cher, across the river from Montrichard. November 1 the day when people take flowers, usually pots of chrysantemums, to graveyards all over France.

Splashes of vivid color on a brown and gray background

I wrote about that visit earlier, but here are some more pictures. French cemeteries are very different from American cemeteries. First, there's no grass. That difference really gives the French graveyards the feel of a yard in the British sense of the term — think courtyard, lumber yard, shipyard, etc. Pavement or gravel...

A French graveyard

In other words, the French cemetery doesn't feel like a park, the way cemeteries feel in America (and probably in other Anglo-Saxon countries). There's something colder and more formal about the place. In November, however, there are bright splashes of color — the 'mums — contrasting with the dark, cold gravestones and monuments.

Nothing looks more French than these skeletal trees.

Meanwhile, the weather in Saint-Aignan has turned November-like. It rains and rains. The wind blows. The leaves are falling rapidly. It's dark and dreary. It's time to get in the kitchen and start cooking real comfort foods — I have a pot of black-eyed peas on the stove right now, for lunch.

A typical tomb, with real and artificial flowers

I'd really like to get out and do some of the work in the garden and yard that piled up while I nursed my sprained ankle and toured around with friends visiting from California, but now it's not possible. The ground is spongy, almost squishy, because of all the rain we're having.

The ornate and the austere the cemetery at Faverolles

Walt just came back from the morning walk with the dog. They got caught in a squall. Callie got soaked. It's almost inevitable this time of year.


  1. Indeed we do treat cemeteries like parks in the UK. The older ones even have areas that are deliberately allowed to get overgrown, rather than manicured: some sort of life must go on. There are also "Friends" organisations that provide volunteers to help with maintenance, recording the history of the place, and so on. My local Friends organisation recently organised a Family Fun Day - yes, at the cemetery.

  2. Also, some UK graveyards are now wild flower havens thanks to the way they've been managed over the years... some have some pretty rare plants in their turf.

    As for the weather.... YUCK! Good for ducks only.... but we have managed to get a lot of those little indoor tasks that were put aside whilst the fair weather was with us!!

    The word verification is "conabio".... a new form of eco coffee perhaps?

  3. There is a beautiful old cemetery near Southampton UK, left to go totally wild, full of flowers in summer, creeping plants part-covering the gravestones, birds flitting everywhere, a magical place I thought, much prefer that to the austere French ones!


  4. There is an old Mason's cemetery near the home where I grew up here in Eugene. An organization that is privately funded by neighbors and companies supports maintenance and periodically has small events there. When I studied horticulture in a small J.C. in Illinois, oftentimes the photos of various plant species were located in large, famous cemeteries throughout the U.S.

    Your comparison of the french vs. other cemeteries seems accurate to me. Very astute. I had just pegged the difference to different cultures and let it go at that.

    We're having continuous rain here for the entire week! I'm inside sewing a costume for my daughter's violin gig this Thursday and reading blogs (!)

  5. I came across something the other day that made me appreciate DeGaulle more. Apparently, as a youngish officer in the '30s, he wrote about how there would be another war and that fixed defenses were not a good idea. But politics trumped military sense, alas, as his ideas were disregarded.


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