Dead in Good Company: authors and photographers John Harrison and Kim Nagy’
There are many faces behind the stones within the gates of Mount. Auburn Cemetery and each one has his/her own story waiting to be told. Author and photographer John Harrison created an anthology of stories told by individual authors and pictures he personally took to allow visitors, readers and members of the families of those lying beneath the gravestones to hear their voices for eternity. Like the characters in a novel or the actors in a play each one has a role played in life and each one’s story deserves to be told. But, what makes this book even more remarkable is that the stories told are personal experiences that each writer, author or contributor wants to share with readers. The first story focuses on an experience author Bill Martin had when walking through the cemetery and coming to the grave of Edwin Booth. The connection between Booth and Lincoln is interesting but the one to Wilkes Booth even more. The history behind this man’s life and the voices that Martin describes keeps you riveted to the printed page. But, the most compelling part of the story is the Hawk and his austere attitude and superior countenance as he lords over the headstone of Booth and lets visitors know he’s there.
A Recipe for Memories is one of my favorite accounts in this book as related by Hank Phillippi Ryan. Imagine walking through Mount Auburn and the sense of Taste coming to mind. Food is not permitted here but remembering her mom’s chocolate chip cookies and even how she taught her to make fried chicken helped to evoke this sense in more ways than one. She related a cute story about Thanksgiving and the stuffing. Visiting her Mom’s grave and seeing her headstone brought back memories with her sister and finding clippings and magazines of recipes with handwritten instructions. How valuable are these thoughts! While her mother promised you perfect results if you followed her recipes after you read this story you will want her grandmothers famous coffee cake but till this day no one can figure out the right measurements. Fannie Merritt Farmer and her recipes round out this story as the author describes “ The mother of level measurements.” To learn more and possibly pick up a copy of her book read the story.
Wayne R. Petersen shares “ The Yellow-rumped Warbler An Old and Familiar Friend along with photos by Kim Nagy which not only adds to the story but brings it to life. The pictures are so lifelike making the birds your guide through the cemetery. Ray Flynn’s story is quite exciting titled Voices Still Heard. As U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican Ray Flynn enjoyed weekends off and visiting Mount Auburn brought back memories of visiting the cemetery with his brother. As Mayor of Boston he attended the funeral of a friend with his wife and two children. Remembering the gravestone of some of the famous Boston mayors. One in particular Josiah Quincy is the focal point of a story related to U.S. Senator Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr. Lodge the author relates fought in the Second World War. During his political career he was a U.S. Ambassador and U.S. Senator defeating Governor James Michael Curley in 1936. At his gravestone he shared a special story about when he was elected to the Massachusetts House of Representatives in 1970. The story focuses on the careers of both, public opinion about both men and fact that rivals had respect for each other as you hear and see Henry Cabot Lodge deliver a heartfelt speech about Curley and why a statue should be erected in his memory. The rest you need to read for yourself to learn how opposite sides came together and why. Wouldn’t that be great today in the political arena?
Gary Goshgarian’s story “Recollections Among the Dead,” is the next entry I am spotlighting. Romance: what a concept to define a cemetery! Odd for that type of venue nonetheless the story he tells relates where he and his wife lived in an apartment block on Mount Auburn Street. Busy with cars, the “air laced with exhaust fumes,” can you see it? Talking about the burial spot of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. describing the trees and the acreage of “Sweet Auburn.” You can see the amazing foliage and you learn about the best attraction found which is that Ms. Eddy was buried with a telephone in her hand. The incredible monument of Mary Baker Eddy, who was the founder of the Church of Christ, Scientist. The rest you have to read for yourself.
The photos taken by John Harrison of the Northern Flicker, robins and Osprey bring to life the beauty of Mount Auburn. It’s as if each one of these birds has its own story to tell and wants his/her voice to be heard by the many visitors that come each day. Katherine Hall Page’s contribution “Sweet Auburn’s Shades is the next to spotlight. Her contribution talks about Susan Wilson’s book and the tour of this cemetery and how it got its name. She even explains that the word cemetery comes from the Greek Koimeterian, meaning place of sleep. Mount Auburn became the country’s first garden cemetery. Loving trees she describes how in Sunday school she learned or was taught that we could all become trees someday. She continues to talk about saints and many of her Universalist beliefs. The voices that she hears of poet David McCord, a member of her church and she can not only hear his voice but also can see his smile. Eleanor Hodgeman Porter lies in this cemetery too, Her stone she describes as an “elegant Corinthian column with a plague at the base.” She visits relatives here and she talks about the sense of history, personal shared, the landscape and much more. “That good night, which awaits us all, is eternally expressed, ever regenerating in “Sweet Auburn.” John Hadidian presents pictures that bring to life the many animals that make their home in the cemetery. The Red Fox is featured and you can almost see them hunt their prey and watch as they catch it. John Harrison, our author’s story is titled Loving Lucy, which believe it or not is not a person, but his own personal Hawk. He describes the take off and the landings and the “proud and fierce demeanor.” Taking thousands of photos of Sweet Auburn’s Red –tailed Hawks since that February Day when he first spotted them. Naming one Lucy and one Ricky and then Hamlet and Ophelia when Lucy was no longer there. Check out Lucy on page 132 and After Lucy on pages 135 through 139. John adds pictures of Big Caesar and his Clan, which are so graphic and expressive you, might think that Big Caesar is talking to you and telling you that this is his territory. I love the poem by Anneliese Merrigan titled: Mount Auburn Sojourn. She uses three different verbs to describe the many emotions and feelings you get walking through this cemetery. “PauseL just for a moment, as quick as an effortless breath, And inhale all that this place has to offer.” The picture of the drawing of the Red-tailed Hawk is expressive taken by the author of this poem. Kate Flora shares Dead In Good Company and a special picture of a Groundhog taken by John Harrison. Kim Nagy shares The Owls and the pictures of each one allow you to know that these amazing animals help her to reflect she says when she sees the empty next in the honey locust tree in this cemetery she remembers the owls. She describes the sadness and stress of the experiences with her mother and shares her own personal story. Added in the photos of raccoons, coyote Lois, Wild Turkey Tour sing and Northern Parula and many other colorful photos. The book concludes with Spring Migrants and Other Favorites by John Harrison. The Hoaded Warbler, the Golden-crown Kinglet and my favorite the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The photos are amazing and the each bird has his/her own special expression and seems to be posing for the camera letting visitors know that they are part of the landscape of Sweet Auburn. I really love the Ruby-throated Hummingbird and the Red-bellied Woodpecker. Look at the faces of these birds and you can hear their special voices saying come and visit Mount Auburn and create you own special stories with those that lie beneath the many stones. Dead in Good Company is an anthology of stories and pictures that will make you want to get into your car and take a trip to Cambridge Massachusetts and see the amazing cemetery for yourself. The voices can be heard of those that are there and the pictures bring their stories and more to life.
Fran Lewis: MJ magazine and Just reviews