Friday, October 28, 2011

John Muir at Bonaventure


We left Winston-Salem on Tuesday afternoon to spend a few days in Disney World.  We stopped for the night in Savannah.  I'd never visted Bonaventure Cemetery, made famous in "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," but somehow I convinced my family to make a quick stop. 

John Muir, the famous naturalist, wrote about Bonaventure Cemetery in his 1916 book "A Thousand-Mile Walk to the Gulf."  Chapter 4 is entitled "Camping Among the Tombs," and in it he describes sleeping at Bonaventure.  Here are a few things he had to say about the experience:

"If that burying-ground across the Sea of Galilee, mentioned in Scripture, was half as beautiful as Bonaventure, I do not wonder that a man should dwell among the tombs. ...

There is but little to be seen on the way in land, water, or sky, that would lead one to hope for the glories of Bonaventure. The ragged desolate fields, on both sides of the road, are overrun with coarse rank weeds, and show scarce a trace of cultivation. But soon all is changed. Rickety log huts, broken fences, and the last patch of weedy rice-stubble are left behind. You come to beds of purple liatris and living wild-wood trees. You hear the song of birds, cross a small stream, and are with Nature in the grand old forest graveyard, so beautiful that almost any sensible person would choose to dwell here with the dead rather than with the lazy, disorderly living. ...

The most conspicuous glory of Bonaventure is its noble avenue of live-oaks. They are the most magnificent planted trees I have ever seen, about fifty feet high and perhaps three or four feet in diameter, with broad spreading leafy heads. The main branches reach out horizontally until they come together over the driveway, embowering it throughout its entire length, while each branch is adorned like a garden with ferns, flowers, grasses, and dwarf palmettos."

Based on my visit to Bonaventure Cemetery, nearly 100 years after Muir, his observations are spot-on. 

Tanya Marsh

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