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Roslyn's photography, art, cats, exploring, writing, life


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Holy Cross Cemetery: looking at trees

It’s no secret that walking is my favorite form of exercise. It used to be riding my bicycle. That was a different period of my life when I enjoyed hurtling along the bike path feeling the ocean air against my face. It was a feeling of joyous freedom and I couldn’t imagine ever giving it up.

culver city holy cross trees

The day came, due to numerous injuries, mostly from running, I had to surrender my bicycle. But I don’t mind. I’ve always enjoyed walking anyway.

It's no secret that walking is my favorite form of exercise. It used to be riding my bicycle. That was a different period of my life when I enjoyed hurtling along the bike path feeling the ocean air against my face. It was a feeling of joyous freedom and I couldn't imagine ever giving it up.Walking is a whole different spiritual experience from riding a bike or running. It slows everything down and allows for an in-depth inspection and appreciation of the world. culver city holy cross treesNow that I am “back” into photography…. not that I ever really left… riding a bike or running doesn’t correlate with carrying a camera. I enjoy stopping and looking. Really looking at the details.

culver city holy cross trees

On Sunday I was a little down for various reasons… I didn’t have any plans (which is not a bad thing) but I couldn’t shake the feelings of doom and gloom hanging over me. I had various choices: stay in bed all day, time how long it would take to consume a whole bottle of vodka, binge-watch episodes of a TV show on Netflix… you get the picture… nothing hit me as being satisfying.

culver city holy cross trees

I know the best medicine for me is always to get dressed, pick up the camera and go outside for a walk. As I needed to take care of some errands that required driving my car (most of the time she sits in the garage while I take public transportation) I decided I might as well visit Holy Cross Cemetery, a short drive from my house in Culver City. I used to live within a short walk but now it’s really too much of a haul on foot, even for an intrepid walker like myself.

culver city holy cross trees

Not to seem too morbid but I enjoy the peace and solitude of the cemetery. It is beautifully landscaped with some good views of the mountains, ocean, etc. No matter what kind of crazy mood I am in I always leave there feeling glad to be alive. Grateful I am above ground and not under it.

culver city holy cross trees

On other days I’ve taken pictures of the landscape, the views and the grave stones. On this day I had my 60mm macro lens on my camera. There are some amazing tree trunks in the cemetery so I decided to concentrate on those.

culver city holy cross trees

I appreciate abstract art. Mother Nature seems to enjoy it too.

culver city holy cross treesTree trunks provide a never-ending variety of abstract patterns and designs.

culver city holy cross trees

I never tire of looking at them. And as I didn’t have to be anywhere in particular I was able to take my time standing and staring at these wonderful works of art.

culver city holy cross trees

Whenever I spend time at Holy Cross I tell myself I must come back more often. And then I don’t. But I know it is always waiting there to offer an oasis in the midst of a harried day.

culver city holy cross trees

Okay, I must come back more often!

All photos and content copyright roslyn m wilkins. Please feel free to pass along this post via email or social media, but if you wish to use some of our images or text outside of the context of this blog, either give full credit to myself and link to One Good Life in Los Angeles, or contact us for proper usage. Thanks!

 


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My favorite time of year at Culver City’s Holy Cross Cemetery

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Holy Cross Cemetery is one of my favorite places to walk. Some of the hills are quite steep, some a little more gentle. The views are always spectacular. And even on a foggy or smoggy day when it’s hard to see the mountains or the ocean, there are the beautiful trees to look at.

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But my favorite time of year is around Christmas. Holy Cross is a Catholic Cemetery and therefore quite a few hispanic people are spending eternity in the ground… at least their bodies are. The nice part of their belief system is that the deceased continue on as members of the family and are commemorated as such.

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So at Christmas the graves are decorated just as if the corpses lying beneath the grass can appreciate the ribbons and flowers and baubles placed there by their relatives. I think it’s a lovely tradition. Whole families will set up folding chairs, have picnics and enjoy music. It’s like they are saying, yes you have left this earthly realm but you are still alive with us.

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Although I walk around the cemetery during the year as it is a convenient stop for me on the way home, I make a special effort to drive over there at this time of year.

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The sad part is the section reserved for babies and children. What could have happened to a three-month-old baby or a five-year-old boy or a nineteen-year-old young lady just starting her life?

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One of my favorite spots is the Grotto filled with votive candles. Over the years I stopped there many times asking the Universe for favors.

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Then I heard Dr. Wayne Dyer say you can’t use the Universe (or God or the Creative Force, or whatever you want to call it) like an ATM machine expecting to get something out of it all the time. That made me stop and think.

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My life completely changed when I started being grateful for everything in my life rather than asking for things I didn’t have, which merely emphasized what was missing. Now my glass is half full instead of half empty. In fact, it is full to the top.

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So, even though I still have my bad days, now when I walk through the cemetery I feel fortunate that I survived this long and can walk among the grave stones rather than being buried under one.

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culver-city-holy-cross-cemetery-2012

culver-city-holy-cross-cemetery-2012

(Photos copyright roslyn m wilkins)


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Walking with the Dead

View from Holy Cross Cemetery

I lived in Culver City at least six or seven years before venturing inside. I drove past the gates a gazillion times on my way to and from the freeway. I said to myself, I must look in there someday. But this day I had to get home. I had things to do. I didn’t have the time. And so the years passed—and I passed on by.

I don’t even remember the first time I decided to make the effort to visit, but it must have made an impression as I have been going back ever since, and for over fifteen years Holy Cross Cemetery has been one of my favorite Culver City walks. My suggestion to walk around the cemetery sometimes meets with strange reactions, but everybody who has walked with me has agreed that it is indeed a spectacular place to spend some time.

Although I do like to glance at the gravestones and read the inscriptions as I walk by (after all, that is why this beautiful park exists), because the stones lie flat in the ground, the ambience is more like a beautifully coiffed golf course than a typical graveyard.

The cemetery sits on gently rolling hills with vistas of the ocean and mountains. Although “gently rolling” can be a misnomer when you are on foot as some of the grades can be quite steep. Slowly trudging upwards on a hot day when I am gasping for air, I have had drivers stop to offer me a ride to the top, especially on the days when I need to use my cane. I always have to explain, thank you, but I’m doing this for fun!

The cemetery is landscaped with plenty of trees providing homes and snacks for the squirrels and birds. Often I have seen red-tailed hawks circling above. On one unfortunate day I saw a hawk dive into a tree followed by white feathers scattered into the air and a squawking bird being carried off in the hawk’s claws—the cycle of life and death.

White marble statues of saints or members of the holy family are placed at various intervals around the park, adding to the feeling of peace and harmony. Even when I’m having a particularly chaotic day, as soon as I enter the grounds, all my frustrations and anxieties are washed away. Sometimes I have to force myself to get in my car and make the three-mile drive, but in the end it is always worthwhile—a better choice than drugs or alcohol for a mood change!

 

Christmas Decorations

My favorite time of year to visit Holy Cross is around the Christmas holidays. This is a Catholic cemetery and celebrating the birth of Christ is an important event. It seems that nearly every grave is decorated elaborately, as if the occupants are about to spring up and join in the festivities. Everything from fully-dressed Christmas trees to nativity scenes to tinsel and poinsettia plants embellish the grave sites.

More Christmas Decorations

 

At other times in the year, fresh flowers are abundant. I often see families with folding chairs and sun umbrellas sitting around the graves of their loved ones. In this cemetery, no-one is merely buried and forgotten but remains a functioning member of the family.

There are two special locations where I like to stop and contemplate. The first is the lily pond near the Slauson entrance. Turtles and Koi fish live in peace and harmony there. If you approach very, very, very silently some of the turtles will remain in their sun-worshipping positions on the rocks, but mostly they will slip into the security of the water and dog (turtle?) paddle until the intruder has passed.

The second special location is the grotto at the top of the hill, up the road from the pond. A small crucifix statue is usually surrounded by lit candles. I like to take a minute or two to be grateful for whatever comes into my mind to be grateful for at that moment.

Many years ago when I hit a particularly bad patch in my life and was in a lot of inner turmoil, I picked a gravestone at the top of a hill under a shady tree with a view of the Santa Monica Mountains and Pacific Ocean. For many months I talked to the occupant of the grave who was only in his mid-forties when he died in the mid-sixties, although I had no idea who he was, and told him my troubles. It was comforting to me to have somebody to talk to who was completely non-judgmental and did nothing but “listen.” I was able to work out a lot of issues with his assistance. Then my life moved on and I didn’t visit for several years. The next time I saw his grave he had been joined by his wife and I was happy for him.

It was only recently that I googled Holy Cross Cemetery and discovered a great secret. All these years I have been enjoying my walks without knowing that many of Hollywood’s most famous citizens are interred there. Apparently if you are a movie star and Catholic, that is the place to spend eternity—not a bad choice. I haven’t tracked down any of the plots or crypts yet, but some of the names you might recognize are Bing Crosby, Rita Hayworth, Charles Boyer, John Candy, and Bela Lugosi. (You can find other Hollywood luminaries buried at this cemetery by clicking here.)

So whether chasing down famous names or just out for a stroll on a sunny day, if you decide to visit Holy Cross Cemetery and you see a lady slogging up the hill leaning on her walking stick, feel free to wave, but please don’t offer me a ride!

Holy Cross Cemetery
5835 W. Slauson Ave.
Culver City, CA 90230