Thursday, August 21, 2003

Sarr Cemetary

208th Street snakes down from the top of Benson Hill and metamorphs into 212th Street without bothering the drivers - that's the way the grid system in Seattle works out. But before it crosses Highway 167, there's a small woody parklet on the right, a plot of ground about the size of our house lot. Most people drive by it without noticing it, tucked beneath the trees, but the recent addition of a concrete plinth in front of it calls attention. So too does the recent transformation of the surrounding land from a golfing range into a contruction sight for an office park. Now the bit of wildness is left as an island surrounded by plowed and stripped earth.

Kate and I stopped there tonight, on the way back from the H&R Block picnic. The picnic itself was nice - Van Buren Park on the Green River, watermelon-eating contests and a pinata for the kids, the ghost of Rainier floating on the haze to the south.

We stopped on the way back, after too many hot dogs and too much bocce ball. Because we stop and read roadside markers. We're that type of people. And because we passed it hundreds of times before, and we were curious, and who knows when the bulldozers would take it down.

Its a cemetary. Sarr Cemetary, tucked beneath the trees. The concrete marker was put there in 2002 as part of an Eagle Scout project, replacing one put there 26 years previously by a CB Radio club. The cemetary itself dates back to 1873 (I think - I'm pulling from memory here) when John Sarr could not bury his wife in the regular graveyard - it was across the flooded Green River. So he put her here, and in the process created a small graveyard that has survived to this day.

The stones range from ancient to relatively recent (the last person laid to rests here was in the 40's). There are family plots and local names, like Iddingtons and Monsters (yes, there was a family named Monster here - we named a road after them). The Monster tombstone was for a Monster and her child, identified only as "Monster Baby". There are a lot of children and babies laid to rest in Sarr - most named, some not. The stones from the turn of the century have verse carved on them, almost illegible from the passing of time. Those buried here could afford, or perhaps counted among their numbers, a good stonemason.

The graveyard is tended, mostly. The back area is overgrown with blackberry bushes with huge, thick berries (is it a sin to eat berries from a grave?). The lawn, dead in the recent heat of high summer, is cut back in other parts of the cemetary, and some graves show a lot of tending, down to new American Flags lashed to a railing - warnings perhaps to the bulldozers. Some graves were once fashioned as gardens, others have impromptu bouquerts growing up out of them - crocuses, or something like the crocus, that bloom in a dry fall. There is an ancient lawnmower parked against a side railing of dubious origin and functionability

The land is still claimed, and the people kept here remembered, so this huge new construction site, one more office park sprawled on the valley floor, has to dig around it. The rear property line and the right-hand side has been stripped away, with a retaining wall erected to keep the dead in their place. The entire cemetary is surrounded by a chain link fence, the area in front of it, around the plinth visible from the highway, has been mashed into dust by passing dump trucks.

That's about it - overgrown by trees that have sprung up since Sarr's wife was interred, tended by descendents, ignored by everyone else. Sort of confirms my thought that, when my end comes, I would rather be cremated than buried, for even the earth itself is only semi-permanent.

That's it. No real moral. Just a cemetary, mostly forgotten. No enlightenment here. Nothing to see. Move along.