Today was very hot in Portland! I went for a walk with Auntie Bridgett early in the morning, enjoying the quiet of Laurelhurst Park. Then we retired to the cool of the house, her and Grandpa Nelson working in their offices in the basement and me reading and unpacking upstairs.
By 8:00 in the evening, it had started to get a little cooler. The sun wasn’t going down until almost 9:00, so we had lots of time for a walk. We went to explore the Lone Fir Cemetery at Stark and 26th.
Lone Fir has been here a long, long time. It had its first burial in 1846, when the land was a family farm. The farmer, J.B. Stephens, had traveled west with his elderly father, who passed away and was buried on the property. A few years later, the property was sold to Colburn Barrell, the owner of a steamboat called The Gazelle. That same year The Gazelle exploded, killing several people. The owner of the steamboat buried them near the site of J.B. Stephen’s father, and established a proper cemetery, calling it Mt. Crawford.
We walked through the cool cemetery with a familiar feeling of quiet curiosity. I enjoy “visiting the dead people”. My father often said that any day above ground was a good day. Visiting cemeteries reassures me that whatever I am wrestling with on a given day, it is, by my father’s definition, a good day. Knowing that generations of new transplants have come here and made it their home allows me to see my panic over lost kitchen items in perspective.
The name of the cemetery was changed to Lone Fir because when it was started, there was only one fir tree on the property. The place is now an arboretum, a tree garden, with hundreds of trees of all types giving wonderful shade.The cool breeze and peaceful shade were delicious after the bright heat of the day.
The most recent graves we found were from 2007, polished, black, beautiful headstones in Russian, printed with photos of the deceased, telling of a whole new wave of people coming from far away to start new lives here.
Lone Fir has small roads that lead among the graves. We saw people walking quietly along these roads, enjoying the evening, or sitting on benches by war memorials, reading. This is a place for living people as well a for remembering the dead.
Many of the older gravestones are impossible to read, the centuries of moss and rain having started to dissolve the stone. I love cemeteries partly because of the stories they tell. I am a little sad that these people’s stories can’t be read anymore. But I enjoy know ing they were here, anyway.