There is a beautiful white wooden church on a hill in Rockingham, Vermont with a burial ground populated by slate markers with low relief compass carved soul effigies. Occasional rust stains from minerals in the stone add a richness and character to the images. One small mournful effigy looks sadly out through big round eyes, seemingly searching for something - his way home perhaps? It's heart is prominently front and center ready to burst out of it's chest and the wrinkled neck convinced me that the designers of E.T. the Extraterrestrial had seen this effigy and used it as a reference for their creation.
The large burial ground in Northampton, MA is a treasure trove of deep brown sandstone monuments carved in the eighteenth century. Among the winged master works I found the robot from Fritz Lang's Metropolis. It sprouts from leaves with a daisy above it's head and I found myself puzzled and wondering if the Frankenstein bolts protruding from the top and sides of it's head were meant to be some kind of stylized eighteenth century wig, or perhaps a radiant symbol such as a crown or nimbus. It could simply be a decorative feature, like the paisleys floating below the image, but regardless I could not get Metropolis robot out of my head.
The markers in historic burial grounds are important works of art produced by people with an intense need to express their spirituality visually. Viewed from a distance of centuries they provoke thought and question in a contemporary viewer. Because they are carved in stone they feel more permanent, less ephemeral than many other artifacts, but it's simply a matter of degree. Stones disintegrate too and I invite readers to explore and view these objects while they are still with us - because there are fewer of them every day.