Lonely Pathways in London: Reflections of Highgate Cemetery

During the fall of 1996, I visited London for the first time. Over the years, I would go back a couple of more times between then and now, but for some reason, that first trip will always seem magical in my memory. While there in ’96, we took a trip to Highgate cemetery and here is my journal entry from that visit:

“On the way to Highgate we ended up chasing our tail yet again trying to locate the cemetery. Finally we saw it and headed up the narrow sidewalk. All along the sidewalk, iron bars separated the decades that had passed and left the cemetery untouched from the hustle and bustle of modern London. Vines of ivy stretched their green arms through the iron bars. It was as if the lost souls buried within were reaching out to claim some hold on the living. When we entered the East Cemetery, opting to skip the guided tour through the West Cemetery, I was struck with how peaceful it all was when compared to the London we had come to know over the previous days. Hundreds of graves closely huddled together under a cover of vegetation, the tilted and fading tombstones the only indication of lives lived. The entire area was a supreme example of Mother Nature overriding mans existence…”

Several years later, the picture above and my memories of Highgate inspired the following lines:

The stones of Highgate shown in the moon,
Mementos of lost souls – gone too soon.
Vines of green, stream down from Heaven,
To touch my face and unite the breathen.
As I walked along the corridors of green,
I wondered what those lying around me had seen.
Lifetimes of love and happiness flown,
Now memorialized by simple moss-covered stone.
Oh, there were a few here who would be remembered,
But most lived and died without time’s passage ever being hindered.
Their immortality now consists
Of a slightly leaning tombstone, obscured by the mist.

photo by author – 1996

-cover image courtesy of Wikiwand

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