l took these photos on a grey and soggy December afternoon. After spending the previous night in the company of loud friends and dark beer, I was hungover and in need of some quiet place where my camera and I could be alone. I set out for the side of Lake Monroe that I rarely visit, hoping to shoot the lake from a new perspective, but I took a wrong turn and never found the water. I found Allen’s Creek Cemetery. I can’t resist exploring a cemetery, so l pulled over and made photos until my camera’s battery died.
I learned from a bronze plaque at the yard’s entrance that Allen’s Creek Cemetery was created as several small towns were flooded to make Lake Monroe. The graves in those towns were dug up and relocated to Allen’s Creek before the water filled the valley, but many graves could not be identified. Instead of headstones, numbered “unknown” placeholders like this one stretch across the cemetery in rows that leave wide gaps in the histories of those original towns.
Nobody remembers the people these old bones used to be. I found evidence of that fact in the memorial trimmings: where the headstones had gathered wreaths and poems left by others, the placeholders gathered dead leaves and lichen in the lonely spaces between their named companions.
Death is universal, but when we are busy with commitments and preoccupied with other people it’s easy to forget that someday we will all be forgotten. I go wandering in cemeteries because I am curious about the lives of the once living. l like to think that when the inevitable placeholder is left above my own brittle bones that someone will go wandering there and wonder who I used to be.