Sunday best: Conker collecting

On Sundays, I sometimes wander in the cemetery. Lately, I veer off the paths and across the grass. In Ireland, the graves are clearly demarcated, with curbs or rails framing each plot. Oh, how we Irish love building walls around our little patch of dirt. You're not to walk across the graves, but between them. And as children we would balance on those curbs, making a game of being so good.

But Mount Pleasant's patchwork is indecipherable to even the most attentive walker and although I don't forget what's below me, there's a certain Canadian sensibility to this arrangement, more pragmatic than precious. A family headstone branches out to stones laid flat in the ground, like this one for Flora. And some simply say Mother or Uncle. I like to see them so much and to read their dateless names, that I take the risks and bear the guilt.

The leaves right now would make your heart soar like a person who believes in religion and could take to song. Sometimes they darken, clumped and matted in puddles and wet patches of grass, or leave outlines on pavements that salt and snow will later raze. But enough still hang, dry as a butterfly's wing, on branches, to create those golden canopies that draw you off footpaths and under trees, among headstones.

It's there that you might find some conkers too. A horse's haunch in miniature, the tawniest port, the glow of wood polished and oiled, the smell of a piano opened up; the perfect netsuke of nature. And I roll them in my hands and in my pockets and carry them home to put in bowls and hold later. So that when it's dark the candlelight will hit them just so and they will glow again.

Transitional seasons hang like travel, a brief a no-man's-land. And my mind often gets lost, forgetting which season we're coming out of and going into, and I feel my age as it melds and mires. But I live too in the swing of the door, in everything that's mutable and glows and is without demarcation.

Products: Merino snood from Toast | Sessun Long Walk Floral Dress from Steven Alan | Blackberry & Bay perfume from Jo Malone | Horse ring from Conroy & Wilcox | Conkers | Anniel ballet flat from Steven Alan | Mimi Frank bag from Mimi Berry


  1. I've never been to Mount Pleasant for a walk, even though Geoff's grandparents are buried there. And you know, I'm actually surprised to read that it's laid out that way! I grew up near a large cemetery and we once went over for art class -- we were encouraged to make rubbings of the tombstones with charcoal and I both loved it (ooh, spooky) and felt so freaked out walking over the graves. Anyhow, I would have expected good ol' Protestant Toronto to have a nice grid, ha! That Flora stone is lovely.

    1. Oh, I hope you'll go some time. It's very lovely, with some notable stones and lovely fonts and names that would even inspire Dickens!

      I would very much like to make rubbings there too!

  2. Mount Pleasant sounds like a wonderful place to explore!

    I'm lucky enough to live literally seconds away from a tiny old Anglican cemetery almost no-one knows about. It has a few elaborately carved but now almost completely eroded white headstones, family monuments, and a Gothic charnel house surrounded by a wrought-iron fence. It's my favourite place to have tea in summer, under the shade of its gigantic trees. No conkers, alas!

  3. There is this very old cemetry in Brussels where I like to wander.. It's even more beautiful during autumn time

  4. I live close by Arlington Cemetery, but after 9-11 the entrance by my house was closed. Now it's a car ride away.

    But I walk by the walls and see all the identical tombstones laid out in identical rows shaded by beautiful trees and always bow my head for a moment.

    xo jane

  5. such a beautiful stroll with you, jane. gorgeous, rich photos.
    and i adore that bag, adore it!

  6. We're also enjoying the change of colour in the wonderful trees that surround our neighbourhood. (South Parisian suburb...) Your walk in the cemetry has reminded me that I should take a trip down to our local cemetry for the 1st November, all saints day, and walk among the gravestones and read the inscriptions and pray for those gone before us. It's a "landscape" cemetry, with trees in abundance and at this time of year the colours are magical. The graves are not linear, and paths weave in and out among them.
    So thank you for the reminder!

    1. Sounds so beautiful! I've always felt at home in cemeteries, fully in love with the landscape and history, though I know that seems morbid to some!


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