Project Athena - Day 147 (Graves)

A Million Ways to Die in the West

Cowboys and pioneers, come lend your eyes and ears.
I’ve got the need to testify.
Don’t try to fill your nest out in the open west
’cuz there’s a million ways to die.

Six bullets in the gut or just a paper cut
Too many ways to quantify.
They’ll cut your ankle off to cure a minor cough
’cuz there’s a million ways to die.
A million ways to die

It’s a hundred and one in the shade of the sun.
If you fall asleep, you fry.
A million ways to die
You can live like a saint but there just really ain’t
no avoiding a million ways to die.

Smallpox and bigger pox, and deadly tomahawks
Or God forbid you steal a pie.
They’ll blast you into shards for bein’ good at cards.
’cuz there’s a million ways to die.

Out on the desert plains it hardly ever rains
and you can hear coyotes cry.
They’ll eat you up and then they’ll shit you out again
’cuz there’s a million ways to die.
A million ways to die

With a whoosh and a whack there’s a knife in your back
’cuz you got a fancy tie...
A million ways to die
It’s a kick in the pants but you don’t have a chance
of escaping a million ways to die.
A million ways to die
— Alan Jackson

I have to admit that I am happy to see graves as a theme come to an end. All this thought about death and dying has left me feeling somewhat raw.

In conclusion, today, I walked around the Fort Collins Grandview Cemetery, a place I have avoided my whole life. It was surreal in some ways seeing the endless sea of headstones and knowing there were bodies of people I once knew buried somewhere in here. I was looking in particular for the graves of some early pioneers that were once buried in some other cemetery but were moved to this one as the city grew. I ran across this old grave of Tillie A. Irvine from 1880. Turns out she was one of two victims who died in an historic fire in downtown Fort Collins, the cause of which remains unknown but it is suspected to have been arson. As if there weren't enough challenges to staying alive in the West back then.

From this perspective, I am very grateful for the time in which I was born and the sophisticated culture in which I live. Simple things like clean running water and warm winter gear just can't be taken for granted when I consider the grave obstacles faced by these early settlers.

Smiling to be in a warm cozy house with windows and doors that close all the way.

R.I.P. Tillie A. Irvine

Nikon D3200 • Nikon 18-55mm lens • 26mm • F/4.2 • 1/1250s • ISO 400

Project Athena - Day 146 (Graves)

Cowboy's Last Rodeo

Gary Talbott was a man of miracles. At age 29, the victim of a drunk driver, was in a coma for 3 months and underwent extensive rehabilitation at Craig Hospital in Denver and at home. With many prayers from the Valley and God’s Will, Gary came out of the coma and lived another 43 amazing years.
— Brixton, Wy

I found this wonderful grave marker today in Riverside, WY. Just a little research led me to the obituary of a miracle man named Gary Talbott. It sounds like he had an amazing, blessed life and based on the mementos left to mark his departing, he was a cowboy at heart with a connection to the wide open prairie land of Carbon County Wyoming. If you look closely you can see his scarf, rope, spurs, boots, elk antlers and of course the hat that sits on top of a fence post.

This got me thinking about what my friends and family would decorate my final resting place with? Perhaps a camera, paint brushes and an easel, hiking boots, and an ipad? Smiling to be alive.

Cowboy's Last Rodeo

Nikon D3200 • Nikon 18-55mm lens • 22mm • F/25 • 1/100s • ISO 400

Project Athena - Day 145 (Graves)

Saratoga Cemetary

It was a beautiful fall day in Saratoga, WY. The skies were blue and the winds very calm. We spent the day soaking in the healing waters, swimming, and exploring in nature. We were blessed with owl, hawk, bald eagle, deer, raccoon, pronghorn, crow, and magpie medicine. I also found an arrowhead on one of our walks!

This small cemetary has markers dating back to 1885. I thought this one of an 18 year old girl was very telling of the women's pioneer story. 

Heading home tomorrow feeling very relaxed. 

Saratoga, WY

Project Athena - Day 144 (Graves)

Pioneer fascination

 I have had a wonderful birthday with Lara today. We fled the city for a few days in some healing hot springs in the mountains of Wyoming. Life is good. 

On our drive, we stopped at the Colorado -Wyoming border so I could shoot this small cemetery in Virginia Dale. I have become fascinated with the stories that the grave markers tell about the pioneers who were memorialized in stone.  This headstone was dated 1902, over 100 years old. The fence looked almost that old as well.

Grave Marker at Virginia Dale, CO

Nikon D3200 

Project Athena - Day 143 (Graves)

Peace of Mary

I’m not a feminist, I’m a humanist.
— Madonna

This sculpture of the Mother Mary with the dove of peace is located in a cemetery close to our home and while it doesn't appear to mark any specific grave, it stands over the entire grave yard as a symbol of love and tranquility for those who have transitioned and for those left behind. She is posed with open arms and open hands, ready to bless and receive the parting souls.

I am not a believer in the traditional biblical stories of Mary as the virgin mother of Jesus but I do feel her essence in my life and the gentle guidance she provides on a daily basis. She is the Mother of all to me and the nurturer of this soul.

Mary with Dove of Peace

Nikon D3200 • Nikon 18-55mm lens • 20mm • F/4 • 1/1000s • ISO 400

Project Athena - Day 142 (Graves)

Haunted or not?

The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?
— Edgar Allan Poe

The Bingham Hill Cemetery rests at the end of a footpath that is tucked between two working farms in Bellvue, CO. I have driven by the entrance at least 100 times and never knew it was there as there are no signs, no parking lot, and no large monuments that can be seen from the road. It's as though it has a magical invisibility cloak around it. I found it only because I was Googling places to shoot this week. Apparently Google can pierce through the magic. My visit today was sublime! The glorious fall colors were still ablaze. The gusty winds were stirring the fallen leaves like a witches brew. The ghost stories in this mysterious place that I had read earlier today were fresh in my mind, creating a subtle excitement and palpable tension as I trekked alone down the narrow path into a spine-tingling burial site.

While I don't think I encountered any ghosts, there was evidence of human visitors here. Still, it seems that the wildlife are more likely to frequent this little plot of land that stands as a testament to the pioneers of Colorado than ghosts or long lost relatives.

This particular grave had both the original marker and a newly erected one to replace the fallen cracked stone. There were many stones that were weathered so much, they could no longer be read. There is also a large granite memorial that lists the names of all the people known to be buried in the cemetery. It is thought that there may be as many as 300 graves here although only around 150 have been identified by a local historian, Rose L. Brinks. Since no burial records were ever kept, those who lie under the unmarked stones will never be known.

I am starting to feel the inward reflection of my own mortality beginning to happen as this theme is only on day two. I am curious where this will take me this week. Interesting that it's also my birthday this week. The paradox is welcome.

Bingham Hill Cemetery

Nikon D3200 • Nikon 18-55mm lens • 20mm • F/8 • 1/400s • ISO 100

Project Athena - Day 141 (Graves)

A grave theme this week

I will not be right back after this message
— Epitaph: Merv Griffin

I have saved this theme specifically for All Hallows Week. Should be an interesting theme to photograph and contemplate. Starting out with a little humor today, I hope you enjoy.

Masonville Cemetery

Nikon D3200 • Nikon 18-55mm lens • 24mm • F/9 • 1/125s • ISO 100