Gallivanting through the graveyard

A graveyard may seem like a strange place to take your dog for a walk, but Savannah is used to the strange and unusual.

Cemeteries aren’t just got Goths and ghost hunters. The South has plenty of fun graveyards to explore; each with its own unique stories to tell. Savannah is no exception.

Driving through the gates of Bonaventure Cemetery, it’s easy to see why it was used for the opening of the 1997 film adaptation of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The branches of oak trees laden with Spanish moss crisscross over dirt roads winding through old headstones.

My dog, Vash, and I like walking here for different reasons. I like it because it’s quiet and easy to socially distance from people, and I also enjoy spotting the names of tombstones that match with streets, squares, and nearby towns. Vash likes it because it’s shaded against the summer sun and there’s plenty of wildlife to smell.

Vash loves all the smells the wildlife provide for discerning doggie noses.

It isn’t just local historical people you’ve never heard of buried there. You can follow the same paths that inspired poet Conrad Aiken to write Cosmos Mariner, and even stop by his grave site, sit on the bench inscribed with his name, and see what words it inspires in yourself.

If you’re a music fan, pull up a Johnny Mercer playlist on Spotify (Yes, the guy who wrote the song Moon River.)and wander over to his family’s plot. Snippets of the songwriter’s vast catalog can be found engraved on some of the headstones as well as a bench.

Given the recent scrutiny Confederate memorials are receiving, it’s worth pointing out that there are some graves of those who served in the Confederate army. A few years ago, you would’ve found tiny battle flags next to the headstones. Those have all been removed, but you can recognize some of them by a small Maltese cross sticking out of the ground nearby.

If you love a good ghost story, don’t forget to stop by and say hello to Little Gracie.

When you pull up to the cemetery gates, you’ll notice there are two entrances. The one to your right leads to the Jewish side. Savannah is Georgia’s first city and is home to the state’s oldest Jewish congregation. If you’re wondering why the Jewish side has a separate entrance, it’s a religious custom. There’s also a special chapel.

On one trip to Bonaventure, Vash and I found the Holocaust monument.

While Vash and I walk here year round, I think the best time to go is in the spring when the azaleas are in full bloom. If you have seasonal allergies like me, make sure to take your antihistamine before you go, but the sight of all the pink flowers spilling out everywhere is worth a few sniffles.

There are plenty of tours available to give you a better history (and some ghost stories) of Bonaventure Cemetery. The Bonaventure Historical Society also has a free app available if you’d like to tour by yourself. And if you happen to see me and Vash out there, you can definitely ask me for directions.

Here’s some video of my favorite spots with a Johnny Mercer tune.

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