December 16th, 2014
Hello friends and welcome to the blog -
In 2004 my life took a sharp left turn and I entered into the world of the Dead . My new job was in California's first green cemetery where we invented green funerals as we went along and lwhere I learned how to NOT to cry at the funerals. In other words where I began to develop professional compassionate restraint.
My guides in this new world were the fabulous Fisher family on my favorite show SIX FEET UNDER , and my boss , a young visionary named Tyler who owned this cemetery (and another one near my old hometown Hollywood,CA. )All the 100's of deaths i'd lived through during the AIDS plague (that took out some of the most amazing creative talent in this country and this world-alot of whom I was fortunate to call my friends. )Although I knew the weekly adventures of the Fisher family had to be the product of brilliant screen writing and great imagination i was still looking forward to the mystery of funeral service to families at this particualr time in their lives. After all i had been conducting funerals since childhood. ( see About Us)
Little could I imagine then that the clever opening scene of every SIX FEET UNDER episode depicting a different set of circumstances surrounding a Deathwas EXACTLY what working in this cemetery/ funeral home was like ! Each funeral was an different episode! Not all my friends were as fascinated by the stories as I was - especially NOT at the dinner table. Some situations were tragic yes , but many are bizarrely humourous and extremely peaceful poignant and gorgeous. Some were just bizarre.I found the Karma of each individual is completely unique and as we live is often how we die. I learned two things in my dealings with the funeral industry before actually working in it :
1. The aesthetic and the vibe sucked.
2. Someone needed to do something about it. (Why not me?)
I had a loving heart of compassion, good taste for the most part and knew good design. I had the unbelievable good fortune to be given 100% creative license at my new job at FERNWOOD CEMETERY in Mill Valley , CA. If I found a beautiful garden tool from another country I could use it. If I had an idea of a ceremony or service I could use it. When I started in 2004 the mid-century funeral home hadn't been touched for 40 years .My first work schedule was on the weekends - alone.
The mid century architecture included a huge perfectly round window with a heavy rollup door inside that had to be opened every morning.The first time i rolled it up I had to stand on top of the desk I came face to face with a spider the size of my head in a web that spanned the entire circle!It was perfect! The Bay Laurel tree outside the window on the hill leading up to the cemetery filled with squawking ravens and I thought i was in heaven!
I was constantly spooked and elated with my new job ! The place was beyond creepy and very haunted . I would lock doors that would become unlocked andhear the sound on running down the hallways with doors slamming when I was there alone. The crematory was on the other side of the wall of the office next tothe prep room. It had an ancient refrigeration unit and was painted a stomach churning pastel green. The embalming table was in the middle of the room 1950'sembalming equiptment with very old yellowed tubes. I did whatever needed to be done. Talk to families, do intake of the deliveries from the transport guys and put people into the refrigeration.
The cemetery was actually over 100 years old with wonderful statuary overgrown in the redwoods and hidden in the woods, headstones fallen over or popping uplike bones. It is magnificent. Towering Eucalyptus trees stood like Sentinals at the opening of the 33 acres. The road went around in a circle around and aroundthe old cemetery with a trail leading out through the green section of the cemetery cemetery to the Marin Headland National Park and the Pacific Ocean. Up a winding hill there are breathtaking vistas overlooking the most expensive suburb in America , home to its own Holy Mountain, Mount Tamalpais majesticallyin the background .There were wild turkeys, geese, a bobcat, voles, coyotes, and mountain lions.
One gorgeous clear and sunny Sunday morning I was showing a family a plot in the old section when a large female cougar (id say at least 160 lbs.) lazily slunk over a 3' tall pink marble tombstone and sunned herself in front of it. We were about 9 yards away from her below on the road and awestruck at her beauty .She was not interested in us at all and we slowly got in the car and drove down the hill..................speechless.
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