I don’t think I’m particularly odd in many respects… but one of the things I’ve always had a fascination for is graveyards and gravestones. It’s not a very scary fascination; I’ve always had a base understanding of the relationship between life and death and I’ve never felt afraid of graveyards… just peaceful. I think it’s because they are one of those places that represents the transition from this world to the next, so even the most forceful of our entrepreneurial compatriots won’t step over their lines… lest they be subject to a situation like that in Poltergeist (the movie). For me, graveyards have always been a place of peace and meditation, of temporary escape (at least for now).
I remember one of the first times I discovered this, I was in a graveyard in England: just outside my fathers hometown of Prudhoe (near Newcastle on Tyne). It would have been on my first trip, around 1970, when I would have been 6 or 7 years old. We were in an overgrown graveyard, picking “brambles”; blackberries, I suppose. But one of the gravestones I stumbled on to was a man named “George Oswald” (perhaps I felt some kinship with his name?) who had died at the “Mickley Coke Ovens”. This was a coal mining area of England, and my father had to explain to me that “coke” is one of the industrial fuels produced from coal… I had thought a “coke oven” must’ve had something to do with Coca-Cola. But this had always stuck in my memory… and began my learning in the field of energy production, which was to become so important to me in later years as I was involved with environmentalism, global warming and economics.
Two decades later I found that grave again, on another trip to England, and took the enclosed pictures… the limestone grave had been weathered quite a bit, so I had to enhance part of the picture to make it more easily readable. Thus another connection to my environmental nature: recognition of how the limestone of the grave had been softened by the local acid rain (a product of burning the coal that had ultimately killed Mr. Oswald, many years before): that weathering was far more in that last twenty years than in the century between the man’s burial and when I found it. We are hoping to travel back this year, another 20 years later: and much though I hope to find the grave once more, I’m not sure I’ll even be able to read the inscription.