Wandering Around

For Thanksgiving, my husband and I ate lunch at the Hotel Bethlehem in Bethlehem, PA, about an hour from where we  live. I am very familiar with this city; I’ve done art shows here for 20 years, attended Musikfest,  visited friends in their studios at the Banana Factory art center, and I can’t tell you how many other events. Not to mention Bethlehem is right next door to Allentown, another favorite city for art events, running in the Lehigh Parkway (one year we did a 5K in the Christmas lights event they have), and visiting the Allentown Art Museum. I have a lot of  friends in the Lehigh Valley as well, and so I love the area.

We’ve gone to the Hotel Bethlehem’s buffet for Thanksgiving for several years. The last couple of them I dragged through the meal; because of my illnesses and whatever stage of things I was in at the time, I either did not feel well enough to eat or I barely had the energy to get through lunch. Not this year. I am celebrating my steady return to health and Thanksgiving was a great time to remember how grateful I am for progress.

Anyway, after lunch we went for a little walk. People associate the city with Bethlehem Steel and one hundred years or so of steel-making (the industrial complex is now serving a variety of purposes related to arts and entertainment) but the city was founded by Moravians as a mission settlement about 300 years ago and the Hotel is in the older section of town. We went first through downtown – the buildings are mostly from the late 1800’s, I’d say. Many of the stores featured tiled entrances – I got engrossed in looking at the different patterns.

 

I also noticed this manhole cover. I was intrigued by the glass inserts. I also liked the fact that some had broken and then filled themselves in with dirt, subsequently allowing for a little garden to grow in the spaces.

I was curious about the reason for glass inserts, thinking it had something to do with illumination underground. I found this source that gave me some very interesting insights about the subject, one I had never thought about: http://glassian.org/Prism/index.html .

Then we walked through a place that’s a favorite of mine – the Moravian Cemetery.

It’s a peaceful place, also called God’s Acre (the name comes from a German word for field, not because it’s just an acre; it is larger than that). But not too large. The head stones all lay flat, in accordance with the traditions of the early inhabitants. People are buried in groups according to marital status and gender, not with family. I also learned that married women were buried under their birth names rather than their married ones. Finally, there is a section for people who died while in town, though not living there. A bit of a reminder how life can be uncertain. (my source: http://lehighvalleyhistory.com/gods-acre-in-bethlehem,-pa ).

I liked the look of so many of the headstones – the shaping of the letters is beautiful and oddly playful in some cases.

 

Here are a couple markers for married women. We are used to seeing the construction of first name, married last name, nee maiden name. This works the opposite way. I don’t know why, but that was their custom.

 

As the original cemetery filled up, a new one was created down the street, but times had changed by then (the late 1800’s) and it’s full of elaborate monuments. I like this one better, I think, although I like pretty much any cemetery – I like the thought of lives lived and stories told, and here I am so much later, still remembering these people.

I’ll be in Allentown next week for an art show, and maybe I’ll have time for some pictures from that city. If not then, then I will later on, I am sure.

Happy Thanksgiving from me.

 

 

 

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About Claudia McGill

A person who does art and writes poetry. That's me!

21 responses to “Wandering Around

  1. Such an interesting post! I love the old tile and I love old cemeteries. I have never heard of being buried that way. Under maiden names and with like people. No wonder some people have trouble deciphering their family trees.

    Glad you are feeling better. That fatigue just sucks the life right out of you.

    • Thank you. Yes, this particular group lived in a communal way back in the 1700’s when this cemetery was started, and so the burial customs were along those lines, too. A very interesting and educated group of people – there is still a Moravian College in Bethlehem, although now it is a regular collage with a full curriculum and not focused on religion. All in all, every time I wander around like this, I seem to stumble on interesting places that are right under my nose and I learn a lot this way!

  2. Thank you for sharing your Thanksgiving, I think this holiday is such a meaningful tradition.

  3. What wonderful details. I love the tiles and love the glass prism manhole covers even more. I am a big fan of cemeteries, especially historical ones. Since I’ve never been to a Moravian cemetery, that one looks to be intriguing. Incidentally, Scottish women, especially in more rural communities, were often buried under their maiden names.

    • What do you know. This name issue being treated in different ways in different places as customs change and so on – we think of a married woman keeping her name as modern , but now we see it is not!

      You can see why I recommend Bethlehem for a visit or two, there is so much to see just walking around town. !

  4. Interesting post Claudia. I’m very happy for you to be feeling healthy again. It’s always amazing to me how nature can push its way into unexpected spaces. And, I’m intrigued by cemeteries. I visited my folks gravesite on Thanksgiving day.

  5. Glad to read that you could it enjoy the day this year. A lovely post – I love the manhole and the gravestones.

    • Thank you, as I said, I am truly grateful to be coming along well and a yearly marker like this holiday reminds me of how far I have come.

      Bethlehem is full of interesting items like these – it has a varied history with the beginnings of the city and then there is the whole steel aspect of its development, which can also be seen in the fabric of the city. I like going around and just seeing what I can see in ordinary things like this.

  6. About the same epoch as the Jewish cemetery. Each stone tells a story. They are wonderful places, to be preserved and treasured.

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