While wandering through the scenic Jones Point Cemetery in Haines, Alaska, I couldn’t help but notice the wide variety of sounds coming from all around me.
There was the whirring of machines in the warehouse next door, the buzzing of the bees and mosquitoes, and even the beating wings of the eagles that Haines is so famous for.
It was an interesting mix of sounds but I put them out of my mind as I only had a short amount of time and wanted to concentrate on what I was there to do: photographing all the headstones so that the information could be preserved forever.
Going from headstone to headstone I became very focused and didn’t notice anything in particular until some movement out of the corner of my eye caught my attention.
I looked up from my camera and saw a man who seemingly came from nowhere. He was dressed in sandals, black pants, a brimmed hat, and a black coat. His long hair and beard obscured his face. But one thing in particular made him stand out, he was holding a guitar.
He walked right over to a bench near me and began playing a gentle tune on the guitar. The notes were halting and unsure at first. After a short while of playing (and watching me, probably wondering what exactly I was doing) he began to sing a slow, sad melody. As he became more comfortable the notes became more sure, his voice louder, until I couldn’t hear the other chorus of noises around the cemetery, and could only hear his sad melody.
The music became a companion to me as I read each headstone, wondering about the person buried there. Who were they? Did they have someone to play them love songs? I also wondered about the mysterious musician. Was this simply a quiet place to practice? To reflect? Or was the slow, sad melody a love song to a dear lost loved one?
After a while I heard the melody stop and I looked up to see which way the stranger was going. But he was already gone, disappearing as mysteriously as he arrived. I can’t help but wish that every visit to a cemetery was accompanied by such beautiful music.