A Wednesday morning in March
March 21, 2012
Elmwood looks like a place out of time. In some ways, it is. The old monuments, the older trees, and the hills that were formed by a receding glacier a few millennia ago make it look this way. Our antique looks give the impression that nothing much happens in this old cemetery.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
The beauty of Elmwood is its attractiveness. To be attractive is more than just being handsome. It’s attracting. It’s magnetic. To magnetize is to draw people in.
And that’s what Elmwood does.
I have had the privilege of working at Elmwood since I was 23 years old. Hired as the receptionist, I worked with smart people who believed that others wanted to visit Elmwood as a tourist attraction. We worked together to create tours, tour maps, a documentary, and a book. When the time was right, we started offering tours to school children as a way to augment their lessons on Tennessee history. It took a while to build momentum – we did, after all, have to show our intent by offering history tours, not anything other-worldly. But, it worked. And now, over 100,000 cars a year drive over the amazing white bridge that, on one side, is studded by industry, and on the other…well, I’ve heard it described as the scene from the Wizard of Oz, when Dorothy suddenly sees the world in color for the first time.
This blog post is not a brag post. It is a post written on an average day, a Wednesday in March. So far today, the Read in Peace Book Club met in the Lord’s Chapel to discuss John Barry’s Rising Tide. We’ve greeted twelve tourists who all rented an audio tour of the grounds. We’ve helped two families perform genealogy research. The grounds crew mowed and edged two sections this morning. We’re performing a tree survey of the cemetery grounds for the tree map we’re creating as part of our arboretum recertification. Baptist Hospital’s nursing students – a whole class of them – just popped in to visit the yellow fever section (they’re studying epidemiology). And most importantly, we’ve helped one family choose a burial site, and helped to arrange the funeral.
There’s no telling what we’ll do this afternoon.
For a list of tours, please visit http://www.elmwoodcemetery.org/events.