The immortal Bob Dylan once described New Orleans burial grounds, with "Greek and Roman sepulchers, palatial mausoleums made to order, phantomesque, signs and symbols of hidden decay - ghosts of women and men who have sinned and who've died and are now living in tombs. The past doesn't pass away so quickly here."
The same could surely be said of Savannah's own Bonaventure Cemetery, where stately live oaks line the lanes and the past is, well, alive. Situated on a bluff of the Wilmington River and overlooking miles of marshland, the site is replete with lifelike statues and ornate Southern Gothic sculptures.
Bonaventure boasts the final resting place of painters, poets and composers - not to mention the historical figures who shaped the past, and the future, of the Hostess City.
From a Revolutionary War-era casus belli, to a private antebellum family plot, to the inspiration for the blockbuster novel and film "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil," the land has borne the vicissitudes of Savannah's unique history.
To pay homage to this rich legacy, the nonprofit Bonaventure Historical Society will offer free one-hour walking tours on Aug. 11 as part of its Second Sunday of the Month Tour program. Guides will leave from the intersection of Mullryne and Wiltberger ways at 2, 2:30 and 3 p.m. Directional signs will be posted throughout the cemetery.
History buffs, naturalists and spookaphiles alike are sure to be moved by the elegant haunt. Originally part of a lavish plantation, the site became a public cemetery in 1907. Even if you've already visited, knowledgeable tour guides will imbue dazzling layers to selected plots.
IF YOU GO
What: Free tours of Bonaventure Cemetery
When: 2, 2:30 and 3 p.m. Aug. 11
Where: Bonaventure Cemetery, 330 Bonaventure Road
No reservations are necessary for the walking tours. It being summer in Savannah, plenty of water and bug spray are recommended, as are comfortable walking shoes.
In 1867, early environmentalist John Muir began his "Thousand Mile Walk." During his journey, he actually slept on Bonaventure graves for six nights.
Of his experience, he wrote: "Bonaventure to me is one of the most impressive assemblages of animal and plant creatures I ever met ... I gazed awe-stricken as one new-arrived from another world. Bonaventure is called a graveyard, a town of the dead, but the few graves are powerless in such a depth of life. The rippling of living waters, the song of birds, the joyous confidence of flowers, the calm, undisturbable grandeur of the oaks, mark this place of graves as one of the Lord's most favored abodes of life and light."
Life and light, death and darkness pervade the atmosphere of this historic site.
Although the cemetery has been listed on the National Registry of Historic Places for more than a decade, citizens can still purchase interment rights in Bonaventure.
If you're as moved by your walking tour as John Muir was of his time in Bonaventure, as macabre as it seems, who knows? You may discover your own monument to eternity.