Karen & Kurt 
Edgewood in St. Denis

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Smart Woman

Seeking Julia

Posted by karenandkurt on August 24, 2010 at 8:16 PM

Two Thursdays ago I remembered the tale of Sleeping Beauty: A beautiful young woman was enchanted as a child by a wicked fairy who had been denied an invitation to her baptism. The child, the wicked fairy declared, would not live to see her adulthood. Instead, on the cusp of it she would prick her finger on a spindle used for spinning flax into thread and die in her mother’s house. Horrified, the queen begged the other fairies present for help and one stepped forward, quickly spinning a counter-enchanted. Unable to full dispel the curse, the good fairy instead transmuted the pending death into a long sleep that could only be broken by the kiss of someone who truly loved her.


In the course of time, this princess grows up and discovers an old woman spinning. Eager to learn this new art, she reaches for the spindle and pricks herself. She immediately falls into the bespelled sleep.  In some telling of this tale, so do all those around her and her castle falls silent and is hidden for a 100 years by the forest. Briars, which are pricker bushes, grow thick and wind their way through the courtyard, creating a protection again any who would harm the sleeping princess and her courtiers.


Time passes and a young prince, having heard the legend of the princess who sleeps in the woods, adventures to find her. After forging his way through the dense trees he must overcome the briars, which tear at his cloths and then into his skin. At last, he finds his princess and wakes her with a kiss.


Julia A. Turner Clark was not a princess, nor my type as these things go, and no kiss can wake her from the sleep she now enjoys. But there I was, tromping through the woods that had grown up around the Boyer family cemetery, after having learned about Julia through research and the generous conversation of her great-granddaughter, fighting my way through thick briars that slashed at my bare legs. I cannot say that I truly love this woman but I have a respect for her and the life she lived. She presents a mystery for me to solve in the way I used to feel when chasing a story. If I just tug the right thread, the tale will unravel for me, the mystery solved and I will understand what happened to her, Noah and Lavinia.


So, in search for the right thread, I found myself fighting through briars, legs bleeding as I hoped to beat the rain in a cemetery from the 1800s. To protect the cemetery, the family and the community association have chosen to let to “go back to the Earth” – it is overrun by briars, ground ivy and holly trees. The rails around one family plot have fallen down, some of the stones have broken and some of the monuments are partly covered in ivy. Everything is intertwined by briars. I walked carefully around gravesites, both from respect and practicality, and visited every headstone I could find. I was just about shaking! Julia was there and this was the closest I could get to her in this life. In this way, I had entered the fairy tale; I was the prince seeking the princess through adversity.


It is a pretty little place, a small corner hidden from the road and flanked on two sides by houses. I won’t say where it is, please forgive me, to prevent spying eyes from those who might wish this place harm. It was once a stately family cemetery and my personal wish would be to return it to that appearance. There were birds and crickets as I stepped over the briars and carefully through the woods. I visited each stone I could find twice, taking pictures as I went, but I could not find Julia’s headstone. After an hour there, bleeding and itching, I had to leave.


Briefly. Kurt came home, and we made a second attempt. We went back into the wooded cemetery, carrying a flowering plant and a small spade to plant it beside Julia’s headstone. It was his eyes that saw the headstone surrounded by the ivy, half covered by fallen tree branches. Above us, the sky thundered and the rain was coming. We were forced to call the expedition off again, just making it back before the rain came, still carrying our plant.


I’m frustrated because I have been unable to try a third time. Maybe this week and maybe next I can go back. The danger is the area is covered by the ivy – I can keep the briars away by wearing jeans this time. I don’t know what is beneath that ivy and I may have to bring a garden rake in with me. (If the neighbors do call the police, I can just imagine the response when I explain I’m looking for a woman who died 105 years ago so I can give her this plant.) The ivy can be covering snakes and small critters who won’t like me walking on them, it can also cover weak spot in the ground, which is a concern in old cemeteries.  But I can’t do all of this research and not pay proper respects to this lady. Plus, her great-granddaughter has asked me to look for two stones, possibly markers, at the base of Julia’s grave. She wants to know what they are for; I want to know if they belong to Lavinia, Noah, Rosa or Verena. Their graves are missing but I think – I wonder – that they may be buried in the same cemetery, near mother, wife and friend.


So, I adventure, and like that prince, hope to find the answer to my legend.



Categories: Clark Family

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