Cemetery Workouts Complete With Pictures

Contrary to what T.S. Eliot wrote, April isn't always the cruelest month. In the winter of Ď02 Ė Ď03, it was November, December, January, February, and March. It snowed a lot and it snowed often. As Terry Gilbert from Waterville, Down Maine, once remarked, "When it snows like oatmeal, it snows a great deal." The oatmeal snow, however, wasn't the kind that snowballs and snowmen were made of. It was an icy cold snow, so cold that the snow would develop an ice crust that stayed hard until the next snow storm and then the icy crust situation would repeat itself. The streets were icy slush, the sidewalks ice and/or slush.

I only mention all this because I do a lot of jogging to maintain a relative fitness level; workouts five or six days a week for an hour so. I've got a membership at Goldís Gym in Salem that I use when the weather precludes my using the streets. Then, it's into Goldís for 45 minutes of rowing machine, cardio glider, and other cardiovascular equipment. I love Goldís, but I'm no longer cut out to be a gym rat and get bored too easily.

So, I was in a heck of a quandary this year because there was icy snow on the ground for weeks at a time!

Then one day at, after a particularly severe snowstorm, I was returning home to Salem from Super Stop & Shop on the Peabody/Salem line. Driving down Harmony Grove Road, I happened to glance into Harmony Grove Cemetery and noticed that the roads were plowed right down to the pavement. I couldnít believe it! The cemetery roads were cleaner than the streets. I thought to myself, "Iím onto something here."

I hadn't jogged for a couple days. So, when I got home, I changed into appropriate gear and drove through the snow and ice to the cemetery. I parked, got out, and started jogging.

As an aside, let me explain how I now define jogging. Having abused and trashed my body for years in various ultra endurance events, I'm very mindful of the potential harm to my knees from the constant pounding from jogging this 200 pound plus body on the roads. In the early '90s, I had given up running the streets in favor of cross-country running through the woods. With cross-country jogging, the blow is cushioned from the fact that the unevenness of the road creates less strain on the knees. But now, with the weather the way it was, I would have been better off with snowshoes.

Letís get back to my definition of jogging. Given the above, I started speed-walking. Some people call it race-walking but I donít race anymore.

Speed-walking only has one drawback if you have any dignity left. You look like a damned fool! A runner looks sleek like an antelope in flight. A speed-walker looks like a duck. Speed-walking cross-country through the woods would only be seen by the occasional squirrel. If I happened upon anyone on the trail, Iíd break into a run until I passed them, and then, I could resume my waddle.

Now, you're probably thinking, what the heck does he care if someone sees him making like a duck? Well, that's the way I am. In my younger days, Terry would say, "Tom, you never met a mirror you didn't like."

Over the years, I've contributed to the definition of vanity.

Oh, also forgot to mention that during this winter, we were packing to move from Washington Square, Salem to Granite Street, Peabody, about three miles away. One result was that the whole family was getting into shape what with packing and moving what turned out to be about 150 boxes. But, why digress.

I drove into Harmony Grove Cemetery and parked near the stone chapel at the entrance. I also noticed that there was a crematorium attached, and, from the appearance of the chimney, someone was getting crispy.

The day was mild with bright sunshine as I started up the hill to the right of the chapel. I was able to get in a 50 minute workout. I could have waddled like a duck or danced like a Russian Cossack without getting laughed at. You might say the interred kept a respectful silence as I went by.

After that, I discovered three more cemeteries were I could speed-walk for 45 minutes to an hour: Saint Maryís Cemetery on the Salem/Peabody line, Cedar Grove in Peabody, and Pine Grove in Lynn.

Anyhow, the whole point of this article isn't about me prancing around the graves but some of the unique features, sculpture, and other objets d'art found in graveyards. If you'll return to the homepage and click under "Graveyards I Have Known", I've assembled a collection of pictures to show you what I mean.

PS Ė Please keep all this quiet and to yourself because I donít want the word to get out how a cemetery beats the gym for aerobic workouts. Itís all I'd need is to encounter a bunch of runners snickering as I gravely waddle past.