SANCTUARIES for NESTING and RESTING
One might not expect to find the gates of heaven in Brooklyn. An urban milieu tends to be fairly predictable. Yet the sighting of a monumental, imposing structure at the entrance to Green-Wood Cemetery prompts a convincing illusion of having arrived at the threshold of the Promised Land. Two larger-than-life portals girded by a Gothic edifice suggestive of a storybook fantasyland define its passageway onto the burial grounds.
A visitor might look heavenward, expecting to see white doves fluttering stereotypically above this ethereal envisage. Instead, monk parakeets (aka Quaker parrots) go about their business, screeching and procreating amid the tall spires they have inhabited for many years. This bird species that hails from Argentina purportedly has populated New York City environs for a few decades. They are the only parrots known to construct twig nests.
from brooklynparrots.com, by Jud Newborn, 2009
According to a New York Times blog article, “Greenwood Cemetery hosts one of the largest colonies in the city. The interwoven mass of twigs and birds turns the cemetery’s gothic main gate into a living sculpture.”
Perhaps the bird’s assigned name contributes a priestly influence that’s relevant in this particular setting. The monk parrot’s twelve-inch-long, green body with blue wing tips is capped by a patch of gray on its head that resembles a monk’s cap.
from 10000birds.com, "Monk Parakeets At Greenwood Cemetery,"
Brooklyn, NY, Jan, 26, 2009, by Carey
Having been designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2006, the cemetery draws throngs of visitors for myriad purposes, including bird watching.
Just beyond the Gothic entrance is a crematorium of modern vintage. Adjacent to it there are accommodations for cultural practices in the midst of stunning columbarium structures.
As if grills on the grounds of a public park, joss paper burners for symbolic burning rites conveniently occupy the landscape. These hallmarks of traditional Chinese and Vietnamese funeral proceedings reflect the multiculturalism of this metropolitan milieu. Typically white to symbolize mourning, joss paper (aka spirit money or ghost money) accented with foil, as well as papier-mâché replicas of everyday items, are burned to assure prosperity for decedents in the afterlife.
The Tranquility Garden is an oasis of three modern columbarium pavilions amid water and other natural elements.
Koi ponds, bamboo shoots, landscaped grasses, flowering cherry trees, and a ritual burner exemplify an Asian motif – chosen in recognition of the growing Chinese population nearby in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. During the design phase a feng shui expert was consulted to assure conformance to acceptable placements.
The atrium columbarium structures permit rays of sunshine to penetrate their interiors.
Niche compartments are comprised of different materials, including transparent glass, opaque granite, and frosted glass. A unique, dual-compartment version offers additional storage besides containment of an urn. Dubbed a "memory box urn," its doors swing open for a family’s keyed access to a drawer where mementos can be collected.
from a Green-Wood Cemetery website
Not far beyond this complex of columbaria is the main chapel. Its addition to the grounds in 1911 occurred long after the cemetery’s origination in 1838. The design replicates the Tower of Christ Church College in Oxford, England.
from BROWNSTONER: Brooklyn inside and out blog
Building of the Day: Chapel in Green-Wood Cemetery, by Montrose Morris
Someone commented that this small chapel impressively encompasses certain elements of a full-sized cathedral.
Lacking religious artifacts, the non-denominational facility bearing Gothic limestone was appointed with magnificent focal points as a backdrop for various functions. Stained glass windows and a dome above a glowing chandelier lend color and beauty to all kinds of events.
Besides funerals and memorial services, weddings, parties, concerts, lectures, other special affairs, and even film shoots are held here.
So there are many reasons to explore this lively cemetery in Greenwood Heights.
A subsequent visit to the venerable 478-acre property surely will require comfortable walking shoes… or maybe a trolley ride!
Monk Parrots Find Freedom, Dec. 27, 2013, by Dave Taft
Green-Wood Cemetery: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green-Wood_Cemetery
Tranquility Garden: http://www.archtober.org/botd-greenwood/
by Tyler J. Kelley – a freelance journalist
Chapel: Old Long Island blog, posted by Zach L.