Nature Provides A Much Needed Balm


April 12, 2021 by Carolyn Campbell

Spring has sprung! Another season is upon us as we navigate the possibility of travel in 2021. To enliven this seasonal experience, though virtual, I have selected images taken on a trip to Père-Lachaise in spring of 2018 proving that nature provides a much needed balm after a long, stay-at-home winter.

No cemetery offers a more rewarding experience or is more historically significant than Père-Lachaise in the far eastern section of Paris—one of the most idyllic places – a forest, really. With 5,000 trees along its winding paths, it’s the largest public green space in the city. In the fall, it is a festival of color with the sounds of songbirds overhead. In spring, however, chestnut blossoms carpeting the grounds (and visitors) and filling the air with a sweet fragrance is an indescribable experience. A celebration of nature’s awakening from its winter slumber. It brings to mind a favorite quote by Honoré de Balzac who is buried there, “I seldom go out, but when I feel myself flagging I go out and cheer myself up in Père-Lachaise…while seeking out the dead I see nothing but the living.” 

Sweet-smelling pink and white chestnut blossoms carpet the cemetery.

Fall is the prime season to take photographs, imo; the yellow and orange leaves sharply contrasting with solemn gray tombs and iron railings, plus the unique Paris light filtering through latticed trees above. Nonetheless, when I made the trip to Paris one spring, to my delight there were breathtaking flower beds planted by the cemetery’s gardeners, as well as irises and daffodils blooming at well-tended grave sites. In addition, there was the lush foliage from the trees on the 107-acre site, including acacia, maple, beech, ash, lemon and chestnut. Père-Lachaise is, after all, the foremost garden-style cemetery in the world and was the model for all European and American cemeteries from the 19th century onward.

No previous architect or landscape designer had been assigned such a vast and unprecedented undertaking— the first proper burial area for individual grave sites to be created outside of a churchyard. In conceiving the cemetery’s design, the landscape architect Alexandre Brongniart maintained the garden-like setting of the former country retreat of The Sun King, Louis XIV’s confessor, Father LaChaise.

The following is a visual stroll for your viewing pleasure. Breathe…

All photos ©Carolyn Campbell