Copenhagen is littered with cemeteries. I asked a Dane about this phenomenon. He shrugged and said that they were here when he got here. Each cemetery is a secret garden full of overgrown greenery. The most famous one covers Hans Christian Andersen, the fairy tale author, and Soren Kierkegaard, the philosopher
San Francisco actually relocated all of their cemeteries out of the city to a town called Colma. The only remaining cemetery in San Francisco isn’t technically in the city, it’s a military cemetery on federal land. You can glimpse a section of it from U.S. Highway 101. I’ve never been, but I’ve been to Colma’s. In addition to graves, Colma is home to big box stores and car dealerships. I went down there before my son was born to look at baby gear. Rolling hills are covered with new granite and gaudy marble. Not many trees though, just barren slopes of polished rock and fake flowers.
My father and brother went to the same university. They took the same class by the same professor (30 years apart) and used the exact same book, A Kierkegaard Anthology. Both claimed that they learned very little from this professor. I have the book. It was one of the few we lugged over to Denmark from San Francisco. I’ve read the first 18 pages and some of the underlined parts.
As far as H.C Andersen is concerned, I remember reading the story about the emperor walking around naked when I was a child. It was from an illustrated book. In this particular book the characters were horses instead of people. That way the nakedness didn’t overshadow the moral of the story.
In Danish, the word for cemetery is kierkegaard. My first few months in Copenhagen I thought the philosopher was buried everywhere. I’ve strollered my son through most all of the cemeteries. Occasionally we’d stop and I’d let him roll around on a blanket. I’d lay next to him and throw a ball up and down, to his amazement. Eventually he’d lose interest and start eating grass, leaves and daisies.
One night I retreated to my office. My wife took her turn and put our son down. I read about the universe; its unconscionable expansion versus the microscopic speck that is our planet. When I take on the topic I’m sobered by numbers. I constantly revisit the intangibility of insignificance. This time was no different, except for one thing, I could hear my son fighting sleep, a nightly ritual filled with indignation.