This entry has a bit of a personal theme to it, but the moment was so unbelievable that I must tell anyone I can. I was assigned the location of Allegheny Cemetery for a shoot the other morning. As a food photographer a cemetery isn’t the most ideal location. Here’s a delicate and colorful sushi plate with tombstones in the background; no thanks. I was at a loss for a portfolio piece but I wanted to take the opportunity to do more of a personal shoot.
Here’s the personal part of the entry. A couple of months ago my grandmother lost the battle to pancreatic cancer, a few weeks following, her husband, my grandfather, took his life. It’s a tragic love story that is still difficult for me to believe. My grandparents raised me at the beginning of my life, and by that I mean something a little different than the usual. I am adopted. Before I was adopted, they took care of me until their son and his wife got custody. These souls took in an abandoned child and then helped me find a stable home. The loss of them is the most difficult thing I’ve ever experienced.
I’ve never been a fan of cemeteries. I’ve probably been in, maybe, four of them in my 23 years of living. The Allegheny Cemetery location was not something I was very comfortable with. I did however; begin to look forward to it as some sort of spiritual closure due to my grandparents never having a funeral, memorial service, etc. I didn’t know what was going to happen but I was mentally prepared for anything. My boyfriend, Ethan, came with me for support and to assist me if necessary. I imagined I would stumble across a stone with something beautiful written on it or see a landscape with striking light, think of my grandparents, and probably cry. I would photograph the moment and it would be very dear to me forever. Something beyond that happened.
The cemetery goes on for miles doubling as a home for wildlife to roam. There were a lot of docile deer that you could almost reach out and pet. Ethan believes deer symbolize peace and tranquility. He looks at them as very spiritual animals. I think he’s got something there. So we walked around the cemetery encountering beautiful animals that seemed to want to comfort us. I wasn’t having much luck with my camera, spending too much time just remembering my grandparents.
When suddenly we passed an incredibly aged grave with a huge eight-foot tall stone. Sitting on the point of the stone, perfectly placed and perfectly still, was a huge red tailed hawk.
“Is that real?!”
I exclaimed while enthusiastically pointing. I legitimately thought it was a fake. The stone was so old and had such a creepy vibe that it made sense for it to be a fake bird someone placed on the grave instead of flowers. And then it looked at me. I began shooting. Ethan pulled out his phone to take pictures. We slowly inched ourselves closer and closer as the hawk looked back and forth between us remaining unthreatened by our presence. We got about a foot away before the bird ruffled his feathers exposing his impressive wingspan; Ethan took one step too close in that moment and off the hawk went. But not without giving us a truly divine moment exceeding anything I could have ever wanted from the location.