⟨ I Know I'll Often Stop and Think About Them ⟩

17-The silence through which you move / is my voice pursuing you

The pinecones on the ground

Words & Photography / Holun Tang
Translation / Nicole Go

第一次聽到有人把香港的赤柱軍人墳場當成景點參觀,真的讓我感到有些不可思議,腦海只浮起無數水泥方塊密密麻麻佈滿山頭的畫面。竟然有人會特地跑去參觀那種死氣沉沉的地方?難得來到遠方海邊,在沙灘上踏浪玩耍應該更明智。

從小的經驗告訴我,拜祭如同差事一宗,在特定的時間去特定的地方,環境也絕對說不上舒適自在,墳墓鱗次櫛比,到處彌漫燃燒祭品的濃煙,人通常不想多待半晌。那時我還不知道香港開埠早期有些墓地是參照現代歐洲花園式墓園而建,像赤柱軍人墳場,地方雖小,內有草坪、座椅,沿著山坡緩緩而上,不禁想坐下來休息一會。

When I first heard that some people would visit the Stanley Military Cemetery as a tourist attraction, I found it incredible. Why would anyone favour a hill dotted by slabs of headstones over the nearby St. Stephen’s Beach?

I know from childhood experience: a visit to one’s ancestors is but an impassive task. You go to a designated cemetery at a specific time. Jam-packed with burnt offerings and headstones upon headstones, it’s hardly a place that encourages prolonged visits for smoke-stung eyes. But I did not know then that Hong Kong cemeteries of the early colonial era, like Stanley, were modelled on 19th-century European garden cemetery. Albeit compact, the cemetery in Stanley is equipped with landscaping and benches like that of a public park – offering respite too good to be true after a long flight of steps.

我之所以愛上在墓園散步,也是始於外地這種跟公園沒有兩樣的環境,有時是拜見心愛的作家,有時是探索歷史遺跡,卻也不必為了甚麼,很多時是碰巧經過那裡。城區裡的墓園多被住宅包圍,大部分人都把它當成前往目的地的通道若無其事地經過,緩緩在樹蔭下漫步,偶爾一輛自行車擦身而過。

This fine line between death and public space was the reason I began to enjoy walks in cemeteries. Sometimes I go there to pay tribute to a beloved writer, other times to learn about history. But, really, you don’t need a reason to be in a cemetery. More often than not, you chance upon one without trying. Camouflaged amidst residential buildings, urban cemeteries are seen as a means to a destination more than a place in its own right. Strolling under the trees, sharing the road with a few cyclists, there is no telling where the sidewalk ends and where the final resting place begins.

墓園跟公園實際上自然有別,大概沒人會在墓地裡踢球,緩步跑的人也只是默默跑著,發出氣喘吁吁的聲音。嫌公園過於熱鬧的人,我想會喜歡的墓園的安寧,或者說是不止於安寧的東西。後來我懷著期盼的心情到訪瑞典斯德哥爾摩的「林地公墓」—— 這個唯一被列入世界遺產的墓園,我才發現置身墓園這個特別的場所,我的心是如此熱烈跳動著。

There are, of course, differences between a cemetery and a park. I don’t suppose anyone would play football in a cemetery, though people might jog in muted gasps. I used to think that those who disliked the bustle and activity in parks might prefer the peace of cemeteries, or rather something ineffable that transcended peace itself. Then I visited the much anticipated Skogskyrkogården in Stockholm – the only cemetery in the world named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Only then did I realise the passionate beating of my heart.

「林地公墓」裡由教堂、雕像、池塘和山丘所伸展開去的格局宏大得讓人心生敬意,不過最打動人的地方反而是來自平凡不過的風景,一片不見盡頭的草原和樹林。離開入口附近的教堂建築群後,我開始步入超過一公里長的松樹林。古老的松樹高聳入雲,遠比墓園更早於此落地生根,墓碑像有人隨意擺放般散落林間。我沒有陷入對死亡的沉思,我只是覺得這裡的一切,草、泥土、石頭、樹木單純而莊嚴地存在著,而其中也包括了我,包括了死亡。

Complete with chapels, integrated sculptures, a large pond and a meditation hill, Skogskyrkogården boasts an extraordinary environment of tranquil beauty. What moved me, though, was its pastoral landscape, which evoked a more primitive imagery. Away from the ornamental colonnaded entrance and chapels, one arrived at a footpath through a grove of tall pine trees. The pine forest had been there long before the gravestones materialised, as ad hoc as they might be. Death did not obsess me, but it was clear to me that the co-existence of all of this – grass, soil, stones, woods – and me and death – was as stately as it was manifest.

我拾起地上一顆松果,不知為何松樹的果實會是一顆木頭,倒放起來又像細小的樹。聽說松果即使凋落,層層的木鱗片遇到水後仍會緊緊閉合起來,來保護裡面的種子,活像有生命的東西。突然,一陣比香水更濃烈的松香傳到我鼻上,我大聲喊了出來,這種味道不屬於任何人,不屬於生者,也不屬於往者。所有的事情,既不是開始,也不是結束,一切一切不過是在這裡存在而已。

I picked up a fallen pinecone. I wasn’t sure why the fruit of a pine tree should be woody and geometric – like a miniature tree. It was said that cones were open when dry and closed when wet, to protect the seeds until dissemination in relatively dry weather. The scent of pine in the air was stronger than any perfume. It belonged to no one – neither the living nor the dead. There were no beginnings or ends. Things existed here, in a state of suspension – of epoché.