Other than one minor disappointment (there was no lantern-light cemetery tour offered on Saturday night; I soothed my sorrow at a nearby tavern), the trip was awesome.
Afraid of disrupting the service, I was too timid to actually go inside the church. But the adjacent burial ground was rich enough with delights.
I'm pretty sure the first three words carved onto this stone are "Here Lied Begraven." The text is in Dutch, which is thrilling enough (they spell Jesus with Z!) but I have to say the word "begraven" is kind of amazing. I'd like to start using this word all the time. I'm fairly sure the grave belongs to a woman ("huisvrouw," if I've been reading my Knickerbocker correctly, means "housewife" or "wife") but the only name that appears is that of a man (John Emers). Is it possible this goodly vrouw is identified only by her husband's name? Dutch people, help me out on this one. The good woman died in 1769, and her headstone is wonderfully representative of the preferred colonial style: its shoulder arches and tympanum are classic colonial, and the winged death's-head reflects the cheerier, more cherubic design used at the time, which supplanted the grim, skeletal carvings preferred in the earlier part of the century. A lovely headstone.
A few steps away, I found the grave of our man himself: Washington Irving. I paused before it to pay my respects to the legacy of the first genius of American letters, and left a rock atop it. Irving wrote a number of wonderful spectral tales in addition to the two everybody knows, as well as history, biography and satire, plus he pretty much single-handedly saved Christmas. And, he was a marketing genius. Prior to publishing his History of New-York, which he released under the pseudonym "Diedrich Knickerbocker," Irving plastered New York City with posters declaiming the august historian Knickerbocker "missing," and asking all citizens to come forward with any news of him, should they find him. Irving even took out ad space in various newspapers. Naturally, the city was astir with curiosity, and when "Knickerbocker's" book finally came out a few weeks later, New Yorkers beat down the doors to get their hands on a copy. A bestseller was born, and Washington Irving accidentally invented viral marketing two centuries before such a thing existed.
An opening in the trees now cheered him with the hopes that the church bridge was at hand. The wavering reflection of a silver star in the bosom of the brook told him that he was not mistaken... “If I can but reach that bridge,” thought Ichabod, “I am safe.”
He looked at us intently and said, "That line always makes my hair stand up."
It was amazing. This guy was an even bigger Washington Irving fan than I was. I thanked him warmly and, brimming with inspiration, set off to visit Sunnyside.
Sunnyside was designed by Irving himself, and the cottage reflects the writer's expansive and wide-ranging interests. It has all the architectural cohesion of a minor explosion, and is curiously charming.
Irving of course had to throw in a few inauthentic faux-Dutch touches, like this date, affixed to the western wall of the cottage: