Gate of the Dornie cemetery.

The gate that closes in the Dornie cemetery is like the rest of the graveyard — sedate and quiet. Simple stone pillars and plain wrought iron separate the resting place of Dornie’s dead from the surrounding land. Within, the grounds are green and usually damp and mossy from rain in the spring and summer, or blanketed by white in the winter. Spruce, oak, pine and birch trees — some of them ancient — offer shade to the mourners, and together with the sun filtering through their leaves, create a constant play of shadow and light upon the graves.

Like any centuries-old cemetery, there is an unevenness to the rolling landscape due to the diverse sizes, shapes and styles of tombstones. The oldest are more ornate and larger in size, looming over the smaller and simpler gravestones of the more recently dead. The names on the oldest of stones are worn away by time and weather, but here and there it is possible to find a date going back 300 to 400 years.

Graves are generally well-looked after, though some more than others. Rotting bouquets are disposed of and foliage is trimmed so as to keep it from engulfing final resting places. A ground-bound, hooded crow can be found hopping around the place at most times, though it keeps its distance from most visitors.

Here lies— lives the gravedigger.

All the way in the back of the cemetery, at the end of a winding path and behind bowed trees that hungrily stop much of the light passing through to the ground below, stands a building that is nearly as grey and lifeless as the headstones that are dotted around it. Once-seedlings have since grown to envelop the upper floor of the building in clouds of leaves and dead branches, leaving rooms dark behind tall white window panes.

It is known to be the home of the town's current cemetery groundskeeper, Lazar Vodenicharov, and many a gravedigger before him. The plants that cling to its exterior do not yet seem to have penetrated into the structure, the rooms clad with darkly coloured wallpaper and the floors an even darker, unpolished hardwood. Most of the rooms go unused, and this is evident enough from the furniture stacked up to the very windows themselves.