• Vol. 07
  • Chapter 07

River View Perch Musings

Living in a hip and historic, geographically isolated small town in the Pacific Northwest is a unique experience, and even more so on an eerily quiet Sunday, as the mandatory COVID-19 stay home order nears its sixth week. Lockdown blues? Not a chance, up in my river view perch in Astoria.

A portrait of a young girl takes me back to Recoleta Cemetery, where Argentina’s wealthy and powerful rest in style. On a beautiful sunny morning in Buenos Aires, City of Fresh Air, I spent hours strolling in an eerie labyrinth of statues, coffins, sarcophagi, and crypts, rich in a variety of architectural styles, when I stumbled upon the tomb of Rufina Cambacérès.

The beautiful socialite daughter of a well-known writer and an Austrian actress was mistakenly buried alive on her 19th birthday. According to some accounts, Rufina was in her bedroom dressing for an evening concert at the Teatro Colón, when her best friend confided that Rufina’s boyfriend was her mother’s secret lover. It’s a tragic story of love and betrayal that led to Rufina’s having a fatal cataleptic attack and her premature burial.

A few days after the burial the cemetery caretakers reported the coffin had moved. When the family opened the coffin, Rufina’s face was covered with scratches and bruises in a desperate attempt to escape.

German artist Rich Aigner was commissioned by Rufina’s mother to build the marble art nouveau tomb with exquisitely sculpted orchids and a soulful statue of the young girl opening the door to the crypt. Her grave and tragic love story attacts thousands of visitors, some leaving flowers. I was told some people report seeing a young woman wandering near La Recoleta at night. Is the mysterious woman in white Rufina Cambacérès? Nobody knows for sure.


River View Perch Musings

In Oregon, no one knows for sure when the governor will lift the mandatory stay at home order. Knowing there are no quick fixes for COVID-19, I wonder if self-quarantine is now the new norm for living out my years. In the meantime, I stay healthy, safe, and spend time quietly up in my perch soaking in the beautiful Columbia River view and musing to my heart’s content.