Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Roofless Church

It was early on a Saturday morning. Because of the time change, we were an "hour off" so I was up early (early-to-rise was also enhanced by Rick's brother pounding on the door at 7 a.m. saying "Let's go riding!" Boys and their bikes...)

I had decided this would be the perfect time to take a walk to the roofless church and labyrinth (that's a later post) -- a time when it was quiet and thoughtful.

It was also a beautiful morning when I came upon the church designed by Philip Johnson. Birds, singing, warm but not yet too hot or humid.

The church was located only a couple of blocks from the New Harmony Inn. Outside you'll find some beautiful sculpture such as this "Angel of the Annunciation."

If one wanted to be literal, you'd describe it as a brick wall surrounding a very large garden. True. But so much more. The heavy entry gates on the main entry give it a sense of greater presence.

With no roof to close one in, the feeling of peace and beauty is simply overwhelming. At this time of day it was very quiet; I was the only one there. The environment felt protected, loved and cared for.

There were spots to sit and contemplate.

Beautiful art was scattered throughout.

The sculpture on the exterior was equally interesting.


Neatly tended gardens rest in the corners...

...and clean, even stones make for beautiful walkways.

The Roofless Church was created as "a place for all people," although it is under the care of the Episcopal Discese.

The only somewhat enclosed spot is the alter, which one can see from various angles upon entering.

Up close, it is equally lovely.

I know that not all who visited here thought the same way I did -- perhaps they came looking for an attraction, perhaps there were more people there and it didn't offer the solace and silence I sought and found.

But the words above say it well. An all-inclusive space for people to meditate, contemplate, worship or simply be. It may not be the faith that draws you but clearly it is the peace that reigns.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Paris In July: Finding Your Own Music

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One last Paris In July post (check Thyme for Tea for other great links!) For the music lover, Paris is an auditory delight. Join me on a mini-musical tour!

Clearly, the easiest music to find is that on the street and in the Metro. They don't just let "anyone" have street space here, so you can count on something rather beautiful. For the most part, you'll find the lone violinist or a small group with their relatively portable instruments. But at Place de Vosges we spent a rather long time enjoying the beautiful harp music of this young man.

For something more formal, check out the Paris Opera Garnier. The lobby itself is a masterpiece, but imagine sitting in this beautiful theatre as you enjoy some of the greatest operas and ballets ever written.

(The Chagall ceiling isn't bad, either!).

Of course, if you are more the student, venture below to the opera's museum where you will find volumes of musical scores, paintings, set models and costumes from productions and many special exhibits.

Feeling classical?

You'll find numerous opportunities to hear free or inexpensive music in churches with their magnificent organs. But for a slightly more expensive and almost celestial experience, check out the chamber concerts in La Sainte Chapelle.

I've been to two of these and yes, they do play the lollipops (as Rick calls the "Pachelbel Canon" and "Four Seasons"). But they play them well.

And face it -- do you really come for the music or the incredible experience of enjoying this magnificent church and the light that dances on the floor from the renowned stained glass windows? (I'm not sure how this plays out in winter with it getting darker early, but in the summer it's pure joy to enter with the light pouring through and by the end, the sun has gone down, casting lovely shadows.)

The performers are always happy to meet after the show -- and sell a CD or two!

Of course, if you are musically inclined yourself, a trip to Rue du Rome's music stores should be on your list. Shopping for sheet music is an almost overwhelming experience.

And if you're not so good -- well, they have something for that, too!

My personal classical guitarist sampled guitars in several stores, including two specialty guitar stores in the Rue du Rome area.

We enjoyed impromptu concerts by the store owners which were simply delightful...

... and Rick had the opportunity to audition guitars.

 We also learned valuable information on the instruments, their history and makers..

You'll find music stores elsewhere, of course, just not so concentrated. On Avenue Bonmarchais, we were also able to chat with the luthier.

Then after, Rick offered his own concert, more uditioning guitars.

Of course, one of the most delightful ways to enjoy music is simply to encounter it. And a stop at a cafe or walk down one of any number of Parisian streets will bring a find and musical end to your day.

This is part of the Paris In July blog post party. You can find more posts on Paris at Thyme for Tea at the left side of the page! 

 Check them out -- you'll discover new books, films, photos and travel info!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Finding Harmony

Recently we attended the wedding of Rick's niece Allison in New Harmony, Indiana. Allison wisely chose this small town near the Kentucky and Illinois borders as a site for family and friends to congregate for her special day, knowing they would find it as enchanting and romantic -- not to mention fascinating -- as she did.

This spot is exquisite and if you are traveling in this part of the U.S., a detour to New Harmony will refresh you. Don't look for the wild and crazy good times (although after the rehearsal and reception, I am told by many of the 20-40 set that a very good time was had at the Yellow Tavern!). What you will find include historic buildings, beautiful biking areas, charming homes, a small but lovely downtown with good shopping and a labyrinth and roofless church, both of which will be featured in separate posts.

It must be "wedding city" -- there were five or six weddings taking place over the weekend we were there, and the New Harmony Inn also serves as a center for conferences. It's the quietest town I've ever been in -- many of the New Harmony residents skip about in golf carts.

I enjoyed the antique stores and farmer's market, even though that was very small. A quiet early morning walk was truly a spiritual highlight and I could understand the historical elements of the town simply by walking.

The Lenz House (c. 1819-22) had a lovely kitchen garden.

We stayed in the New Harmony Inn, which was very nice. (Everything is walking distance in this hamlet). However, I would recommend one of the lovely guest houses. I'm told from those who were there that they are filled with antiques and many, like this one, had lovely patios for breakfast.

Guest House

The rest of this post includes the fascinating historical background of New Harmony, edited from a piece written by Rod Clark for the wedding couple's "goodie bag." Even if you aren't interested in the history of this intriguing 1800s experiment in communal living (different from but not unlike the Shakers) read on!

The cabin on the far right is the first Rappite log cabin and built in 1804

New Harmony was established 200 years ago by a group of German immigrants led by George Rapp. Rapp's religious sect (Deists) had undergone religious persecution in Germany and they fled to the newly founded America. They were known as The Harmonist Society and they established one of the earlier attempts at community living in the United States.

Our group checked out the brick work on the original communal living dormitory

The Harmonists were a strictly religious group and wanted to establish a Utopian community based on their understanding of "God's Kingdom." They shared properties and revenue in principles we would now equate more with socialism.

In many ways, they remind me of the Shakers, at least in terms of producing quality items. The Shakers are known for their furniture; the Harmonists for items like textiles, whiskey, beer and rope. They exported these items both to other states and Europe and were so successful that they left the town to move closer to their markets (1825).

In Scotland, progressive European manufacturer Robert Owen had learned of the Harmonists' concept of community organization and when the town was put up for sale, Owen decided to purchase the community to begin his community of a new society with shared ownership and labor.

Because he was so successful in Europe, he attracted the curiosity and scrutiny of others to see how this new system would work and initially it was met with great enthusiasm.

But unfortunately, rather than simply gathering the hard workers, Owen's plans also attempted those looking for a "free ride" and he abandoned the community two years later. His sons, however, and others in New Harmony remained and eventually the town became a known as a cultural and scientific center.

 Some buildings are preserved inside as they were in the 1800s.

The town has been exquisitely preserved thanks to the efforts of Jane Blaffer Owen, a Texaco/Exxon heiress who married one of the Owen descendents in the 1940s. She committed her wealth and her energies to preserving the town as a spiritual retreat center and a place of art, music and beauty.

If you head to New Harmony, check out the antique shops, had a terrific salad at Sara's (also a lovely wine bar with an excellent list).Sit for a few minutes in one of the parks or gardens. Just wander.

You'll be refreshed, peaceful, calm -- and pleasantly surprised!

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