The sun rose at 6:21 a.m. and I missed it. I was up early enough to catch a pretty cloud display, though. As I stood watching it, I realized, much to my astonishment, that it really was not very cold. This was a very pleasant discovery, that only improved as the morning wore on and it got warmer and warmer.
I walked back towards the New Harmony Inn, observing a lot of standing water left over from some recent flooding. All ice free, though. The flat land leading down from The Roofless Church towards the river was brown with mud.
Time for a breakfast interlude with my son, a very delicious omelette in the Red Geranium restaurant. After, I headed out again towards The Roofless Church
The Roofless Church is one of the two most extraordinary buildings in New Harmony. A high, slightly convolved, wooden cone shields a statue that is placed where the altar might be in a more conventional church. Otherwise, the church is completely open to the sky. For an event, a wedding for example, wooden seats are brought in and arranged in conventional rows facing the altar, but usually there are no seats at all apart from a few benches situated towards the sides to the church.
The altar statue, made by by sculptor Jacques Lipchitz is of a striking, womb-like, design that does not resemble the conventional altar cross at all. The church is maintained by the Episcopal Church but does not seem especially Christian. I sense more than a little Asian and even a some pagan religious influence at work here, despite its title – The Descent of the Holy Spirit.
From the church I walked west towards the other clearly striking building in New Harmony, the Visitor's Center or Atheneum.Blazing white in the morning sun, this extraordinary building looks as if it just touched down from some other world.
Settled on a ridge just above the river's edge flood zone – again coated with water and mud – and next door to a sleepy midwestern town, I half expect aliens to walk out of it seeking a leader to be taken to.
The building itself was closed, not opening until spring. Inside is a reception desk and souvenir shop such as you might find anywhere, and that evaporates a little of the magic. I have always wanted to roam the stairs and walkways but they are usually, as indeed they were on this Sunday, off-limits.
I strolled away from the building along the path that leads to the river's edge, coating my shoes in that same Wabash mud, and paused to enjoy the river gurgling along past the bridge. It makes a lot of noise, swirling around the supports, and it led me to think there were cars going over, rattling the superstructure. But there were none.
I hope the bridge gets repaired soon. The road leading to it from the Illinois side of the river is very pretty, and the bridge itself – only a two lane structure – is a treat to cross.
Sometime, I'm sure. I splashed back towards the Visitor's Center and then onto the marble maze that lies very close to that building. The path in – and out – takes you over the entire surface of the circular design, and there is always a very strong sense of peacefulness and satisfaction after making the journey.
Adjacent to the maze are the burial grounds for members of the Utopian community that founded New Harmony in the 19th century. A walled area with no grave markers, it, too, has a sense of deep spirituality.
I could have spent literally hours in any of these places in quiet contemplation, and I regretted that we had to leave after just the one night, but so it goes.
[/URL]It was getting close to check-out time, so back to the New Harmony Inn, past some reconstructed wood cabins in the style of the earliest settlers.
I made it back to the room just in time; I had thought check-out time was noon when it was in fact 11 a.m. My son and I rapidly packed our bags (leaving behind a good number of things that we had to retrieve later), and then decided to spend a little more time in the village.
The maze could not be passed up – my son made the journey outward but crossed the lines to return. That is also a curiously freeing thing to do.
We finished our time in New Harmony by sitting in The Roofless Church. Half an hour or so of contemplation on a, by now, very warm day.
A very restorative trip, succinctly summed up by this quote from Beethoven, carved in wood and displayed on one of the many woodland paths.