I had an adventure this weekend – a solitary retreat to New Harmony, Indiana, for a single night.
It's a town rich in history, being the home in the 19th century to two separate and ultimately unsuccessful Utopian communities.
I noticed it myself many years ago when I first visited this village. It's a rare thing – I feel it on the Mounds at Cahokia and have felt it in many ancient places in Britain from Glastonbury Tor to the ancient stones at Avebury.
But otherwise, it's seldom found. It's not a product of religious building. Most churches and temples, even old ones, lack this unique atmosphere. It's a product of place, a point on the planet where there is a narrowing in the gap between the mystic reality and the common reality that we all acknowledge.
I like to walk through this small village and absorb the peacefulness. At night, it seems particularly tranquil.
Even on a Saturday night!
I walked down to the bank of the Wabash River. This wide, placid, river is favorite of mine. Not as grand as the Great Rivers, it still is longer and wider than British rivers. It reminds me of the Thames, but with a remoteness and wildness you do find in that venerable waterway.
Illuminated by the light from the beautiful truss bridge, these bare trees seemed to reach out into the water like a giant, skeletal claw. Not a menacing image though – just the beauty of nature.In complete contrast, the modernist Atheneum designed by Richard Meier and finished in 1979 stands out starkly against the rural background.
When I first saw it, I couldn't understand why such a building should exist in a small riverside village but now it seems to be an essentially part of the experience and, despite its unusual design, it actually fits very well into the aesthetic of New Harmony. It serves as a visitor's center and on Saturday afternoon, by great good fortune, I was allowed to go onto the roof. Pictures from that later.
I walked back to the New Harmony Inn through the Roofless Church where I took this and the photograph below of the gates.Then it was back to Inn. Just by the entrance, on a porch area, someone had lit a log and left it burning on a fire grill. No one was around it – it flared like a beacon in the night.