Most of what I love in life is simple. Fussy design whether in clothing, architecture or people wears me out leaving me cranky. This week I am thankful for the uncomplicated.
For Kansas. Wide vistas where you can see for miles without anything obstructing the view. Home.
For people who are honest and open. The kind of people who for good or for ill never make you wonder where you stand with them.
Vine ripened tomatoes that taste like tomato.
Along a busy thoroughfare in Chapel Hill, North Carolina I caught sight of a white deer. It took me a while to realize it was not yard art, but a living breathing being. Suddenly everyone in the car scrambled for our phones and started snapping photos while marveling over the strange beauty of the creature. I am thankful nature still has the power to take my breath away unexpectedly.
I am thankful for weekends.
I am thankful that most real wisdom in life is so basic. Real wisdom is uncomplicated and discernible by all of us, not reserved for a few chosen intellectuals. It is evident to us in nature and the ways our ancestors did things. It is up to us to stay open to it and be willing to learn.
And Chinese take-out, I am definitely thankful for Chinese take-out.
The church interior at Tegernsee was a study in contrasts. The ceiling and religious icons were fine and gilded while the woodwork in the church was unvarnished, weathered and warped with age.
One of the things that I love about the old churches and cathedrals in Europe is the commingled smells of age and incense. The odor hints at years of religious services and gives me a sense of calm.
Name plates hung on the backs of the rough hewn pews. Donors or assigned seating? I wasn’t sure which.
Ends of pews were lined with candles making me wish I could see the place bathed in candle light at night.
Knobs were worked into the floral carvings on the ends of each pew. I felt like they must have a purpose though I couldn’t image what.
The floor was covered in stone tile which showed the wear of many generations.
The wood of the stairs and railing to the balcony was rough and bare.
The town of Tegernsee looked like a storybook village through the windows in the balcony.
The balcony pews were rougher than the ones in the sanctuary and the wooden floor was unpolished. There was beauty in the quirkiness of the weathered wood.
The space to the balcony was apparently too tight for both stair railing and support beam. A notch was carved from the beam to allow the railing to pass. Years of hands sliding along the railing have sanded both surfaces completely smooth.
The last thing that catches your eye on your way out the door is this intricate hardware. What a time when even door latches were things of beauty.
(Special thanks to Rose, our proud German American neighbor, for encouraging us to take this side trip to the land of her ancestors.)
As we wound our way around Lake Tegernsee we passed through each little town that dotted the shore. The smattering of towns were so close together that you could actually see what was happening downtown in one from the next town over. The final village was Tegernsee itself, the town our neighbor had told us about. On a hill at the far edge of town stood the church.
Each church we saw in Germany no matter how small was surrounded by its own cemetery. When we were in France we had been moved by the beauty of Pere Lachaise Cemetery in Paris filled with graves which show obvious wealth and age. In truth much of the beauty there is found in the decay of the decrepit burial plots.
The church cemeteries in Germany are just as ancient, but show none of the decline of the graves in Paris. Individual graves are treated as small manicured gardens no matter how long the deceased had been gone.
Groundskeeping supplies were available at nearly all the cemeteries we saw. I don’t know if family members keep up the graves of their own, if the churches have someone on staff to do the work, or if church members volunteer their efforts. How ever the graves are cared for, they receive careful and consistent care everywhere we went throughout Germany.
It made me think about cemeteries in America where everyone is now limited to flat, specific-sized stones so that the lawn mowers can drive right over top and not waste any time taking special care with any individual graves. I thought about how plain and ordinary the graves of my own parents look in comparison to these stones covered in ivy and succulents and symbols of faith. I understand the need for efficient care taking. I get the argument that those who are gone, no longer care if their stone is flat or unique. But I couldn’t help but think what a comfort it would be to come into one of these church cemeteries and find my ancestors tended with such obvious love and honor.
I think it says something special about a society that makes this great a commitment to those who no can longer offer anything in return.
Vanderbilt was one of our stops on the Great Grad School Parade of 2015. Cornelius Vanderbilt is depicted in the sculpture above. He was seventy-nine years old when he contributed the funds that launched Vanderbilt University. The notation on the base of the statue said he died about four years after the school was established.
Vanderbilt was elderly as the school began to take form, but I couldn’t help but think how many landmarks I have seen that were dream projects built only shortly before the dreamer’s life ended. Many a dreamer died far too young.
What dream would you see to fruition even if it took all that you had? Would you still be willing to see that it came true if you knew you knew it would be your legacy rather than something for your personal enjoyment? What exactly do you hope to leave behind?
Too many people spend their energy building walls. So much effort is put into separating “us” from “them”. Race, lifestyle, religion, politics…each a brick piled one on the other until the wall finally keeps us apart, isolating us from the richness we could experience, robbing us of a deeper understanding of life. I am bone-tired of so many walls; oh, for the gift of a gate.
(A walk in Nashville, TN)