Cults: April 2009 Archives

the fire this time: the towers are are forever collapsing up above 116th Street

Each time I head uptown for something going on at the Episcopal Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine, almost always with friends who haven't been there before, I look for this capital above one of the massed columns surrounding one of the formal entrances on the West Front. I had come to assume that almost everyone had probably heard about this treasure, and its various companions, but after a look around Google-land just now, I found that they may not be as well known or photographed as I had thought.

Barry and I went up to Harlem once again last week with friends from the East Bay area on the other side of the country. They were former New Yorkers, visiting the city for the first time after an absence of seven years. We had decided we were all interested in a concert of ancient and modern Spanish choral music being offered that afternoon inside the cathedral's crossing.

Naturally while we were there I showed them one of my favorite things, this stone capital, which had been completed well before September 11, 2001. It and several others were carved by workers who were a part of an apprenticeship program proposed in 1978 to serve urban youth but also intended to preserve the stone mason's craft. During its existence one of St. John's own twin towers managed to grow fifty feet (still 100 feet short of the height intended for both). The money ran out in the early 1990's, and both structural and decorative work on the Cathedral was once more discontinued, for the third time in that last, very messy century of ours.

For more images of the stones, and more on the church and its Close, see Tom Fletcher's New York architecture site, or that of the church itself.


I hope this image doesn't make the blog look too sentimental, especially coming after my last post (a picture of some yellow spring flowers in front of a blue wall), but today, or some other day close to it, is a big holiday for a lot of people - for many different reasons, some of them even related.

Easter was one of my favorite holidays growing up. We were observing Catholics, but my obsession with the holiday was more about the return, finally, after another interminable Lent, of lots of smells and bells: colorful church vestments (including pink!), fresh flowers everywhere, lots of music, and candy of course (even before church).

The ancient Germans, who seem to be behind all of our biggest holidays, revered a fertility goddess called Ostara (there are many spellings), who was associated with the rising sun and spring, but who was also a friend to all children. She had a pet bird that for some reason she had to change into a rabbit to produce brightly colored eggs, which the goddess gave to the children as gifts.

None of this makes sense to me now, and I'm referring to the yarns spun by both Catholic and pagan cults, so the fact that once every year at this time I pull out of the cupboard an opaque nineteenth-century glass egg (made for darning socks?) which has sat forever on some dry grasses inside a two-inch-round antique splint basket from the same era would seem to represent as much nonsense as its inspirations. Maybe it's my way of freely rendering an astronomical calendar, but I do know it makes me feel good.

We have another very old basket which I also set out early this morning, this one in the living room. It's a bit larger. Inside its ancient woven splints rest three hollowed-out and brightly-decorated real eggs. The eggs have grown old themselves since the day they were purchased at a Ukrainian holiday fair decades ago, although they don't look like they've changed a bit. Although These curios are real, and they definitely have color, I think I've always preferred their glass replica, and it's the one I'm looking at now as I type these lines.

Happy spring!

This page is an archive of entries in the Cults category from April 2009.

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