Cathedrals in the World and the Inner Hive

Church P. TownsendTrees P. TownsendWriter and world observer, Peggy Townsend took these two photos. Nature is our greatest teacher; we don’t have to wonder which came first. The other day I walked the way the padres used to go between one church and another—along wooded trails, on and across streets—from Monterey to the Carmel Mission. Arriving at the church I had no inclination to go inside, despite having been raised Catholic and being grateful for that religion’s orienting me in realms of both the spiritual and the imagination. My church is amongst the trees; my religion is nature and imagination.

In a human made cathedral the chancel is the space around the altar that’s only for the clergy and other church officials. Unless on private property and, frankly, even then, each of nature’s sanctuaries is for all who enter; we are forbidden only by fear, poison oak, thickets too dense to enter, wild animals, and other natural occurring elements. But nothing keeps the nimble, daring imagination out.

I like how wide places narrow down leading to a center point, sometimes still, other times whirring with activity—the heart of the bees’ hive, the moment before two magnets touch, the core of grief, iris of the eye.

Two poets: American James Wright wrote about “…dancing in the cathedral of the wind…” and Polish Czeslaw Milosz wrote about the “…cathedral of my enchantment…” There the dervish whirls, his skirts spin, caught by centrifugal force like an enormous top.

Peggy Townsend’s photographs stop me, whatever I was doing, they stop and return me to my own inner hive, the calm place at its very center.