|The suit was aqua, the hat dyed to match.|
In the 1950s of my childhood, Sunday morning saw me dressed for church in my Sunday best - always a dress, my good shoes (as opposed to my school or play shoes) and a hat. In the early fifties, I wore white cotton gloves as well, with decorative top stitching and pearl buttons at the cuffs. I carried a small purse with room for a handkerchief (an embroidered one for Sundays) in case my nose did anything as indelicate as drip, and a bobby pin or two for anchoring my wayward hair. Mass was in Latin so I understood very little of what was said, but I liked listening to the choir and I loved the whole atmosphere of ritual and pomp. To a small, sensitive girl the concepts of religion meant little; it was the ceremonial aspect of it that I looked forward to, that and the fashions, the hats, the hairstyles and the music. Those small pleasures followed me into my growing up years when I wore nylons and heels, lovely suits chosen just for Sunday wear, and the required hat or later, a lace mantilla.
I've long since given up church on Sunday mornings, or any other time. I no longer put on pantyhose and high heels, eschew hats in all but the coldest weather, and own only two dresses, neither of which see much wear, but I still love Sunday mornings and the small rituals I've created on my own to celebrate with gratitude and appreciation all that I have. Early this morning, for instance, I set out the cushions on my lawn glider and sat with my head against the pillows, eyes closed, to listen to the birds sing glory to the morning. When my eyes opened they were assailed by every shade of green there is—the deep green of the maple leaf, the brilliant green of grass, the khaki green of the towering pines, the yellow green of the forsythia, now finished with its froth of buttery flowers. The sky arched blue and cloudless over the earth like the painted ceiling of a giant cathedral. All around me the trees nodded their massive heads in reverence and the sun splashed in stained glass colors on the lingering dew.
I am lucky to live in an enchanted place surrounded by woods and wide lawns, a broad sweep of pond water that reflects the trees and clouds, and where the sun sets in brilliant shades of crimson and mauve. I've been in cathedrals here and abroad and as beautiful as they were, none compared in my eyes to the forest cathedrals of my native New England, or to the majesty of the mountains that surround my home, or to the wild, windy west coast where my son and sisters live.
I no longer limit my beliefs to an entity that I could never quite believe in even as a child. Now my belief system is as wide open as the sea and as restless, subject to change though not to whim, and so much more satisfying now that it isn't rigid and stultifying. I no longer dress up and enter a building specified for worship. Instead I take in all that I can, let it wash through me, and sigh with reverence for all that I don't understand but can appreciate all the same, things like birdsong, and brilliant colors, for eyes to see and ears to hear, and a mind that still questions.
|A cathedral of sunlit trees.|