08 July 2009


We spent the Fourth of July making a loop up the west side of the Hudson, and back down the east side. One of our stops was West Point, where we actually took the tour (because it’s now the only way to get onto the base - you used to be able to just drive through). The tour isn’t much more than a narrated bus ride, though we did get to go into the chapel, which is rather lovely.

It had that familiar smell of dust and incense, and all the hymnals and bibles were lined up along the backs of the pews just so, looking kind of like the sea of white tombstones at a military cemetery.

hymnals in the chapel
The organ console is astonishing - it's got more stops than I've ever seen on an organ, and is said to be the largest working church organ in the world.

organ stops
We didn't get to hear the organ, alas, but we did hear and see the cadets march into lunch - three drums, one bugle and more than a thousand identically dressed impending soldiers marching like ants up the stairs into the mess hall. It was entrancing and transfixing, and heartrending too, the unison choreography of war.

I find myself drawn to patterns and textures - that sea of hymnals, the array of organ stops, the marching multitudes. I take pictures of moss, and of piles of vegetables. I don't wear clothes with prints, or fabrics with more than one color; my closet is a sea of solids distinguished by their textures. I'm partial to text-less magazine pages filled with pattern to their full-bleed edges - and I rip them out to use for collage or wrapping paper. I love an old brick wall, the bricks laid by hand, each a slightly different color from its neighbor.

I think there's something hard wired in me that wants to organize the world in a certain way. How about you? What would you have seen in that chapel?


Anonymous said...

Looks like an enormous checker board.

kathy a. said...

how in the world could anyone learn to use all the features of that organ?

i like patterns, but prefer more chaos in real life, which is fortunately more available. wouldn't have picked you for solid color clothing only -- i'm trying to shift from patterns to solids, so i can look more put-together, but prints get me every time.

abby said...

I'm curious as to the look of the altar. it always fascinates me to see how "high" above the congregation of churches, chapels, synagogues, etc. the officiants are placed. I, also, like to look at symmetry in my world, but in this instance, the equal rights activist in me would come out.

can you tell I'm not religious?

however, I do love and appreciate the beauty of the architecture and design of such holy places. every European cathedral I have walked into has given me thoughts of converting.

flutter said...

I love these pictures, so beautiful and rhythmic

Woman in a Window said...

I've looked at the photo of the pews numberous times in my reader and I always saw it as a huge xylophone. Weird, eh. But then you showed the picture of the organ and suddenly it makes perfect sense. Yes, order. What else would a chapel reveal? Oh, maybe a little transcendence but that's hard to photograph.

heidi said...

love the church pics... but to answer your question:
The cadets, of course :-)

Bon said...

i think my love of art deco and modernist imagery comes from that instinctive draw to the aesthetics of order and catalogue, clean lines with function, blah blah blah.

i like texture because to notice it requires noticing subtlety. we pay a lot of attention to colour in our culture, and the red of those hymnals is beautiful. but i noticed living in the Arctic and in Asia that when everyone has the same colour hair & eyes, you pay more attention to facial features. you have to, in order to be able to describe anyone. i think of texture in the same way.

mayberry said...

Love those pictures. When I'm in a church or chapel, I always look up (to the ceiling, not the heavens).

painted maypole said...

hmmm... i probably would have see a place where so many people of so many different backgrounds came together to worship

bernthis said...

Even I am Jewish, I am fascinated by those same smells. I would love to tour West Point. It is so incredibly sad how much the world has changed since 9/11. I'm sorry that my kid will never be able to grow up and do the simple things like, walk a friend up to the gate at the airport or be there waiting when she/he steps right off the plane. Unable to drive through West Point on a whim and the million other things we all used to just imagine would always be a part of our daily lives.

Mama Coyote said...

That's so beautiful... thank you.