A return to the cathedral – TTG

Note: I posted this last year and find Easter weekend to be an appropriate time to revisit even though blooming season is a little later this year. Lithuanians have a deep reverence for the forest that predates Christianity. Even today, that reverence has not diminished. It is an integral part of our Christianity. I’m glad I have retained that ancestral trait.

A year ago I wrote about the little patch of woods behind my house. It was just before Easter and just after the tragic fire at the Cathedral of Notre Dame. As I sat in my gazebo this week, I noticed the Mayapples have risen once again. It was like an invitation to visit my woodland cathedral for Easter services.

First I had to give gratitude for the beauty of my Kwanzan cherry tree outside my front door. They have larger, pinker blooms that peak well after the neighborhood Yoshino cherries. The blooms of the kwanzan are much sturdier than those of the Yoshino. They have stood up well to the winds and thunderstorms of the last few days. Despite the carpet of pink petals on the driveway and lawn, the tree remains gorgeous. Our neighborhood Yoshinos and Kwanzans were especially welcome this year while the cherry blossoms of  DC’s tidal basin remained largely off limits.

Now to the cathedral. It’s so very close that I consider my back yard the vestibule, a soothing and soul quenching vestibule now decorated with the seasonal vestments of crabapple and redbud blossoms. It a wonderful place to meditate or read a book, but I most often follow the words of Winnie the Pooh or Satchel Page or some other anonymous philosopher. “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.” I just let the great variety of birds do the speaking.

This is but a small patch of woods with a small stream which eventually winds its way to the Potomac and into the Chesapeake. It will forever be here since it was declared a habitat for a protected variety of fresh water mussel. It has stayed pristine over the twenty-five years I have lived here although it has naturally changed over the seasons and years. In addition to the Mayapples, the Christmas ferns were sending up their new fiddleheads and the delicate Mayflowers were in bloom. One of our fellow correspondents, Swamp Yankee, identified those Mayflowers for me last year. This year I found some Jack in the pulpits. I have a decent patch of them growing in my back yard. These have always intrigued me since they were pointed out to me by my first grade teacher. All these plants of the woodland floor are a testament to the rebirth of Spring and the miracle of Easter. I’m certain that the two are much more related than the Church lets on.

This day I took special notice of some of the larger trees in my little woodland patch. Stafford was pretty much denuded of trees and most everything else during the Civil War. A few cedars always stand out, no matter what the season. There are also some fine oaks. I am especially intrigued by our sycamores. I’ve watch them grow from nothing to towering trees just behind my backyard in twenty-five years. Their light grey bark is striking. Older specimens achieve a more gnarled outline with great character.

As I contemplated these trees, I thought their beauty and magnificence rivaled any cathedral’s arches and stained glass windows. They sing a silent hymn to nature and God. I am blessed to have such beauty mere steps from my back door.


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25 Responses to A return to the cathedral – TTG

  1. Johnb says:

    Amen to beautifully worded writing, man’s great cathedrals have been built to mimic the forest. Mine is a sub-tropical forest

    • Bill Roche says:

      Sometimes I need to be reminded of the truth that cathedrals do imitate forests with great and tall trees stretching towards the light. Next month I’ll go for a few days to Saranac Lake NY. I’ve camped there every summer since I was 16. I, “ahem”, took 3 years off for some “government work” but returned in the summer of ’72 and have been back every year since. I’d love to end my days there but winter comes hard in late October and stays until the very end of May. You have to like the cold! But June to the end of September is heaven on earth. The fishing is not what it was in the ’60’s. Ohio Valley smoke stacks have cut into the pike and bass but the forest remains. The Adk St Pk is mostly pine and their growth/shape conforms to the piece of earth their seed falls upon. They grow, sometimes, literally out of the surface of a rock … and they last. Come back year after year you can spot an “old friend”. Further into the forest, away from the lake, they remain untouched since Adirondack logging has largely stopped. Used to be, in the early ’60’s, you’d get stuck b/h a logging truck on rt 73. They are rare today and the forest is quieter for it. Berkshire forests (further south, across the Hudson, and warmer) are more varied then northern NY’s. I don’t believe you can find a pine b/y 200 years old. There are always assaults on the AdkStPk. It is the largest natural park land in the nation and remains “Forever Wild”. Come in summer, stay a week, but leave the forest as you found it.

      • TTG says:

        Bill Roche,

        I share your love for the Adirondaks. I went to RPI in Troy, NY and would often go off to the north woods on my own, summer or winter, without telling anyone of my whereabouts. Not very wise, but, what the hell, I was young and nigh indestructable.

        • Bill Roche says:

          Last time I was at RPI was early Nov. of ’67. I was playing in the goal for SUNY New Paltz and made a save. I got up with my face cut .. it had gone plum through the ice in front of the goal. I thought, “just a fall day at RPI”. Most Americans think NYS is NYC. I think Pat Lang believes that. They don’t understand the weather and the beauty still in NY. Hmnn… maybe that’s a good thing. I have a nephew who works near Rome (Def. industry). He wants to look at the western side of the ADKSP this summer. It’ll be a whole new side of the state for me. I’ll drag him to Fts. Stanwix and Niagra. I’m told the Oneida Carry is behind a shopping mall these day. Time moves on.

    • Johnb says:

      Hymn of the Cherubim – Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

      An hour in length so you can absorb to personal need and enjoyment.

  2. different clue says:

    Since the theme is trees, here is a very interesting article I saw recently in Smithsonian Magazine. It turns out that here and there in New England, including near the heavily populated parts, there were tiny land areas too steep or otherwise hard to log off during the Age of Logging, and tiny zones of Old Growth Forest were just left there and overlooked to grow even older. And a particular person has spent the last few decades finding them and showing them to enough other people that there is now a community and movement of finders, savers and preservers of these tiny postage stamp Old Growth Forest-bits in New England.

    Here is the link:

    One wonders if tiny little survivors of Old Growth Forest linger on around the Washington D C area, known but to few.

    • TTG says:

      different clue,

      Thanks for the link. I remember hiking the blue trails through a grove of old growth pines in NW Connecticut that were marked with the King’s arrow as potential masts for the Royal Navy. That was in the 1960s.

      Here in Stafford, we have the Crow’s Nest Natural Area Preserve with some old growth trees. I live only ten miles from the Preserve and often access it from the nifty canoe/kayak launch ramp.


  3. 505thPIR says:


  4. Deap says:

    As a Californian moving to Washington DC in the 1970’s we were exposed to that the “change of seasons” actually meant on the East Coast.

    Purchased a house in the Palisades in late autumn, weathered our first winter getting used to bundling up to just take out the garbage and were totally unprepared for what spring would do to the small hillside back yard – it became ablaze with lush azaleas, when we thought we just had uninteresting green shrubs covering that area.

    Our street trees blossomed in double flooring cherries leaving snow drifts of white petals. Bulb popped up where we never knew they existed. Washington DC was magical for those few short months.

    Then the oppressive heat and humidity of the summer set in and we hunkered down behind A/C, except when we retreated to our screened in “Florida Room” in the dark to watch the spectacular summer lightening storms and listen to the roar of the cicadas.

    Happy to be back in California – no heat, no humidity, no bugs, no lightening storms ……but alas no real seasons either. We measure the passage of time much more subtly out here.

    • TTG says:


      SWMBO and I cherish the changing seasons having grown up in Connecticut and the Saratoga area of New York. Spring and Fall are gorgeous in the Dc area. The Winter is too short, too warm and without sufficient snow and ice for us. Summer is too long, too hot and too humid. But we adjust. I do think you have nice weather in California, especially up in the Monterey area.

      I do recall moving to Hawaii as newlyweds for my first duty station. Like an obstinate New Englander, I kept turning down possible houses because of the steepness of the roads and driveways. I thought we’d never be able to get up that driveway in the Winter.

      • Deap says:

        I remember seeing, due to US military insistence, that fire places were installed in the US Officer family quarters …………in Corrigidor.

        US military central planning at the time must have been former neighbors of yours, in Connecticut.

      • TV says:

        I grew up in Upstate NY.
        I recall riding a van in the British Virgin Islands over a really steep hill and saying out loud: “I’ll bet this road’s a bitch in the winter.”
        The other passengers (mostly Canadians) laughed loudly.

  5. Lars says:

    In most of the countries around the Baltic Sea, the forests have had a mythical and mystical aspect to them for a very long time, which is one of the reasons why so many want to have a place out in the woods as a refuge.

    As someone who grew up in the frozen north, I still adhere to a discovery I made as a young man and that is that if there are no palm trees, you don’t want to live there.

    Here in Florida, we still have seasons: Tourist season, Bug season, Hurricane season.

    • John Minnerath says:

      We have seasons in the Wyoming high country too.
      Winter and Summer. Summer starts about noon usually on the 4th of July, by evening you better get out your coat.

      • Lars says:

        What I remember from my days in the trucking business, was that in WY they had 2 seasons, but they were Winter and Road Work.

    • Deap says:

      “Knock on wood” = pay your respects to Woton – in Germanic legend.

  6. TV says:

    How is Col. Lang doing?

    • TTG says:


      He’s doing fine under the guidance of his physical therapist tormentor. I’ll contact him again after Easter to see how he’s coming along.

      • TV says:

        My stepdaughtr and her husband are both PTs.
        Gotta do his exercises.

      • Leith says:

        There was a physical therapist at Army Zama Hospital Japan in 1969. Had the build of Bigfoot. He could put a massive hurt on you when getting you to stretch. We called him Captain Crunch, but only one guy on the ward ever called him that to his face.

        I appreciated his help though. My father, RIP, when recovering from a broken hip used to swear and scream at his sweet young 22 year old therapist. They banned him from therapy. He was happy. But because of that he never walked without help afterwards.

        • TTG says:


          I spent several months in the Tripler Army Medical Center in traction and then a body cast. When a knee joint was finally put into my cast, I started physical therapy to get my knee to bend again. My therapist was a 1LT Bonebreak. I asked her several times if that was a joke. No, that was her real name. Took two days and a lot of sweat to get the knee to 90 degrees.

          • Bill Roche says:

            My sister is 78. She’s been lucky through life – no breaks, scrapes etc., but she fell in a Feb. ice storm in Ulster County and broke her knee cap in two. She starts PT today and asked “will it hurt to stretch the ligament back over the knee cap?” I’ve had a “little” orthopedic experience. There is not a joint on my body I haven’t broken, replaced, or damaged so I said “oh no, just try not to curse at the therapists.” What an afternoon she is going to have. But that knee has to bend b/y 90 like it or not.

  7. English Outsider says:

    TTG – Wistman’s wood, in South West England, is a bit different again. Trees living in very unpromising conditions among granite and covered with moss and lichens. I went down there once, long ago. Magic place.


    If you think this is suitable, something the Colonel might like. Beats tax returns, anyway.


    And maybe this one because they all look so happy.


  8. One of my most formative books has been Gilbert Murray’s, The Five Stages of Greek Religion; https://www.gutenberg.org/files/30250/30250-h/30250-h.htm

    If I my post something a little long, here are the first several paragraphs of the introduction to the third edition;

    Anyone who has been in Greece at Easter time, especially among the more remote peasants, must have been struck by the emotion of suspense and excitement with which they wait for the announcement “Christos anestê,” “Christ is risen!” and the response “Alêthôs anestê,” “He has really risen!” I have referred elsewhere to Mr. Lawson’s old peasant woman, who explained her anxiety: “If Christ does not rise tomorrow we shall have no harvest this year” (Modern Greek Folklore, p. 573). We are evidently in the presence of an emotion and a fear which, beneath its Christian colouring and, so to speak, transfiguration, is in its essence, like most of man’s deepest emotions, a relic from a very remote pre-Christian past. Every spring was to primitive man a time of terrible anxiety. His store of food was near its end. Would the dead world revive, or would it not? The Old Year was dead; would the New Year, the Young King, born afresh of Sky and Earth, come in the Old King’s place and bring with him the new growth and the hope of life?

    I hardly realized, when writing the earlier editions of this book, how central, how omnipresent, this complex of ideas was in ancient Greek religion. Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Dionysus, and the rest of the “Year Gods” were not eccentric divagations in a religion whose proper worship was given to the immortal Olympians; they are different names given [vi]in different circumstances to this one being who dies and is born again each year, dies old and polluted with past deaths and sins, and is reborn young and purified. I have tried to trace this line of tradition in an article for the Journal of Hellenic Studies for June 1951, and to show, incidentally, how many of the elements in the Christian tradition it has provided, especially those elements which are utterly alien from Hebrew monotheism and must, indeed, have shocked every orthodox Jew.

    The best starting point is the conception of the series of Old Kings, each, when the due time comes, dethroned and replaced by his son, the Young King, with the help of the Queen Mother; for Gaia or Earth, the eternal Wife and Mother of each in turn, is always ready to renew herself. The new vegetation God each year is born from the union of the Sky-God and the Earth-Mother; or, as in myth and legend the figures become personified, he is the Son of a God and a mortal princess.

    We all know the sequence of Kings in Hesiod: First Uranus (Sky), King of the World, and his wife Gaia (Earth); Uranus reigns till he is dethroned by his son Cronos with the help of Gaia; then Cronos and Rhea (Earth) reign till Cronos is dethroned by his son Zeus, with the help of Rhea; then Zeus reigns till . . . but here the series stops, since, according to the orthodox Olympian system, Zeus is the eternal King. But there was another system, underlying the Olympian, and it is to that other system that the Year-Kings belong. The Olympians are definite persons. They are immortal; they do not die and revive; they are not beings who come and [vii]go, in succession to one another. In the other series are the Attis-Adonis-Osiris type of gods, and especially Dionysus, whose name has been shown by Kretschmer to be simply the Thracian Deos or Dios nysos, “Zeus-Young” or “Zeus-the-son.” And in the Orphic tradition it is laid down that Zeus yields up his power to Dionysus and bids all the gods of the Cosmos obey him. The mother of Dionysus was Semelê, a name which, like Gaia and Rhea, means “Earth.” The series is not only continuous but infinite; for on one side Uranus (Sky) was himself the son of Gaia the eternal, and on the other, every year a Zeus was succeeded by a “Young Zeus.”

  9. jim ticehurst says:

    Thank You For Sharing Your Personal Nature Cathedral…and Thoughts..TTG and All Else..Here Who Have The Same..Bond…Since Being a Amall Child..My Best Friend Was
    “The Woods”..From Our Family 40 Acres..To Hikes to the Closest Stream..Where I Could get into Bigger Forests..Use a hook and Worm..And Catch a Decent Trourt..

    Where a Logger One Year..Brought in His Team of Clydesdales…to Draw out one log at a Team..and set me up to Lay on The Back..Of One Horse..And Ride For Hours..

    I Was Gifted With A Spiritual Love For Nature..Because I Grew up Believing in Cathedral For God..In My Mind..I Was Always in The Garden of Eden..Sensing The Human Reasion We Were Created..Care Takers..For All of Nature..

    I Loved My Long Hikes..In Remote Areas..Through Massive Old Growth Evergreens and Cedars..At High Elevations..Following Deer Herds to The Open Meadows At the Base of Mountains..At Dawn..Always Beautiful..Always a Spiritual Experience..Always Thanking God..For His Creative Powers..And All Living Things..

    Thanking God..For The Gift..Of Experiencing Life..As A Human Being..And Wondering At
    The Odds..Of Having All My Ancestors Survive..To Become Adults..And Have Children…So I woukd Eventually Be Born..What a Gift..What a God..What A Friend..
    We Have…Who Died For Us..So We Can expierence All That..For All Eternity..
    In His Kingdom..
    Even More Beautiful..I Am Sure..
    Happy Easter All..

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