California Dreaming

The autumn is bittersweet. There are forecasts that another polar vortex will swirl our way this winter.

To prepare for any possible NYC Seasonal Affect Disorder, I’ve just booked airline tickets for a couple of weeks for the whole fam to got to Southern California over Christmas and New Year’s.

How lucky is my family – to have friends for whom we will house- and dog-sit in Pasadena. I like making new traditions in new places. Most Christmases, we have ensconced ourselves in the Big House in the Adirondacks at Christmas. And then to shake things up, we might’ve gone north from there to Montreal for a night or two – for Boxing Day shopping or a swim in a hotel pool.

the Big House
the Big House

But my husband’s family has decided to close the Big House for winter. The family is choosing to save money. (The heating bill at Christmas is usually at least $100/a day). Besides, the mansion is for sale this year. And a lot of family members are in transition.

I wrote this as I headed out to a retreat on the Long Island RailRoad. I passed pumpkin patches, vineyards, and horse farms. The leaves on the trees were just so beautiful this weekend. While I was California-dreaming about Christmas, I was also trying to remain present — live in the moment with all of the beauty right in front of my eyes this October.

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took this from the L.I.R.R., heading to Shelter Island.

The Mother of All Churches — Full of Surprises

At the Baton Rouge restaurant in Montreal, our waiter Sebastian was rattling off nearby tourist attractions. He said, “The big cathedral past Chinatown is very nice. Celine Dion was married there.” I’m not usually going to churches based on a celebrity endorsement, but what the heck, I was on vaction.

We walked up the hill towards Old Montreal. The church was full of surprises – the first of which was the cost — $5 for adults and $4 for kids just to enter. $22 later, I was hoping that it was worth it.

It was worth it. The church was a riot of color and as pretty as rainbow sherbet. I was in love with the light of the ceiling and altar — a Robin’s Egg blue.

We joined the English-speaking tour group. We heard about Montreal’s origins –  to convert the heathens.

The next big surprise was the chapel. I imagined more of the same — a Neo Gothic church/wedding cake — frills, curliecues and gold stars. Not at all.

Walking into this chapel, the woman behind me gasped. It was full of light.

The massive bronze altar sculpture showed three archways representing childhood, middle age and old age (death). It was not all crucifex-y and literal like some churches. It was symbolic –The symbols

of the trinity were a sun, a dove and a kind, smiling man. It was all bright and yellow (almost as pretty as the Louise Nevelson church, one of my faves!)

The artist of the Sacré-Coeur chapel for Notre-Dame Basilica, Charles Daudelin (aka ‘genius’) created this masterpiece after a fire in 1978 destroyed the Gothic chapel. So there’s an inspiring lesson:

Sometimes a devastating turn of events can lead to some great modern art.

I dug the nativity scene in the modern chapel because the women figured so prominently. This was the church of Mary and I do appreciate churches that celebrate women.

The tour ended and my daughters got in a fight. See, to light a candle and make a prayer, you had to pay a dollar. I only had one single. I gave the dollar to Charlotte and told her to “Share a prayer. Or light two candles. It doesn’t matter.” But Catherine felt if we lit two candles, “We’d be lying in a CHURCH!”

Charlotte eventually resolved the bickering by telling Catherine that she’d put two dollars in the collection box. Catherine was appeased and lit her candle. Then Charlotte told her twin she had been lying and she’d only put in one dollar. The fighting began again.

I told the girls that this is part of the history of Christianity. “I think the Holy Wars were fought over this. The Reformation was about not having to pay to pray.” I told them, “God hears the prayers of the poor as equally as the prayers of the rich.” They didn’t care. They just wanted to light their damn candles.

This is how sibling rivalry goes. They ebb, they flow. They lie, they fight. They pray. They light a candle. They’re hungry and they want to leave this stupid place. I, meanwhile, enjoyed this church very much.