The Old Tree

I’m headed for St. Mary’s Cathedral. The Cathedral Church of Saint Mary the Virgin, as they call it in Gaelic.  I like to walk all around the places I visit.  You may cover less ground in your time there, but there’s nothing like the slow, first-hand look at people and neighborhoods.

Nearing the church there is no doubt I’m headed in the right direction.  Incredibly, in this modern age of high-rise mania, the height of St. Mary’s main spire makes it the tallest building in the city.

Never married sisters Barbara and Mary Walker donated both the funds and their garden to the Episcopal Church for the cathedral.  Construction began 1874, and the structure I see today was completed in 1917.

The interior is breathtaking, that gothic design, those vaulted ceilings always taking my breath away as I look up.  The size of the congregation is large given the number of pews, and the altar looks to be a mile away from the entrance.  Lots of the stained glass is modern.  The star of the whole show, however, is the Rood Cross, originally designed for installation in their National War Museum, but ending up in this church instead.

I go outside to look at the garden areas.  I feel they must be disappearing as construction moves in to strangle the area.  The grass in beautifully manicured, something I always shoot for at home in Honolulu, something I’ve never quite achieved.  That look as though the grass were a carpet.  You know, like a golf course.

Meandering around I see that there are wonderful flower beds.  I recognize daffodils and Black-Eyed Susans, but the names of most I do not know.  There are smaller buildings much older than the cathedral.

A man, a quite elderly gentleman, putters around one of the beds, pruning small trees that rise above all the colorful flowers.

I’m less shy when I travel.  I go over to him and say, “Excuse me, I just wanted to say that your grounds here are beautiful.  Your work is just wonderful.”

“Well, thank you,” he says in a brogue I can pretty much understand, stopping to wipe his face with a neckerchief.  “We do put a lot of love into ‘er.  For us, working ‘ere isn’t so much like work, you know.  It’s more like a kind of pleasure.”

His hands are all gnarly, fingers pointing in odd directions, definitely the signs of arthritis.  But they are strong hands. He looks to be a hundred years old.

“While you’re here,” he says, then points, “you see that patch of flowers there?  There’s a reason for ‘er, and you’ll see why on that plaque.”

I thank him and head over to the bed.  It’s not huge, it’s roundish, and it’s the only one with a border chain, black links at about high shin level.  Not so imposing, but hint enough not to set foot inside that space.”

I walk around to look at the plaque.  It says:

This spot is where our dear 300 year old oak tree died in 2009.  We chose to honor her with this planting bed rather than fill in the area.  Let this sacred space remind us that even though everything in this world will eventually pass away, we must remember that the love of God endures forever.

This stirs me some.  I used to be a very religious person.  Reading these words sends me back to those days.

On the way out, I wave to the old man.  “Aloha!” I call out, something I love to do when I’m traveling abroad.

He gives the usual response to my Hawaiian greeting, sort of cocking his head, not quite understanding what the heck I’m saying.

“Aloha,” I say again, moving closer to him. “It’s the Hawaiian way of saying hello or goodbye.  It means love, too.”

“Ah,” he says.  “Well Alo-a to you then too.”  He wipes his face again and goes back to his pleasure.

St. Mary’s sort of sits on the border of what are referred to as the Old and the New Towns.  After I walk a few hundred yards, I turn around again to look back at the cathedral.  That main spire really shoots way up above both the Old and the New, lifting my eyes straight up into the sky.

* * * * *

Aloha #WriterSaturday. Today’s #WritingPrompt is actually two prompts

architecture
religion

Use either one to inspire — no pun intended — a piece of writing, and post that piece on your site and link back to me, or simply leave it as a comment below. I would love to read it : )

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