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Morning Light, Waxler Church

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Morning, and my little shadow dog and I cannot believe it is sunny. Cold, but beautiful. It's been a long time since we cast a shadow on the ShadowBarn.  I like my summer shadow better--does this fleece make me look fat? 

Your responses to Spirit Light were every bit as interesting as the post. Thank you for sharing your stories. These photos were all taken the same morning that Ada Louise, the little Hune girl, sent her rainbow message to me. Sunbeams were dancing everywhere. 

My Bacon was on high alert, watching for who knows what? 

We reveled in the rectangles of light and warmth making their way through the church interior. I never come here without wishing I could somehow stay, write, think, paint here. (It is very cold inside now and I can't stay long).  The light is so wonderful. And the acoustics are absolutely amazing. You can sing in a normal tone and fill the space like Pavarotti. I can only imagine how the voices of the choir and congregation rang, especially when the hymns were sung in German. They'd shake the rafters.

There was a church, even more beautiful than this one, with generous concrete steps to sit on and narrow beautiful weathered wainscoting, that once stood on our road at the spot of my beloved little cemetery. I treasured it. But the roof went and then the floor slumped and fell in and people without conscience or dignity did nasty things in there and before too long the township people came and burned it down. That was a dark, dark day.

Now all that's left of the church is a rectangular green depression in the grass, two arbor vitaes, once so magnificent, scarred forever by fire, and of course the congregation, who aren't going anywhere. Nancy Love, the Scotts, the Congletons, the little girls and boys stopped cold by Spanish flu. 

 I pray the same fate will not befall the Waxler Church. So far, so good. Being up on a hilltop instead of hidden in a holler has a way of keeping vandals at bay. Yet maintaining a building in standing state takes money, money no one around here has. As long as the roof is good...

Shadows of unseen trees paint its back. The shadows are so long in the morning.

The only sign of vandalism here, one broken light. Did someone throw a rock in this hallowed space, then, hearing the shattering glass, stop and think better of breaking all the rest? There's no replacing those fixtures anymore.

I love that a caring person has brought a bathmat for muddy shoes, even though no services are held here anymore. It seems to me that people around here fall into three categories: The ones who would bring a bathmat to an abandoned church; the ones who would throw rocks at its light fixtures; and the ones who merely hope it stands forever.

 The doors hold a glimpse of winter sun on the land. I like to let some new air in when I visit.

My eye runs down the German names on the list of parishoners. There are Alma and Herman Hune, who I believe to be Ada Louise's parents. City Treasurer in Marietta was a Peppel. There were Heldmans at our church in town; Morgensterns on our road, and there's Irene Payne, who at 86 still lives on my favorite running route. More about Irene later...

Services were still held every other Sunday when this piece was printed. 

There's still a little service held here on Sundays, a service for two. One, a seeker; one, a seer. 

And whomever else might be attending. You never know. 

As my friend, actress Jane Alexander commented on the last post,

"Whatever is happening here, it is we who make the connections
with our minds, our memories and our needs. These visitations 
are telling us to pay attention, to what is not always easy to discern...but as Hamlet says 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.'" 

The sun rises behind the Waxler Church, illuminating and casting deep shadows, too.

And I am so blessed to be here to see this. 

My friend Tim Ryan gave me this:

"The lesson which life repeats and constantly enforces is 'look under foot.' You are always nearer the divine and the true sources of your power than you think. The lure of the distant and difficult is deceptive. The great opportunity is where you are. Do not despise your own place and hour. Every place is under the stars, every place is of the world." (John Burroughs) 

On the run home, my daily redtail. 


Julie, you have honored this sacred place with your beautiful words and photographs. You have also captured the gentle beauty that is rural Ohio. I grew up in Ohio and have lived here all my life. Friends and relatives who have come and gone often wonder why. They say, "Ohio is so boring!" or "It doesn't have any interesting geography like mountains or the ocean." But I find it so beautiful. The gentle rolling of the fields, little towns and churches. You have captured what makes me love it here and what makes me stay. Thank you! Thank you for honoring the people who left the ocean and the mountains behind and came to this place to make it their own - they were my ancestors and by staying and continuing to make Ohio my home, I hope to honor them and make them proud.

Posted by Lisa Craig Morton January 12, 2014 at 5:52 AM
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The photo with the aura over the church, the spirit light, is symbolic of the light that you shed on so many things - on the wonders of nature, of life stories from the past of people known or surmised, of relationships between all living things. It is reassuring to know that there are still people who are bursting with love for all creatures and historic sites and structures, so able to notice the most delicate details, so willing to share words and images of beauty to enrich the days of others. These posts are reminders of what is important in life. Last night, I heard the tale of learning a birthday from a gravestone, using that as a prompt to bring cupcakes to a neighbor who lives alone and depends on community. I tear up thinking how lovely a place the world would be if it was filled with people like you.

Well, these have to be two of the sweetest comments ever. Thank you, Lisa and Diane. Lisa, you honor us all with your reverence for history and architecture and the land, and you care for others every day with every little thing you do. Diane, I'm humbled. But the real accolades belong to the neighbors who've cared for her, asking nothing in return, for the past eight years. I plan to tell that cupcake story soon. But must note that the presence of sweet and giving elves in the house was vital to both its conception and execution. It all winds around to that essay we shared, how we *can* make the world a better place by raising our kids up right. And oh, you have.

If there isn't already a Bible there, it would be a blessing to the church to place a Bible somewhere in the church. What if it were a German bible?

I read these comments waiting to see if anyone asked--who brings the flowers? Is that you? Or does some other reverent soul also grace this sacred space.?

Lots of living relatives and former parishoners, and probably some little group of friends of the Waxler Church keep the building maintained and the grounds neatly clipped. I'm just an observer here, always something of an outsider in this longstanding community, having some here only in 1992. I know, it seems like a long time, but in a relative sense it isn't long at all.

Julie - one of the photos shows a stack of old stones in the foreground. Do you know what these stones are? Were they part of a foundation from a building? the original steps up to the church's front door? grave markers? They look interesting.

Posted by Lisa Craig Morton January 12, 2014 at 3:15 PM

If you read prior posts, Lisa, you'll see that these are markers from earlier graves that were displaced by frost heaves and mowing (and perhaps even vandalism). Not knowing what to do with them or where they belong, the mowing crew generally will stack them off to the side, lean them up against the building, or make a pile under a tree. It's so poignant. I suspect that in the older churches, there are people on top of people.

You and Chet draw the most diverse and interesting collection of animals,critters,people,(some very wise),plants,and birds into your life and now you have a bunch of spirits following you around. I chuckle, but I also appreciate how you are able to share them with us.

Posted by Lucy from MN January 12, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Reading the last two posts left me with the same come-to-the-quiet feeling I get when I'm in my beloved woods and fields. Thank you for sharing the spirit lights.

I have been enjoying these posts on Waxler Church. My first office as a historian was in an 1887 church and my life has been spent preserving our community’s historic structures so I know how you feel about that old building. There is something special about the historic churches. I think it is because so many prayers of the saints were uttered there. I bet they even prayed for you and Chet Baker who would enter the building so many years later, “Bless all who enter here.” Who currently maintains it? Could a nonprofit be established to raise money for its upkeep in the future? With your influence, I know that there are many of us who would donate towards it. As a last resort, the church might consider allowing you to move it to your property where it could become that concert hall/studio that you dream about. We don’t like to move buildings off their site and prefer to keep them in the context of their environment, but historic buildings in the way of progress or needing restoration are moved all the time. (Remember Virginia Lee Burton’s children’s book, The Little House?” Just a thought. Thanks for appreciating the building and all it represents and calling attention to its beauty and significance.

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