It’s a truism that people who live in an area tend not to go to the tourist spots.
I went to one that’s not too far from my house today — The Shaker Museum in Enfield. I’ve held a long interest in alternative communities, especially Utopian communes. The thing is they really don’t present what the culture really was, why the Shakers came about or any of that. It’s a fascinating story, but all we get is that the classic view of Shaker furniture was a 15 year period during the “Golden age” of a 200-odd year history. I mean, that’s true as far as it goes. By the late Victorian era they were making and selling Victorian-era furniture. They were not living quite the plain and unornamented lives that their predecessors had. However, like almost all Utopian communities of the time, there was a serious interest in purposeful lives lived in an orderly way.
I was entranced to walk its halls, though and see first-hand large, airy building this particular community had made for its home.
After that, The Bird wanted to visit La Salette. It’s a shrine diagonally across the road from the Chosen Vale community and was built on land the Roman Catholic church had bought from the Shakers. Talk about a contrast. The restrained ornamentation of a Shaker community gave way to a shrine dedicated to an apparition of the Virgin Mary sometime back in the early 1800s to some shepherd children in the French Alps.
There was a garden dedicate to the apparition, a series of statues in the Stations of the Cross ending in a tomb-like structure with a truly grisly statue of Jesus lying dead and blood-stained — rather shudder-inducing to my general Protestant-trained sensibilities.
The Rosary Garden was kinda neat, though. It’s a path and garden surrounding a large fish pond. There’s a chain that surrounds it with iron roses painted in various colors and statues at each Rosary decade.
The varieties of religious expression and what they cause us to create and express is endlessly fascinating to me, even if I don’t join in the game, myself.