being human

Fourth Presbyterian

Fourth Presbyterian Church (before Christmas), © 2013 Celia Her CityAnd now for the sprint toward Christmas!

These days, like this rendering of the Fourth Presbyterian Church, are a bit of a blur.  There are crowds, there is slush, there are lists, there are trips to the post office, there are a few extra drinks.  We will forage our storage for cherished decorations; we will go to Gethsemane for the tree.  We will try valiantly to get our cards out in time.

Whatever we do, the Fourth Presbyterian Church has seen it all, sitting on the corner of Michigan and Delaware for well over a hundred years.  It has watched the crowds grow bigger, the buildings get higher, the Avenue change.  It has watched fashion trend and couples fight.  It has watched tourists pass from all over; families with excited children; homeless people begging.  It has seen decades of brides and grooms, old people gingerly climbing its steps, many funerals, too.

Meanwhile, we see it change, reflecting the day’s light, the blue hours, the sunrises, the lights of man that illuminate the city.  We see its ivy change with the season, growing more sinewy with winter, creeping every year closer to the roof, slowly greening and gladdening with all earth in spring.

We stand at the bus, clutching our bags, waiting; we look at the church, and it looks at us.

Prairie metaphysics

For the first time, we noticed the mighty tree (Chickaming Prairie, MI), © 2013 Celia Her City

On the Chickaming prairie, there is a mighty tree dwarfing all others.  On our many visits, we had never noticed it before.  Then, this day, we noticed a bulge on the horizon: the crown of an unusually tall and spreading oak.

The grandest oak in these parts (Chickaming Prairie, MI). © 2013 Celia Her City.

Its grandeur was difficult to apprehend.  The closer we got, the more humbling it was.  With every step, it grew taller.  By its yardstick, we were children.

The mighty branches of the Chickaming Oak, © 2013 Celia Her City

To look up into its branches was dazzling. Each limb was itself as large as a tree, radiating with power and life’s energy.  All we could do was wonder and admire.  We didn’t think to theorize or measure.  The tree had its own metaphysics, with itself at the center.

Returning to earth

Returning to earth

When it comes to flying, the return to earth is what I like best.

Then, the fretfulness I’ve struggled to subdue during my flight is buried in curiosity.  An eagerness to be reunited with my planet takes over.  As a detailed view of human life crystallizes, feelings of gratitude, relief, and wonder prevail.

I love seeing the earth from this godlike perspective.  Far from making me feel all-powerful, seeing the earth from a plane is atomizing: I feel tiny and powerless, but in a true way.  My appreciation for the land and all that humans have created on it intensifies.  All their works are marvelous to perceive.  From the air, evils are harder to see, and what order we’ve built up over time looks pure and lovely.


Today, the waters that define Boston were peaceful under a bright summer haze.  Workers had already left their work.  Making the best of a beautiful Friday afternoon, they were already sailing their boats or hurrying out of town for a getaway.

From on high, the boats were like small herds of flimsy origami.  Up close, their substance appeared, cruising along the Charles and other waterways.

Over the centuries, painters have painted many scenes like these: the escape from the confines of land to the radiant openness of skies and seas.


Taxiing along past a placid seascape: Boston, hello.