Monday, November 10, 2008

Soul Food at the Crown

Friday was a day for running errands and doing chores, well, some chores, not all of them got done. Are chores really ever done? After having run around most of the midday I decided that it was time for some soul food. I'm not talking about the kind of soul food that one savors at a table with others, I'm talking about food for the soul.

About the soul, recently I found a quote from C. S. Lewis that really speaks to me, Mr. Lewis said, “We are a soul, we have a body.” I like the way that he thinks on this subject, I like to think that it is really the way that we are created. I can see God creating our soul, our most inner being, the part of our self that he made for himself. By the same token, I can see God creating our bodies so that there would be a temporary place to house our soul until he claims it again from earth to take unto himself. I'm not exactly sure why he feels the need to share us with the world, though I feel pretty sure it is so that our soul will be fed and nurtured and ultimately strengthened. I'm no theologian, I'm just a regular guy away from home. (You have heard me say that before though.)

If you are reading this and you are not from Indianapolis you may not be aware of what Crown Hill really is, Crown Hill is the fifth largest cemetery in the United States. Crown Hill is believed by some to be the highest point in the state and while I'm not sure of the validity of that I do know that it is the highest point in Marion County. The cemetery is a place of beauty and while some people would think it creepy, I see it as a wonderful garden in the central city, a place where there are a huge variety of trees, flower beds and the resting place of some of the state's native sons and daughters, many of them people of note.

The high point that is known as Crown Hill was once known as Strawberry Hill and was a well known picnic spot when the city was growing. The pinnacle is now the burial site of James Whitcomb Riley a well known poet in Indiana and other place too, I'm sure. Atop this hill is a monument to Riley that was paid for by the children of Indiana who gave pennies in order to fund the gray stone rectangle of columns that support beams of the same stone. The custom is to leave pennies on the tablet that gives the name and dates for the poet, the coins are collected and given to Riley Children's Hospital here in the city. It is said that if one tosses a penny into the air and it lands on one of the beams a wish will be granted. Of course, I always try this and like I told a friend of mine recently, I somehow think that it doesn't work when you stand there pitching a roll of pennies one at a time in order to make the mark and then walk away feeling confident that your wish is going to come true. I have only gotten it on the first try once in the many years that I have climbed the hill either on foot or by car.

I didn't go to the hill to make a wish or visit the graves of the city's former movers and shakers, I went there because in autumn it is one of the most beautiful sights in the city. When you are standing on the concrete that surrounds Riley's monument and look out over the city you don't see what the city really looks like, you see what it could look like or maybe even would want to look like if the city had an actual soul. There is only beauty, there are no pot holes, there is no crime, there are no drugs being sold in front of my apartment, there is no government trying to figure out how to solve the previous mentioned items. There is only a sea of autumn leaves and in the distance there is the city skyline. It is an awesome view for a city the size of Indianapolis. If you look to the east you can see the Colosseum at the state fair grounds, to the west and not so far away you can see the Indianapolis Museum of Art and on a really clear day like Friday you can see the pyramids on the north side. The city's tributes to architecture are all visible from this high point. So, Crown Hill is a place to truly drink in the beauty that is Indianapolis.

There is more to the hill than just a wonderful vantage point to see the city and that's the reason why I went. I wanted the food for my soul that comes with seeing the beauty that surrounded me, but what's more I wanted the strength of the monument and the time alone in a place closer to heaven. The wind was brisk and cold and while I had a jacket in the van, I didn't want to wear it, instead I wanted the sun heated stone column to be my warmth, I rested my back against one while I surveyed the city and looked to the sky that was that shade of blue that we only get to see a few times a year. I wanted to be in a place where there was a certain amount of quiet, the street noise is muted at this elevation. I found the things that I wanted there. After my effort to achieve good luck I stood at the top of the hill hugging the warm column, my eyes closed, thinking about the strength that was the reason stone is used for the purpose of erecting monuments that are meant to last. I hugged it and thought of the strength and power of a warm hug, the only down side is that a stone doesn't hug back. While I looked to the sky in it's glory I was reminded that while we think of heaven as being just beyond the verge of sky we are really not closer to heaven while standing on a hill, even the highest one in the city.

While I looked across the vastness and drank in the autumn wind and the shining blue sky I knew that my soul was being fed and that I was going to be warmed by the love I show to others, not the granite stones that soon will be cold and hard and gray, much like the winter will be.


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