One man’s quest to build a small stone cathedral despite the odds.
Influenced by a visit as a young man to the Chartres Cathedral in France, years later, Pushcart Prize series founding editor Henderson (All My Dogs: A Life, 2011, etc.) decided to build his own cathedral as an act of spirituality and to honor friends and family members. Using native stone from the surrounding Maine woods, he wanted to build his cathedral by hand, “on a hill overlooking the sea. I would do this by myself over a long time. I imagined there was no rush. Indeed the idea of rush was anathema to me. Rush was what I had come to this Maine hill to escape.” Blending picturesque details of the Maine countryside with thoughts on the local villagers, God and Christianity, Henderson leads readers through the meditative process of finding and laying his “saint” stones, each one ascribed to a particular person. Although he knew the building process would be labor-intensive and slow, what he didn’t anticipate was being hindered by summers that were too rainy and cool and a cancer diagnosis. Suddenly, time both sped up and stood still, and Henderson’s half-built cathedral remained untouched as its builder underwent surgery and the slow process of recovery. “Hope and despair alternated through that summer,” writes the author. “About the cathedral, I had thought little…let it crumble into ruins.” But despite these moments of anguish, as his strength returned, Henderson persevered. His short musings on the vagaries of life, love, faith, family, friends and death give readers moments of pure joy to ponder, and the author’s determination to finish his project, despite the circumstances, will cause them to cheer.
A brief, lyrical exploration of the author’s construction of a personal sacred space, one stone at a time.