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» Saturday, November 27, 2004Harbor and Heavenly Lights
Didn't go as far as we might have liked today; we all slept through the alarm. By the time we got this and that done and had breakfast (or rather brunch), it was almost noon.
We drove out Cape Cod further than I had ever been, but not to Provincetown and on the main road rather than the scenic drive, so we didn't see much on the outbound leg. We went out to Chatham Light--when you get local weather reports here, you always hear something from Chatham and I had always wanted to see it. The lighthouse itself is small and white, but the beach across the way is breathtaking on a blue-and-white day like today--the sky a pied bowl overhead, and the sand beach spread before you, lined around the edges with dormant wild rose bushes (some with rose hips) and sea grass. A flock of a dozen or so grey and white seagulls sat at the shore's edge looking like little sailor-carved and painted statues. The sea was beautiful, multiple shades of blue and greyish blue melding into each other, with little combers ruffling its surface.
We stayed on the sea wall about a half hour. Mother was cold and went back to the car, but we stood and watched a parasailer for the longest time. He was clad in a black insulated suit and had a red-white-and-blue sail that curved above the beach like a giant supple "C" shape. The wind was quite strong and the sail drew him across the water like a bird. He could barely curb it and bring it into land when a friend showed up to share the sport.
There were other couples and families there who didn't mind the sharp breeze. Little kids ran across the sand, and there were several people with dogs: a little fox terrier, a shaggy type, at least two Golden Retrievers, one who begged, straining at his leash, to be allowed loose for a run, and a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog, who galloped across the sand with abandon.
We drove back for several miles on Route 28, which was the local road that ran through Chatham, Harwich, and Yarmouth, dotted with little restaurants and local businesses, many closed for the season (I don't think James had ever seen a Dairy Queen that was closed for the season!). Then we got back on Route 6 and made our way back home via a different route so we could go to La Salette Shrine in Attleboro, Massachusetts, for their Festival of Lights.
La Salette was founded officially in 1953 commemorating an appearance of the Virgin Mary at La Salette in France. The shrine has a church and a monastery, also a small body of water surrounded by mosaic versions of the Stations of the Cross and several other landscape features, including the Holy Stairs, a flight of stairs that, if you are hoping from an intercession from God, you go up one step at a time on your knees, saying a prayer at each step.
For years at Christmastime they have always had a light display. It is now 300,000 lights strong. The water is surrounded by poinsettia-shaped lights and the Christmas alphabet done on a series of 26 boards. Near the prayer steps, there is a life-size manger scene. The rest of the grounds are covered with multicolor lights: figurals, lights wound around trees, bushes, along paths. Opening day was Thanksgiving; hundreds of people came in the pouring rain. Tonight we were lucky we got there before the lights went on: we got one of the last few parking spaces in the main lot; by the time we emerged two hours later, the auxiliary lot, the size of a parking lot on one side of a big shopping mall, was full of cars and buses--tour buses were still pulling up to the main area.
James wanders a bit bemused among this ornate display of "Catholicity" but even he enjoyed the craftsmanship of the display of Nativities from countries around the world, made of ordinary materials like wood and ceramic and also out of wool, stone, straw, burls from trees, even one in a loaf of bread ("Bethlehem," after all, means "house of bread"). The showpiece of the collection is a beautiful presepio built by one of the priests of the order, originally from the Azores. His manger scene is not only the Holy Family, Wise Men, and shepherds, but an entire town built around them, including the vintner, millers, farms, streets, people going about their jobs, produce stands, shops, trees, flowers, animals. The entire display takes up a room the size of a good-sized bedroom.
When I see things like this, I'm always certain Heaven is full of Christmas lights.
Speaking of preparations, Christmas decorating is going great guns this weekend. Thank God, Santa Claus arrives at his proper time after Thanksgiving around here, not mid-November, and though I'm sure somewhere there are already folks with Christmas lights up, we saw dozens of trees going home today on roofs of cars, and people stringing lights in their yards. It was especially pretty on Route 118 on the way to La Salette and also around the city of Taunton, which still has a beautiful town square or "green" as they were known in colonial times.