I had the opportunity to visit Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. It is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. I dearly wish to return there one day, and take my wife and children.
When I visited, I was there to see a production of Iolanthe that was part of a Gilbert and Sullivan conference that my family was attending. We never saw Iolanthe, because the rain cancelled the performance. It is a tragedy I still lament, as the glory of the gardens would have been the perfect environment for the Arcadian woods in which the operetta is set.
But I will never forget seeing the gardens in the golden gloaming of midsummer. I can only remember little bits of the evening now. I wore a blue blazer that had become completely soaked with rain as I wandered around the gardens. I remember the twilight slanting through the panes of glass in the greenhouses, and spreading out on the masonry footpaths. I remember the plants, heavy with raindrops. Life enjoying life.
There would be no way to recreate it, but I remember it as a deeply sensual experience of natural beauty, and I tend to revisit that memory when spring gives way to summer.
We need beauty. We need more than air, water, food and drink. We need the flowers and the gardens; we need music. They are not extras. God created flowers, and trees, and paths into the woods. God created tall boxwood hedges, and evening sunlight filtered though oaks and pines.
God created the seduction of twilight:
the sparkle in a woman's eyes just after she laughs,
the flicker of candle light,
the lushness of grass,
the heavy smell of mimosa trees.
God created all of these with a wink of his eye, knowing that we would not soon forget them, or cease to give thanks.
There are chapels for worship that are called by other names. One of these is Longwood Gardens.