Nature's Cathedral

"Everybody to church Sunday did you hear the bells?" They ring  themselves faintly into the borders of my sleep every morning, as the slowmoving cattle tinkle their melody in fitful syncopation, pause to crop my tender lawn grass, then jingle a nervous re10 Church sponse to the farmer's shout. He hung their necks with tuneful bells, because he " kinder liked to hear 'em "; set the morning and evening chores to music. My cathedral always stands open and masses are said continuously in the appointed order.
Church bells call "Hurry!" "Get ready!" but not mine; there is no haste, no preparedness. You go as you are. You may give your face a polish and there is no harm in a clean garment, but for yourself— not to impress the congregation. It is too scattered to see your bonnet; there is no "meetin' side" to it. "Everybody welcome! Come"—out! My church is the earth.
If you like to go at night, when thousands and thousands of twinkling candles are alight, and the only music is the ghost call of the owl or the lament of the whippoorwill, you may pray with an invisible congregation; silent, at peace, waiting for the morning roll-call. All seems quiet, but can you not catch the faint, rhythmic murmur of countless tiny voices chanting their hymn of night? Listening under the stars, you merge into the pulsating darkness. Now summon the problems of the daylight! What are they? Difficult to recall, unim
portant, not genuine, quickly solved, or turned over to « higher authority; best of all, forgotten. You look up at the myriadstudded roof of the House of Worship and discover that you are a part of the mysterious, beautiful earth-drama that always has been and is infinite. Fleeting trials disturb you no more than fireflies, the stars.
Perhaps you like better to go when darkness lifts its curtain, the candles have been put out and in floods the sunshine upon every altar. Before the bells heralding the dawn have died away, the opening chorus has burst forth, twittering, trilling, whistling, calling, and singing. Each tune is carried alone by a confident singer, in any key he may choose, and yet not one destroys the harmony. The bluebird, oriole, bobolink, thrush soloists show no jealousy. Why should they? Each may take the leading part at will; all may sing their unrelated songs at once; there will be no discords. The audience is sure to be pleased. While unseen hands prepare the cathedral for mass, the music floods it like light. Soon acolytes appear—small, busy creatures. It is not always clear what they are doing, but obviously they know, for they are businesslike and fleet. The chipmunk thrusts a head out of his door, makes a hasty survey, and speeds forth to meet some obligation. The squirrel, who has been leaping from bough to bough and performing most unchurchly antics, suddenly becomes sober, drops on his haunches to chatter a brief scolding and then scurries off to execute a duty that must be imperative, for he dashes along a stone wall at such a pace that his slender feet barely brush its surface. And that elderly person (in furs, no matter how warm the day) lumbering across the road—a verger? What is required of him in the hole in the ground which suddenly engulfs him? All who serve at the altar are astir. Now that the music has softened and become intermittent, you notice the decorations. The cathedral is full of flowers. Every day, from snow to snow, is Easter Sunday. The floor, bright with daisies, buttercups, and lilies, is dewy with holy water, sprinkled at night by the High Priest, scattering color from his garments and treading out fragrance. Everywhere the blossoms are stirred by tiny breezes—remembered footsteps of those who passed by in the years before we were. The stone pews, set among ferns and grasses, are festooned with " traveller'sjoy." The small altars, for solitary petitioners, are fashioned of laurel and saplings and bright with wild roses and the flowering raspberry.
Pillars, tall and shapely, rise from the blossoming floor. Capitals of rounded oak, spreading chestnut, pendant elm and twinkling poplar make shade for the worshipper and lead his gaze upward to the blue sky, touched to deeper hue by white cloud billows. The aisles are bordered with meadow-rue, flaming lilies, blue harebells, and goldenrod. The high altars mark the horizon; like the stars, too distant to come to us, they invite us. Though we know that we never shall reach them, we hearken to their call and, now and then, seem to draw nearer them. In certain moods we must lift our eyes to them; no lesser will suffice. But on most days we worship at the small, familiar altars. We wander from one to another, gathering flowers, searching out birds' nests, tasting spicy berries and fragrant leaves, drinking from cool springs, watching lambs and calves—innocently, wonderingly beginning their short span of life, following the proud mothers of the fields—and we are content. We live it all —love, creation, flowering into the perfect form, joy made alive.
The air of the church is sweet with incense swung by invisible censer-bearers— wild grape, field strawberry, sweet fern, roses—the subtle perfume of everything green, blossoming and earthy, stirred by the wind. Against the high altars rise curling threads of smoke, touching our hearts for those who may not come forth into the great outdoor church but must keep incense burning on homely hearths; for invalids who, having only the memory of the great cathedral, have built a sanctuary within themselves; for the very aged, beginners of life again. We must remember that they are waiting within and carry home to them what beauty we can capture,
while we wonder when He who has made the earth altogether lovely will bring it to pass that every soul shall be free to go out into it and feel himself a part of it, rest in it, and live.
With incense rising and the music hushed to an accompaniment begins the lesson of the day. No priest is seen to mount the lectern but a thousand voices cry: "Let the heaven and the earth praise Him," for "in wisdom has He made them all; the earth is full of riches." "He causes the grass to grow"; "the strength of the hills is His afso." He who "hangeth the earth upon nothing," "holds in His hand the soul of every living thing." Both from "the field of the slothful," ruined by beautiful pests, and the "lilies of the field," we hear the voice of Him "who walketh upon the wings of the wind." The "green pastures," the "tree of the Lord ... full of sap," "the hills . . . joyful together," "the flowers . . . on the earth, . . . the singing birds," all say: "The hand of the Lord has done this." "Ask now the fowls of the air and they shall tell thee"; "speak to the earth and it shall teach thee." We hear "the heavens rejoice . . . the earth be glad . . . the field be joyful and all the trees of the wood rejoice." Then why do not we? Let us be "in league with the stones of the field," drop our burdens and open our souls to the flood of pure happiness which pours in like sunshine. It is our right. The happy earth proclaims it. Here endeth the lesson.
There is no need for a sermon, though it be written "in stones," in tree, mountain, field, and sky. Hark! The cattle come tinkling home from the pasture. They do not fear the night. Why should we? It will come and it may be starless. But there is the day to remember and another dawn to await in confidence. And, though we cannot even catch a glimpse of it, there is something beyond—something as far transcending the earth that we know as its great, free out-of-doors transcends any part of it which men have confined within walls.