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Where riverbank meets junkyard

| 27 Jun 2012 | 03:39

Thin places are often on the edges. Really, the edges. Pacem in Terris, just off Route 94 on Fancher Road in Warwick, is a few acres on the edge: of the Wawayanda Creek, of the railroad, of a junkyard, at the intersection of three rural roads. Situated over a fresh water spring, an old stone grain mill has been turned into a “trans-religious” sanctuary. There are regular musical events, sculpture gardens and sitting areas. Enchanted? How could it help being so!

On the day I visited, it was a multi-sensual event. The air was thick with the smell of fresh creosote from new railroad ties mixing with dying lilacs. The rains had swollen the creek and the old stone watermill was being rebuilt. A tractor trailer was chugging up the driveway to the junkyard, or “recycling center,” next door. The ironic vitality of the place was overwhelming.

Poet Lynn Hoins first visited in 1982 and immediately felt that “land speaks and how at times in life you encounter places that offer just what you need, just where you need to go.” She’s written about this in her book, Called by Stones.

Pacem in Terris, named for the major work of Pope John XXIII, was the home of spiritual teacher and writer Frederick Franck (1909-2006) and his wife Claske. I first met them in 1972, just after his now classic book, The Zen of Seeing, was published. A few quotes:

“I have learned that what I have not drawn I have never really seen, and that when I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.”

“Art is neither a profession nor a hobby. Art is a way of being.”

Pacem in Terris is a living, growing testimony to the importance of the spiritual, the natural, the cultural and the idiosyncratic. It’s open every day from May to October. You must go there. frederickfranck.org.

By Daniel Mack Thin places beguile and inspire. Share yours at dirt-mag.com.