Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Washington, D.C. 29.12.91: Country Churches and Urban Decay

Writing this in D.C. On Friday, Steve and I drove to Raleigh and spent a night with his cousins. Then on Saturday we drove to the Eastern Shore of Virginia and spent the night at Nassawadox. Drove today to D.C.

The weather foul—i.e., drizzly, or as they say in Newfoundland, mizzling. Foul i.e. for driving, but oddly beautiful otherwise. It’s warm—up near 60◦—and everything on the Eastern Shore was fog-enshrouded.

When we arrived last p.m., it was already turning dark at 4 P.M. But we had time to see Christ Church Episcopal church in Eastville, an 1832 (?) church of the original Hungars Parish. Cemetery full of Nottinghams. The Eastville courthouse dates from 1731 (?), and court has been held in the county from the 1670s, I believe. All is built around a commons—old, small, red-brick buildings with nice glass windows (in churches as well) and a small green in the middle.

After Eastville, we drove down the Wilsonia Neck road, where the Monks and Nottinghams lived, south of the road, between Hungars and Deep Creek. Saw the little 17th-century house called Pear Valley that appears in Whitelaw’s book on the Eastern Shore. Several of the large houses nearby—including, apparently, the one owning the P.V. cottage—are for sale.

In the morning, we returned, going via the older Hungars Parish church north of Eastville, which is strange to see. An Episcopal church out in the country, fields and pine trees all around, pick-up trucks in the churchyard—for all the world, the same feel as a Baptist church in north Louisiana.

I wanted to putter about in the cemetery, but church was going on and I felt abashed to be seen tripping and tipping over Wilkins and Mapp graves, as service sent on. The church itself as plain as any evangelical one, telling a lot about the variety of plain, non-sacramental Anglicanism my forefathers brought to Virginia. Of whitewashed brick, square, plain glass windows. I felt very keenly at home, especially in the silence of the surrounding fields, broken only by a whush of birds in the grass verges now and then. Very, very like the area of Cashie Neck where Nottingham Monk settled. . . .

D.C. is a shambles—homeless people everywhere, 480+ people murdered this year, urban decay that boggles the mind. Yet in it all, I sense hope in the open and alive presence of gay people around Dupont Circle, in the movement away from the dead and forward to the new and living in reappraisal of gender roles, increasing frankness re: the monstrous stupidity of the Reagan era, multiculturalism, artistic revisioning. I’m babbling—tired and feeling a bit hopeless myself.

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