Greeneville, Tennessee

I went to Greeneville, Tennessee, to visit two dear friends who were aging fast. Their columned house was once resplendent with a long swimming pool lit by lanterns. Now the lamps are broken and the pool is full of slime. Yet, despite their own frailness, my friends still help a neighbor go to church every Sunday.

Not far from their house, I noticed a little church clinging to the hillside by its fingertips. Its cross was leaning and its columns were bent, but the sight of it gave me comfort.

I thought of the elemental need for consolation in the face of life’s uncertainty, and how simple temples, shrines, and chapels like this one can be found all over the world. “The chapels are as eloquent about deep-seated human fears,” wrote nature author and essayist Barry Lopez,” as they are about deep-seated faith.”

When I said goodbye to my friends, they gave me cuttings of my aunt’s favorite climbing rose.

Then they shared the latest gossip about their neighbor who was arrested while rolling naked in a public mulch pile. He told the police, “I was instructed to do so by God.”

There’s nothing like living in the moment.