Friday, September 30, 2011

New York, Remembered

A few entries back I showed you some of the interesting architectural additions to buildings  I noticed while visiting New York City. Today I want you to look with me at some other decorations that make New York City interesting.
 Animals and odd beings are the norm.
I was with a group of people who was visiting the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations.  It seemed that the street signs were making an editorial statement as we entered the building where we would meet.  We entered the Church Center then went to the 7th floor, passing the offices of several other denominations with whom the Presbyterians work in seeking justice as they lobby representatives of the United Nations member countries.

Our visit included a tour of the United Nations. My most memorable site was the Meditation Room.
The stained glass mural was given no description nor  did it need to one.
Faces from throughout the world and throughout history gazed at each other and at me.
The goal of the United Nations is Peace
When we make war we affect all of creation both human . . .
. . . and non-human. The large Mola on the wall portrays more of the world threatened by our battles.
The United Nations was formed to bring an end to wars.
To bring justice to a broken world.
Our trip, though, was not all meditative. 
The rooms of the Presbyterian Ministry provided us a view of the City that we would soon explore.
From city icons such as its bridges . . .
 to a view that is all New York.
What you are looking at, to the left, are the street markings showing what is buried beneath.  From sewers to electric lines to telephone lines to subway lines. The streets are marked in a code that hopefully someone understands.
New York is an exciting place to be.
A place full of movement.
A place to savor the flavors,
The movement,
and the colors,

Contrary to what this sign says, people should never find New York "BORING."

Our trip was to learn what Presbyterians and other Christian denominations are doing to work toward justice, to bring peach and what we, as individuals may do to help.
While there, several of us made ribbons with wishes of peace that was to be woven into a memorial for the ten-year remembrance of the World Trade Center destruction; the plane crashes that not destroyed two landmark buildings but also destroyed the lives of people of many religious faiths, many nationalities.  It was a time to remember the lives lost in the fall, including the scores of fireman and policemen who were there to help. 
Both that day and on this trip we were changed by the imprint of what we learned, what we saw and what we felt.

Monday, September 5, 2011


Not all that is beautiful is found in nature.  Humans were made in the image of God. Like God we create.  Once we no longer had to work for our subsistence, be began to create. We painted on caves, we carved stone, we formed shapes from clay - not just useful shapes like cooking pots, but shapes that satisfied an inner longing to create.  We made pipes that look like birds and turtles, We built homes, not just to shelter us, but to please our eye also.  

The more organized humans have become, the more we have decorated our world.  Once we divided ourselves up into groups such as people to provide our food, people to   make our clothes, people to count our money and people to sue or shoot our enemies, we made a special niche for people who design and decorate our buildings.  
That is what today's article is about.  The work of those people. The handiwork and designs that have little to no use other than to please our desire for beauty.
Chanan Building 142 E. 42nd Street New York City
We could exist just fine with plain flat walls but we don't want to.  That would be boring. This is NOT boring:
As creators, we locate our creations wherever we can, squeezing them into the nooks and crannies that surround us.  
We use art to tell us the function of a place. 
Grand Central Station could have been an efficiently plain building void of decoration. Trains would still transport passengers.  Instead it is where we find tiny one-inch tiles tucked beneath the roof lines, jarred and soiled as subways pass below full of people, tiles that need to be cleaned and often repaired. People seldom notice but when we do, we treasure the creation. 

Mere concrete is not enough for some buildings. Panels molded from metal reflect the light of a sunrise. It does nothing for its inhabitants but for us who pass by it brings a smile. What could be the reason for such architecture if not whimsy, a desire to create something different, something that pleases us? This particular building shows up in very few images of New York City.  Perhaps it was the sunrise that made me tilt my head upward, that drew my eye toward the light.

Sometimes we create just for fun.
Here in this city where humans have built toward the sky we are encouraged to look up.
For "up" is where the real action is.

Up is where we center our worship.

Up is where we focus our dreams.

Looking up we may see symbols of a nation.
The explorers and the ideals that a nation has used to build an identity
to understand our gifts,
To learn who we are,
as we were led forward to face our future.
These creations may show us people we admire but they show us much more.  
They remind us that our greatest gift is our creativity.
That there is much more beauty in creating than there is in destroying.
On the border of China Town and Little Italy - I don't know exactly what it says but I know it says, "I was here." "I exist!"
We cannot help ourselves. We make our "mark" however we can, with whatever resources we have; some more beautiful than others.
The ceiling of  the lobby of David Letterman's auditorium
But each mark our own creation.
Each is our response to something put inside us when we were made.
That touch of God's image.
The spark that drives us to create.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Sarvis Fork Bridge

Only seventeen of these beauties are left in West Virginia. Nobody knows how many were built only to be destroyed by decay or flood.  By the end of the 1950's, though, there were only fifty-four left and by 1979, only nineteen.  Today, according to Ryan Post of Covered Bridges of West Virginia, and several other web sites, there are only 17 remaining.  Sarvis Fork Covered Bridge is one of these.
Also known as New Era Covered Bridge, Odaville Covered Bridge and Sandyville Covered Bridge, it was not originally on Sarvis Fork.  No, it was built in 1889 by R.B. Cunningham and W.B. Staats over John Carnahan's Fork, a branch of Big Mill Creek, not far from Ripley, West Virginia.  When U.S. Route 33 was built in 1924, an iron bridge was constructed leaving the beautiful covered bridge to be first abandoned then relocated and rebuilt  at its present site over the Left Fork of the Sandy River near Sandyville, West Virginia.
In 1889, it cost Mr. Staats about $64.00 to built his bridge.  The 2000 rebuild cost $598,233.00.
In researching the bridge for this article, I learned that in 1969 a State Road truck broke through the floor planks causing the floor to be replaced with some steel support.  Steel piers were also added.
These piers were removed with the 2000 rebuild.  The bridge now is 101 feet long, a 13-panel Long-truss, Burr arch truss bridge. In case you are wonering,  "Long truss" is named after its designer, Stephen Long.  The "Burr arch" is named for Theodore Burr. These arches made the bridge more stiff and allowed it to be up to 250 feet long. If you want to read about more truss systems, including this one, go to this link Theodore Burr Covered Bridge.
Sarvis Fork Covered Bridge is now supported by steel I-beam stringers. This type of support allows the bridge to lie gracefully across the creek, stretching from bank to bank.
More grace awaits underneath the red weathered covering where beauty is seen in the geometry and physics defining the bridge.
To drive across the Sarvis Fork Covered Bridge, start in Ripley, West Virginia at the junction of U.S. Route 33 and State Route 21.  follow Route 21 north for 10.9 miles to Sarvis Road. Turn right and you will see the bridge. Stop and enjoy the view for a moment.  There is not much traffic here. Once you have looked and taken your pictures, get back in your car, roll the windows down then drive on through. Listen to the sound of the wooden decking, loose boards laid closely together on their sides, held in place by beams.  The somewhat disconcerting rickety sound of the boards moving beneath your wheels means that the deck is working as it should.  You have successfully driven two centuries back in time.