Day Thirty-four – Log Cabins

Lake Gallitzin (My Thin Place of Power)

Lake Gallitzin
(My Thin Place of Power)

Have you ever heard of “thin places”?  

The idea is that there are places where the barrier between our world and another are so thin as to allow us to sense its presense.  Mythology is full of stories about “normal people’ finding adventure (and often doom!) by slipping into places like fairyland and the like through such thin places.  My friend (and distant cousin; both the Eno’s and the Perkins’ have colonial New England pedigrees), Paul Eno, has developed an intriguing explanation of the paranormal by combining this concept (bolstered by the “multiple worlds” implication of quantum physics) with traditional theology.  

One way of understanding the Divine Liturgy is that it dissolves the barrier between us and the glorious throne room of our Kind and God.  Sacred objects are movable thin places, with the grace and energies of God radiating from Him into our corner of creation.  Cursed places (and the Old Testament is full of such things!) can be thought of as places where the barrier protecting us from the despair of Hades has been worn thin by sin and blasphemy.  Seers are able to scry because they see across the barriers of time and place, and so on.  

This morning’s Gospel (I’m writing this on St. Nicholas Day) described how “virtue went out of” Jesus as he healed people.  In his most excellent book, Jesus the Messiah in the Hebrew Bible, Fr. Eugen Pentiuc points out how the prophecies of the Christ (“Anointed One”) give the reader an image of Him as a continual source of chrism; a fountain of holiness with no end to its flowing.  Christ Himself reinforces this image when He talks about the “Living Water.”   I love this image.  If a sacred object is like a movable thin place, Jesus Christ (God Incarnate) was a walking, talking conduit between heaven and earth.  Remember the wonderful hymnography from the Ascension that celebrates Jesus “going back to where He never left”;  there was no time when Jesus Christ was separate from the Godhead.   Virtue continually poured out of Him, anointing and blessing the world with His presence.  The Divine Liturgy works the way it does because it is His Body, the Church (with Him as the Head) that is celebrating with God the Spirit concelebrating.  The real presence of Christ’s Body and Blood is permanent in the Eucharist; just imagine how it works within our members as we partake of it! 

The idea of “thin places” is not a perfect metaphor for Orthodox theology, but it is useful.

“What does that have to do with Log Cabins?”  

I’m getting there – sometimes I am overwhelmed by the glory of God, and He is most obvious in His Church (and I celebrated the Divine Liturgy about an hour ago).

A concept related to “thin places” is “places of power.”  We could also think of them as sacred spaces, as long as we don’t get too confused by the term.  Are there places that relax you and help you feel more human when you are there?  Your church and your home should fit that bill; they have been sanctified by prayer, love, and the constant presence of God (wherever two or three are gathered in My Name…).  

Thin places and places of power are also found in nature.   Whether they are objectively thin or truly a source of power I will leave up to the wise (I think it is possible), but there is no doubt that people feel a subjective peace and energy in certain places.  For me, the Appalachian Mountains are both thin and powerful.  I grew up in Atlanta; the foothills of the Appalachians were just up the road and I got to spend a lot of time camping and hiking there.  My familial roots are at the other end of the Appalachians, up in north-central Pennsylvania (Potter County, to be exact), and I got to spend a lot of time romping through the woods, hills, and creeks there, too.  There’s a certain smell, sound, and feeling to the Appalachians.  When I drive west from here, I can sense the change as I get further away from the coast (and its dreadful cities!) and into the mountains.

And that’s where Log Cabins come it…

My dream was always to have a log cabin there.  Not far from a stream.  Far from the cities.  Lots of fresh air.  Relaxing noises.  Peaceful smells.  Back to nature.  Now THAT would be a thin and powerful place.   Imagine a nice white clapboard church through the hollow and up over the hill, and it’s pretty much a description of paradise on earth  (with all the parishes the UOC-USA has in the mountains and hills of Pennsylvania, I find it kind of funny that I end up so far away there!).

When Pani Matka Tina and I left Virginia (FWIW, we owned a house on four wooded acres on the side of a foothill of the Blueridge Mountains) to serve St. Michael’s in Rhode Island, it was the first time in many years we had not owned our own house.  Most of my sage priest-friends advised us to buy a house, warning us that life in the rectory was often too hard on a family.  It can be stressful, but we like living in the rectory here.  Throw in the fact that parish tenure can be unpredictable … and it really didn’t make sense for us to buy here (most everyone still likes us here, but the best guide to the future is usually the past, and this parish usually gets a new priest every five years or so… we’re already on borrowed time).  For security reasons (see previous sentence for part of the reason), we still wanted to have a place we could call our own.  

We decided to live the dream and buy a piece of paradise.

For two years, we watched the real estate market in the Appalachians from southern Pennsylvania all the up into upstate New York.  After some miss-fires, we finally ended up buying a small cabin (we call it our dacha) near Lake Gallitzin.  It’s not perfect, but it’s close: it’s in the woods, there is a stream nearby, it’s surrounded by mountains, and there is a church right up the road.  We basically move there for the Summer, with me commuting to and from Rhode Island (9 hours each way) for the weekends.  

It’s wonderful to actually get to live in a thin place of power; more so as I know that it is only a shadow or reflection (seen in a mirror dimly) of the paradise that is the inheritance of all those who have become the sons (and daughters) of God.40DAYSBLOG


  1. David Sembrot says

    Is that Glendale Lake? At Prince Galitizin Park?
    It looks great!