Film, considered by some to be the ultimate art form, manages to captivate an audience for hours with music, visual arts, literature, and performance. We have all had moments in life that are only best described as "like a movie." Usually, this is no accident, as we meticulously chose the scenery, the music, the dialogue, and the cast. A friend of mine experienced this as he drove across New Zealand, the deeply satisfying landscape seemingly amplified by his choice of soundtrack - Neil Young's Harvest and Harvest Moon. Even though I wasn't there, it's such a vivid image it feels like I was. Picturing it makes me both happy for him and jealous, that tension between what Bhuddists call Mudita, where you experience pleasure in delighting in another's well being, and Envy, a force so pervasive in our culture that it needs no definition.
For a lot of us, myself included, these cinematic moments serve as our religious experiences, a sign of something "more". Neil Young, possibly the ultimate theologist, delivered the following in Jimmy McDough's 2002 Biography Shakey: "Rock 'n' roll is everybody's fuckin' music...I would certainly hope that it's the devil's music, but it's not just the devil's music. I think that's where God and the devil shake hands – right there.”
From Jesus at the Home of Martha to the Mudshark Incident (wow), hospitality certainly has an amendment in that gentleman's agreement. And in Southern Vermont, where landscape, hospitality, and music thrive, The Church remains the ultimate venue. Dummerston, one of the most beautiful towns in the area, is where you'll find Nick and Natalie's Converted Church Airbnb. A stunning home complete with Saint Martin stained glass, radiant floors, house yoga mats, a choir loft Master Bedroom and two Sacristy bedrooms, where sleeping in Church is encouraged. For more contemplative moments, there is a clawfoot tub, and throughout the entire home are beautiful ceramic works of art created by its host, Natalie, Co-Founder of Fire Arts and one of New England's most revered ceramicists. Natalie purchased the church straight from the Roman Catholic Diocese back in 2001 and spent the next three years renovating the space. For years it served as her home, which is obvious in only the best ways, as the design decisions have been made with great care. Dummerston is a picturesque small town and with Brattleboro a 10 minute drive away, it's near the area's best shopping, restaurants, and the recently opened Stone Church, an event venue dedicated to sharing the gifts of music and art.
The Stone Church is also sprung from a house of god, although in this case it's the Unitarian sect, and the spirit of community, diversity and respect continues while musicians like Willie Nile and Sam Amidon aim to enlighten. Much like Nick and Natalie's Airbnb, the beauty of the Church remains, practically guaranteeing an inspired performance from road weary musicians. You can even have your wedding here, pleasing both traditionalists and reimagined spiritualists alike. This is what a visit to Church should always feel like - full of discovery, respite, emotion, music, and energy.
It is a scene set for a perfect weekend - the offerings of two former Holy Houses translated for today's seekers set amongst the heartland of the northeast. I can't make it to New Zealand this year, but I sure as hell can make it to Vermont, and I pray you can too.
For more details on the town of Brattleboro, check out this post.