A perfect flight
DESPFIE the wintry weather (night temperature in beautifully situated Duluth on Lake Superior: 8°) I have just enjoyed the most perfect flight of my travels. In a small two-engine plane we flew across Minnesota at a low altitude. The sun was shining and the dappled wintry country below seemed to erie like an endless succession of incredible abstraet paintings. Minnesota's 10,000 frozen lakes were scattered along the way and the patterns of iceformations in substle soft colours were like a kaleidoscope of endlessly changing unearthly beauty. Nor have I ever seen shadows of rows of trees so startlingly and vividly blue. We talk of blue shadows, but these were of a lone so intense and pure that a painter would hardly have dared to risk their brilliant intensity on canvas. This weather was not meant to last and hurrying to my next flight to Winona, I was rejected for the very good reason that the plane could not risk landing in misty Winona. This meant an American train at night—wonderfully comfortable, but taking hours to cover some ten miles. What with shunting and backing one might have been hack in Spain wheie trains mysteriously change directions. Passenger traffic does not pay in U.S., so they couldn't care less about time. But Winona reached at last turned out to be clean and most perfectly situated among th3 snow-flecked and silver-birchcovered hills of the Mississippi Valley. What fun to drink in the pure air as one scrambled up the wild hills and at last got some real exercise.
KANSAS, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma. Arkansas, Texas, New Mexico, Colorado--such states have a romantic ring for the European, and I looked forward to travelling through them far more than the Mid-West or even New England, To wake up in the Benedictine Abbey of Atchinson, Kansas and to see the Missouri flowing in a great dark curve sunder one'sbedroom window with the sun rising over an immense plain, seemed to make real many an imaginative dream. But perhaps it was more truly American to find oneself driven Some 70 miles in about an hour to catch a plane that would take one to the great city of Saint Louis with its "blues" and the Jesuit University of St. Louis. "Free Enterprise" enables the Jesuits to found a University and call it The University of that immense town on the Mississippi simply because no one had previously sited the name. But the chief interest of this particular trip was the new Abbey Church of Atchinson, a building less original than Collegeville in Minnesota, hut wonderfully imposing with its great cream-coloured tower and a vast liturgically designed interior. It also possessed the, to me, unique feature of having what the Americans call "rest rooms" in the porch. I imagine we shall soon find in the Catholic America of the future many very fine modernistic and liturgical churches, lf America goes liturgical it will do it in a big way. Last week "Jotter" wrote about the new and now world-famous modernistic church of St. John's College, Minnesota. The latest issue of Art d'Eglise, produced by the Abbeys de Saint-Andre, Belgium, published this striking picture of St. John's Church on its front Cover; inside is an informative article (with English translation) an the unique features
of Marcel Breuer's design.
Going South and West
THIS trip was the overture to the final phase of my American tour and one looked forward to it with great excitement. New
Orleans on the Gulf of Mexico.
Texas, Santa F and Denver situated tinder the shadow of the
Rocky •Mountains. This is a
totally new America wherein the past of the great continent survives. To do it justice, we decided to hire a car, the cost of which turned out to be about the same as plane fares. but how much more comfortable and satisfying in peeping behind first, and often disappointing, appearances. To land in New Orleans in December is to get the greatest surprise of one's life. After weeks of temperature in the 30's and 40's, one finds oneself settled in a Motel amid tropical vegetation with palm-tree courts, camelias in flower, Spanish Moss—that strange, sinister parasite hanging from trees--in a night temperature of 70 deg. Then next morning adventuring with the hired, automatic, gearless car into the city and the famous Vieux Carr.a so-called "French Quarter" which is really Spanish and which might indeed be met with anywhere in Southern Europe, In it lies the Cathedral of St. Louis, the oldest cathedral in the States, though not particularly attractive.
NEW ORLEANS, with its very humid atmosphere, is built on a swamp and its cemeteries are one of its rather grisly tourist sights. All tombs are above ground as sanitation does not allow the more traditional custom. This has led to the building of great family tombs of stone, often of strange and much varied design of either classical or rococo styles. I suppose that these tombs perpetuate the only class distinction in America : the relative wealth of families. Here French names abound—the French being early immigrants from 'French Canada: the Spaniards. of course, coming from the South.