Archive for the ‘Indiana’ Category

In the glow of late afternoon sunlight, I crossed the old toll bridge from Illinois Rte 14 and entered the town of New Harmony, Indiana. The warmth of the sun rolled over my skin as I pulled the car over and stepped outside to look around. I took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Everything felt right about this town.

New Harmony was founded in the 1800’s in the hopes of establishing a utopian society. First attempted by the Harmonie Society, the same goal was later sought by a scientific/intellectual group led by Robert Owen. Neither attempt was successful, but the basic search for spirituality and peace continues today through history, restored buildings, calm surroundings, educational tours and workshops.

I was immediately taken with the historical structures in this National Historic Landmark town. Each was unique and architecturally different, creating a mix of styles throughout the downtown area. I snapped some photos while the sunlight lingered and then headed over to the inn to check in.

The New Harmony Inn and Conference Center is not a historic lodging establishment, in spite of being surrounded by many 19th century structures. But it is wonderful – a modern multi-building facility that still blends in with the nature around it, including lush lawn areas, a small lake, gardens, contemporary art sculptures and an indoor pool, enclosed in a large greenhouse.

A family of ducks waddled across the grass as I pulled my overnight bag from the car. Several guests wandered by a waterfall in a wooded corner of the lake. An employee of the inn sat under a gazebo, enjoying the garden while on a break. I climbed a flight of stairs and settled into my room, which was furnished with a comfortable, elegant simplicity. It offered a perfect combination of modern amenities and a peaceful, retreat-ish atmosphere.

It was early evening by then and I was in need of a good meal. I found exactly that at the inn’s restaurant, The Red Geranium, where I enjoyed a dinner that was luxurious, compared to the basic food I’d had in the previous towns. Surrounded by white linens and dark woods, I gazed out from my corner table at brightly colored artwork hanging on the cozy restaurant’s walls. An ironwork sculpture of dancing figures ran the length of the fireplace mantel. Soft music seemed to flow straight out of the air itself.

Enthralled with the surroundings, I barely noticed a basket of asiago cheese bread slide onto the table. I rarely ever order meat, but decided to try the Coffee and Pepper Rubbed Pork Chop, which they served with cheese grits and fresh green beans. (Note: the cheese grits were a substitution for me, instead of a potato side that was made with sour cream.) Everything was fabulous, including a unique dessert that I was almost afraid to try: Home-Made Zucchini-Cinnamon Ice Cream. My adventurous side paid off – it was delicious. And the service was excellent, down to the last detail.

I took a quiet walk through the grounds in the dark, returning to my room to enjoy luxurious bedding and wireless Internet access, followed by a night of deep, peaceful sleep.

Morning found me back in the Red Geranium for a breakfast of (I kid you not…) French Toast Stuffed with Bavarian Ham and Cheese, which was dipped in a vanilla-cinnamon batter and dusted with powdered sugar. A choice of entrees was offered, including a Malted Waffle with Berries and a Harmonist Omelette, made with mushrooms and goat cheese. Add to that fresh fruit and just-brewed coffee and I was back in the same dining fantasy world that I had been the night before.

(Note: I have to pause to point out that, in spite of how extravagant this all sounds, many of my lodging choices on these trips are based on special deals being offered. This was one of those amazing finds that offers far more than you pay for. The New Harmony Inn’s summer special is 99., which includes a room and breakfast at The Red Geranium. Dinner, of course, is extra. They’re wonderful, but not crazy.

After breakfast, I set out to explore the town, starting at the Atheneum/Visitor Center, a modern building designed by architect Richard Meier, which stands in stark contrast to the remainder of the town. Here I picked up a printed walking tour of historic points of interest. I photographed a series of log cabins, carefully restored. I wandered past houses with varying histories – when they were built, who lived there, etc. There were many, too many to fully appreciate in one day. I took a little time to enjoy Carol’s Garden and a lot of time to walk quietly through the Roofless Church, an amazing and peaceful open air sanctuary for worship and meditation.

Crossing the street from the Roofless Church, I found the Cathedral Labyrinth, patterned after the labyrinth at the Cathedral de Chartres. Here I took the time to slowly walk the single path to the center of the design. I paused to reflect on the stress I’d been carrying on my shoulders for the last twenty-four hours, long enough to realize there’s no purpose or benefit in letting my mind and heart be filled with personal disappointments and business complications. Before reversing my steps and following the path back out, I sought to release the anger and resentments I was carrying around – a complicated and continuous process, I realized, but in the middle of the labyrinth, I felt a small beginning.

I was fortunate to have the Cathedral Labyrinth to myself, as there were few visitors in town that day. However, I was not as lucky when I arrived at the Harmonist Labyrinth, located at the edge of town. This 1939 recreation of a maze the Harmonists built in the 1800’s does not consist of a single path in and out, but instead offers a maze of pathways, with multiple openings between rows, allowing the visitor to choose different paths.

A small stone structure stands in the center of the maze, offering a place for reflection. Unfortunately, I had to pause outside while a few unseen visitors shouted and listened, laughing, to the resulting echos inside the structure that’s meant for silent contemplation. Though I assumed these were kids (why wouldn’t I?) I was quite surprised to see an entire family walk out, parents included. But they eventually departed and I had some time for a little quiet.

My visit to New Harmony was too brief. I longed for more time to wander the grounds at the inn. I wasn’t able to get to any of the numerous art galleries, antique shops and cafes in the area. It would have been wonderful to have more time for photography. Looking back, I wish I had stayed an extra day. Or two. Or three. But I left immensely grateful for the time I was able to spend there. I’ve promised myself I’ll go back.


Read Full Post »