Thursday, July 30, 2009

Fabulous Frescoes

On a recent rainy day when dh was in town, we made a trip to a nearby town to see the South Solon Meetinghouse. This wonderful nineteenth-century white clapboard church was falling into rack and ruin when the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture rescued it in the 1930s. Then, the school turned it over to their students, who went wild with their paintbrushes, covering every interior wall (including the ceilings) with frescoes.

Visiting the place turned out to be a bit tricky. My 2001 Maine guidebook suggested the meetinghouse might be locked, so I should call ahead; but the number listed rang to someone's home. The woman who answered was friendly but had no idea what I was talking about. She suggested I phone the Skowhegan Chamber of Commerce, who suggested I phone the South Solon town office, who suggested I phone a man named Andrew Davis. Armed with his phone number, I made the call and asked the young man who answered if he happened to be Andrew. No, he was Caleb. Apparently, I had called another residence. Andrew was at work. I explained why I was calling, and Caleb assured me that the meetinghouse would be unlocked.

Here's a tip: if you're ever in Maine, fork over the cash to buy a DeLorme atlas. This very detailed map is a necessity of you plan to hit the road, which we do quite often. And if you've heard the adage about Maine, "You can't get there from here," let me tell you that it can be true. Due to the highly irregular coastline, numerous rivers, and few number of highways, planning your route is essential. You often have to go someplace in order to get someplace else. If that makes sense.

So, I had a general idea of where the meetinghouse is located, and I had my DeLorme. What more did we need? (A highly developed sense of adventure, which we have in spades, even if the girls tend to get nervous at times. You're never lost if you have a De Lorme! I wish life were that simple, sometimes.) We hit the road in the rain.

The meetinghouse itself is not marked in any way. We sort of took a guess we'd come to the right place, although white clapboard churches dot the Maine countryside. We wre the nly visitors. Once inside, we were amazed. The frescoes were fabulous. I wandered around the interior, taking them all in: angels, the last supper, the crucifixion. I've never seen anything like it. I have to say, though, that the girls were more enamored with the ancient pump organ in the choir loft and ringing the old church bell. I even plunked out a few chords on the organ. Pump organs are very difficult to play!

We signed the guest book (a spiral notebook) and made a donation in the tin can set aside for the purpose. Glancing over the last few guest book entries, we saw that a wedding had taken place the previous weekend. And a few months ago, a woman wrote in the book that her parents had married at the meetinghouse in the 1950s, and this was her first visit to the place. Apparently, we weren't the only ones struck by the beauty and peace there.

The photos, of course, don't do the frescoes justice. But they'll give you a taste of what the meetinghouse is like. Just use your imagination.

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