Technically, a cathedral is a Christian church that contains the seat of the bishop. From Wikipedia, “The term “cathedral” actually carries no implication as to the size or ornateness of the building. Nevertheless, most cathedrals are particularly impressive edifices.”
However, the cathedral like feeling–a sacred place where sunlight filters through a canopy of leaves or casts sharp silhouettes; a place of peace; soaring grandeur; the sound of infinite silence, wind, birdsong, insect chorus, surf, or whale calls; can be anyplace outside that gives us a sense of majesty, peace, perspective, and gratitude. Notre Dame Cathedral
Cathedral Rock near Sedona, AZ is one such place. It is one of the most photographed places in Arizona and part of it’s famous red rocks. From Wikipedia, “Cathedral Rock is located in the Coconino National Forest in Yavapai County, about a mile (1.6 km) west of Arizona Route 179, and about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) south of the “Y” intersection of Routes 179 and 89A in uptown Sedona. The summit elevation of Cathedral Rock is 4,967 feet (1,514 m).[1″
I was lucky enough to visit Sedona in 2017 and fell in love with the place. The soaring red rocks, the dark evergreen plants garlanding the feet of the rocks, the clear turquoise skies with their whispy white cloud all combined to convince me this is one of the loveliest spots in the United States. I need to go back to experience a vortex and buy that elusive piece of turquoise jewelry that captures Sedona for me.
Another place is the Monterey peninsula. Monterey Bay has “one of the deepest submarine canyons on the west coast of the United States. The canyon head lies just offshore of Moss Landing on the Central California coast. From there, the main channel meanders over 400 kilometers seaward to a depth of more than 4,000 meters on the abyssal plain. Repeated mapping in certain areas of the canyon have shown that the terrain changes substantially every few months due to large sediment-transport events involving both debris flows and turbidity currents.” It is also home to the Montery Bay acquarium with its enormous kelp forest tank. Watching the sunlight filter through the kelp leaves provides that same cathedral like sense that watching sunlight filter through the the forest trees does. I was fortunate enough to live in Monterey in the mid 80s and visit it whenever I can.
Just south of the Monterey is Big Sur, where the Santa Lucia mountains tumble down to the Pacific Ocean. As you travel Highway 1 you are suspended between earth and ocean, mountain and sea, sometimes between sun and fog, forest and meadow. What you lose is radio reception.
The highway winds in and out of the redwood forest. At other times it is a narrow two lane road with the ocean 200 feet below you and the mountain 1000 feet above you. There is not a lot of room for the bikers, joggers, and hikers who also travel this route.
Sunlight through trees is another cathedral like place. At AnneMarie Gardens near Solomons, Maryland, we even saw a stone statue of a bishop.
The Celts had a term for such places where the sacred and the secular meet and the distance between heaven and earth grows thin. They called them Thin Places. I think that natural cathedrals are thin places. Where are your thin places?