Searching for Stillness – Gettin’ My 52 On in Mt. Adams

* This is the thirteenth in a series of walking Cincinnati’s 52 neighborhoods, to find what makes each relevant to me.

Some of Cincinnati’s neighborhoods are easily reachable on foot, but more difficult to cover from a writing perspective. Mt. Adams is one such neighborhood, not because it’s filled with so many vistas, or cultural attractions or bars, but because it is fraught with history. Mine.

I first encountered Mt. Adams as a college graduate. My first Easter as a Cincinnatian, I plodded up the steps and prayed the rosary with my sister, Laura. It was a time-honored tradition for any local. In subsequent years, I walked the steps while my first husband played golf. I walked the steps with my parents. I walked the steps with my young son and his aunt (who borrowed a few lilacs from a neighbor’s tree). I walked the steps with Mark.

Now, I walk the steps with ghosts. Devin is gone. Laura in a care home. My father is deceased and my mother unable to join me. My son is off at school during Easter. Mark is challenged to take time off on Good Friday. And my walks have expanded to include my local rendition of Holy Wednesday’s Roman Tradition of Walk of Seven Churches.

But still, I walk the steps. Whether it’s Easter or not, I stand on the steps. I only pray on a few, until an image of a loved one comes to mind. I don’t conjure up the images, an aura simply arrives.

I usually time my walks to Mt. Adams to coincide with sunrise. If I have countless photos of an Oregon sunset, then I have in equal numbers, pictures of the sun rising from high upon the mount.

Steps from the base of Adam’s Landing lead me up to one of the best viewpoints for sunrises and river views. Then it’s just a slight turn towards the Holy Cross Church of the Immaculata and the remainder of the steps that the other faithful, the ones not familiar with the base of steps, stop and pray.

In my younger years, I had plenty of friends living in Mt. Adams, and the bar scene was quite active. It’s where we went. Its what we did. Unless there was a ballgame and then it was Flanagan’s.

Mt. Adams first existed as Mt. Ida, where a washerwoman lived in a tree. The neighborhood was since renamed. Eden Park surrounds the base of the neighborhood, and thus the mount is enveloped in green. The Cincinnati Art Museum, which boasts of FREE attendance, is located there, and there is discussion of making the museum more pedestrian accessible via Gilbert once the Baldwin project is complete. At the end of April, I will be co-teaching a workshop based on a current exhibit, titled Poetry of Place.

A few other cultural institutions are located in Mt. Adams, including the venerable Playhouse in the Park, which just hosted a startling rendition of Jane Eyre. The Playhouse, like the rest of our live theatre venues has plans, sort of, to undergo a major renovation. The plans were announced, with no actual plan shared, but I’m confident the patrons and executives will put forth one to rival the Ensemble, Shakespeare and the rest of those located in the basin.

The second Rookwood pottery building was located here, and the kiln is often a room where one can eat a meal, depending on whatever restaurant is opening in that space. The current one recently closed. The Celestial‘s Incline Lounge hosts astounding jazz vocalists and musicians and is another of the best views in the city. The Pilgrim Chapel underwent its own metamorphosis and lives on as an intersection of faith, community, and arts.

The history of the monastery is quite fascinating. The building sits Cincinnati’s original observatory, which was moved to Mt. Lookout and is now an event center. And, of course, one knows all too well, the demise of the incline, which would have reconnected this neighborhood to the lower neighborhoods in the city. As it stands now, most use several sets of steps and then a few of the pedestrian overpasses to walk to work.

Yet, my love for this neighborhood has nothing to do its charming homes, inspiring infill, or for what could have been and should still be.

Mt. Adams is where I go to find a quietude in the darkness in my life.

In 2001, rioting broke out in Cincinnati, following the killing of Timothy Thomas on April 7th at the hands of a Cincinnati police office. A week later, as Good Friday approached (the 13th). At the time, I still lived in Loveland and had planned to walk the steps. Several neighbors knew of my tradition of walking the steps and encouraged me to stay home.

But I went. It was my own private protest. And, I took my young son.

The Mt. Adams steps always represented to me what was insurmountable. Isn’t that why we climb? Not for the view, but for the struggle for stillness on each step of the way? I went that day in 2001, to be silent in the midst of city filled with unrest.

Finally, whenever I descend Mt. Adams, the light reappears and I find it in my steps to locate a particular street sign. It’s the closest I come to another place where I go to find the calm inside.

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