Free Money? If only! But the fabled money tree does exist, even if the money is just paper! As I wound down a sojourn in the midwest, I continued my search for free entertainment, especially welcome in these economic times where a penny saved is a penny earned. And what better place to be free than a Money Museum? Yes, a museum dedicated to the history of money, courtesy of the Federal Reserve Bank. Located in a gorgeous early 20th century building in downtown Cleveland, this little spot had oodles of information that would be wonderful to share with the youngsters in one’s life. Finding out how much a briefcase with a million dollars weighs (it’s heavy!), seeing how interest compounds (cleverly posted on a winding staircase), learning how banks were protected before the advent of security scanning (gun turrets large enough for two men set in the base of two entry statues!), this was a fascinating learning experience. Given how much the Fed has been in the news and in our lives over the last two years, a visit here is both timely and instructive. Not to mention seeing oneself on the dollar bill!
My freedom quest has been conducted mostly on foot, and that has been a reminder of how tiring travel can be. As I finished my tour of the World of Mammon at the Money Museum, I sought rest in a more spiritual setting. When on the road, it has always been my experience that church doors are a welcoming respite for sore feet, a tired back and an overloaded mind. I don’t know if the doors of all religious institutions are always open, but my background generally leads me to the Catholic churches in cities both large and small, where I have been able to spend a meditative hour reclaiming energy, in the company of worshipers, homeless folk and tired travelers like myself.
I did try the doors of the United Methodist Church, fondly known to my family and other Clevelanders as the “Holy Oilcan,” but they were locked, most disappointing since I had never had the opportunity to see the stained glass windows, which truly look glorious. This time, I found myself at the Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, seat of the diocese of Cleveland, which has been under fire for a round of church closings that ignited passions throughout the city. Cleveland’s diverse ethnic neighborhoods have been mirrored by the individual churchs located in them, but with declining congregations and the current church tribulations, sadly, finances have not permitted the diocese to keep all these historic and beautiful buildings alive.
Weary walkers can find a smiliar restful setting in Santa Fe, at our Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis d’ Assisi, where the doors are open daily. Recent restorations have made the cathedral even more beautiful, and the curious can expand their appreciation of this magnificent building by reading Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop. An excellent history of the actual architecture of the Cathedral can be found by reading David B Williams’ Stories in Stone, a most informative little blog. Churches throughout northern New Mexico are frequently open, although on occasion, one has to traipse across a plaza and knock on the door of the person who keeps the keys. With the exception of the Cathedral, New Mexico churches, in general, tend to be humble buildings, although the skillfully carved altarpiece reredos and painted retablos could hold their own in any museum. Perennial favorites for a New Mexico visit are El Santuario de Chimayo, site of a massive annual pilgrimage gathering on Good Friday, the starkly beautiful San Jose de Gracia at Las Trampas and the windswept church of San Esteban del Rey at Acoma Pueblo. There’s really nothing like sitting quietly with the scent of old candles and the weight of centuries to focus the mind, and New Mexico offers these opportunities in abundance.
Making the most of money means keeping it in your pocket and making the most of travel means taking time to contemplate the journey. Seen through that lens, my final free adventures in Ohio were satisfyingly successful. See you back in Santa Fe soon!