* yes, there should be FIVE sets of boots but Allen ignored my advice to get adequate rain gear...

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Look Up

A while back, I was reading one of those action adventur-y romance novels and the hero was instructing the heroine that she should always be sure to look up in whatever dangerous situation they were entering.  The point he was making was that we generally look straight ahead, if not simply down.  If we're really on the ball, we might look to our sides or behind us occasionally but that the smart attacker makes like and owl and swoops down on you when you least expect it.

I'm hardly in the midst of Constant Danger but I have tried to take the advice anyway.  Mothers have a peculiar mix of tunnel vision and constant perimeter assessment.  Somehow you have to be aware of the massive puddle your toddler is Just About to stomp in while also being sure that your adventurous and independent 4 year old isn't about to take out any pedestrians 1/2 a block away (or at least manage to holler loudly enough to give them fair warning).  You have to keep a watch on the pace to be sure no one is being left behind while still making it to wherever in a timely manner and then offer a reasonably coherent response to whomever is talking at any given moment.  It's pretty easy to forget to look up.


Neglecting the ceiling is a major misstep on a European tour.

Taking a decent picture, with your phone, while chasing children is pretty much impossible but take my word for it (or do a google image search) the ceiling is pretty much always worth a good look.

I'm a Methodist and an American.  On the whole, we don't do cathedrals.  On occasion, we have positively picturesque little country chapels.  The interiors are often nice and occasionally lovely but not so much awe inspiring.  We have a smattering of breathtaking religious architecture gifted to us by other denominations but it's a drop in the bucket compared to roughly 1500 years of European religious architecture.  It's enough to make a girl feel slightly hostile towards the Puritans.  Best of all, Europeans work in stone so there is some real staying power.  That's a lot of abbeys, chapels, and cathedrals, all built for the glory of God and all designed to take your mind to a higher plane.  It's architecture in one of it's purest forms and it makes me understand why creating publicly accessible beauty was a priority for first the Catholic Church and the many other denominations that followed.

Westminster Abbey

When we visited Westminster Abbey I was kept busy dragging Noah off of crypts and Very Historic Chairs when not telling Charlie, Megan, and/or Noah to stop running.  Someday I will publish a coffee table book of pictures of my children playing tag, chase, statues, and duck duck goose in sanctuaries, chapels, historic graveyards, Druid sacred spaces, abbeys and cathedrals.  We always make them stop and explain why but I also sort of think that Someone gets a kick out of the uninhibited joy of playing children as well.

When I finally did get to stop at at the transept and look up, it truly was A Moment.  In the space of a breath I was transported.  In the beauty of the soaring ceiling, the precise symmetry of the supports, the unfathomable effort that must have gone into building this all in a time when by hand was the only option, I saw why beauty and God are interlinked and the why of the toil was clear.

In other places, the vaulted ceiling, joists, and supports have been replaced by sky.  I see the beauty in all it's glorious permutations, cloudy, roiling, gray, alabaster, cerulean, slate, and indigo, perfectly framed by the soaring structures long ago built to inspire hope, reflection, and joy and am constantly amazed that those ambitions are still achieved, even in the ruins and crumbles.

Then I see a very few small people who feel so very moved that the only appropriate expression is a rollicking game of tag.


Don't forget to look up.

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