I’ve made it back from my sojourn across the Atlantic, feeling just like a shiny new penny with all the oils of a thousand hands rubbed clean off, and the golden copper Lincoln grinning through again. After twelve years, I returned to the city where I studied abroad and where, in many ways, I think I first started to bloom even though I didn’t know at the time what colors I would be. I saw new terrain too, new monuments to beauty and joy and struggle, in cultures that value putting public money into creating and sustaining such majesty. I feel dizzy. I am reminded of things I used to know.
I’ve been enjoying my fast from technology as well, noticing how much more powerful the resonance of my thoughts can sometimes be when they just echo inside my own head and don’t zap out in bits and bytes to everyone else all the time. I have a few chapel sessions coming to share with you all, and they will come when they are ready. For now we’re contented in an inlet, a lull.
This is something I wrote one afternoon last week in a small cafe in Barcelona, alone, on my little iPod touch. It’s the only thing I’ve written lately, more about an internal dialogue than a new song. I thought you might enjoy it.
Sometimes, I drift unmoored. The seas have been high, and choppy. The focus has been on the salty, windy survival. Today when I walked into Barcelona’s Sagrada Familia, I surprisingly felt closer to God than I have in a long time, as the colorful light brilliantly flooded into all that whiteness. It is the most stunning and overwhelming space I have maybe ever been in. A train might as well have hit me when I walked through the doors; the splattering effect of my psyche was the same. I was derailed. I was, for a short time, wordless.
When you study and live and experience art (also reference: the complicated and sometime emotionally abusive relationship I’ve been in with Michelangelo these years), it’s like a small rip in your fabric is enlarged and pressed and kneaded outwards, sometimes violently. Picture the hands that work the pizza dough from underneath, as it drapes and offers no resistance. There’s a hollow vacancy that’s been left in my life as I try to return to normal dimensions after living daily with beauty and art that challenges and probes. Days like today blow everything back up and out again.
The exterior of the church evoked the dribble sandcastles my mom taught me how to build on the beaches of Santa Cruz when I was a kid. The spires are chaotic and irregular, and expansive and impressive, and dirty from years of exposure, and beseiged by cranes and scaffolding and workers still building. A hundred years after Gaudi started it, craftsmen are still rappelling down the sides.
Walking into that massive space felt like a blinding flash of narcolepsy, where suddenly I knew this place but I knew it from dreams, from a place that I used to be, thousands of years ago. I stood at the base of a forest of columns that turned into trees as I craned my neck, knitting together so high over my head into a canopy. I rolled around Wendell Berry’s words, “I love to lie down weary under the stalk of sleep growing slowly out of my head, the dark leaves meshing.”
There are clean, flat, angular planes everywhere that somehow still feel organic in their sharpness, the way starlight or thistles are organic. Dazzling, pure color (!) and light (!) bleach and stain and permeate the church, and soak through me. Here we are, and we are liberated from tradition, we are severed from heavy gold ornamental oppression, and we have forgotten our grief.
Sometimes you are in a space that is a perfect combination of all the elements that you are uniquely wired for, and this was mine. Gaudi’s got my number, and he has it completely. In art, I felt known.
Dig Down Deep – Vandaveer
In my head, songs often play, even without the tethers of white earbuds. Echoing all around me I heard the 2:17 crescendo of this song, sustained.