Travel: Why I Don’t do Churches Any More

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Our walking tour moved from the white-hot of midday sun into the cool dimness of the Basilica of San Frediano in Lucca, Tuscany.  Our tour guide was a young woman, who knew far too much history for her own good and wanted ardently to share it with the world.

Her voice now barely a whisper, detailed the faded frescos and the 12th century marble baptismal font as we softly padded our way through the side chapels.

She waited patiently in the side chapel of Saint Zita until the last of the stragglers were present.  There was renewed determination as she spoke of the artifacts and paintings.

We had been walking and ingesting Lucca for over three hours. The majority of us were simply pleased to sit, pushing shoes off our sore feet as we sought the coolness of the marble floor.  Our guide’s history lesson was overwhelming, ticking off the centuries while our thoughts fantasized on a coffee and shopping break.

She sensed she had lost us but then she played her ‘Saint Zita’ trump card.

Purposely she stepped away from the front of the altar and with a gesture of a game show host she indicated the brightly lit glass sarcophagus behind her.

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Where the rest of the church was dim illuminated only by rose-red pools of light or iron stand banks of flickering candles, the glass case was rudely lit, neon bright like a cheap side-show.

Beneath the glass, on a bed of brocade lay the mummified remains of an ancient, once, woman, now only a leather black corpse dressed in white with a circlet of dusty plastic flowers in her thin wispy red hair.

And with that my weakened enthusiasm for absorbing yet another church was dealt a fatal blow.

Sleuthing around a church and attempting to retain a potted knowledge of patrons, saints and bishops while viewing multiples of stained glass windows, hand-carved lecterns, alabaster Madonnas and child is not for me and irrefutably, not some horror movie mummified relic in a glass case. (Forgive me Saint Zita).

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But it is in Gaudi’s Cathedral Sagrada Familia in Barcelona that I, and millions of other visitors, are rewarded with a sense of the majesty of a spiritual connection.

Is it because Gaudi’s imaginative architecture compares so pleasurably to most European medieval gothic-buttressed church naves? Those darkened hallows have a heaviness that stifles whereas Gaudi’s temple is an augury of towering space, light and intricate pinnacles that triggers one to explore it with the spiritual innocence of a child. May be Gaudi simply paid heed to the biblical quote  ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.’

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New Moon+New Year=Propitious Beginnings

Evidently the configuration of the planets coupled with a new moon on New Year’s Day makes it propitious for out with the old and birthing the new.  And if you couple this event with some sort of symbolic ceremony it can produce powerful results.

I have lost count of my swings of mood when it comes to New Year resolutions.  So many well-intentioned carefully worded I will be better, better, best slips of paper tucked into esoteric books only to be forgotten by the end of January.  And many end of the year’s cynicisms – no I never keep them so why make them – only to find the pendulum had fully swung the next year to sit with the new diary and my finest notepaper to write once again my hopes for improvement.

The trouble with most of my resolutions is the rigidity and censoring that I pen as my most desirable attributes for the following year. I’m sure this type of resolution is common to most I will diet and lose 5/10/ 15 kg (this a standard resolution for me repeated on all wishful thinking years) I will give up alcohol, carbs, chocolate and confectionary – I will be more patient, more forgiving – I will walk for 40 minutes a day and do stretches for another 30 minutes – I will be a better partner/friend/mother/sister – I will learn to reverse park better …. And the list goes on.

 Of course the dynamic new corporate agers would immediately say the reason they failed was because there was no identified goal, no time frame, no motivation.  No picture on the fridge of herself looking  a cool babe in a previously owned bikini or no image of her car reverse parked tidily within a cm  of the middle of the white lines.

But those on the road to enlightenment would say where are you placing the energy? The brain is not fooled it knows the ego’s pattern’s preferred tried and tested path for promised diets, exercise and reverse parking and will happily takes you for the ride through the well-worn structure.  Of course if you implement your will you might yo-yo for a while but in the end the old habits will prevail.

This New Year looks as though it might be a ball-breaker (according to the astrologers) so I’m working on a neat little ceremony to seal the my intentions for 2014.  But as I work towards the light I will give the universe every opportunity to do its magic by giving each intention its deserved vibration.  Instead of ‘must lose weight/give up the perceived evils and exercise’ it will be  –With gratitude I choose to honour my body and health.

 Not sure how to get my vibrations going in the right direction when reverse parking though – any thoughts gratefully received.