Sunday, September 25, 2011

Almost-Hidden Window

Visitors travel to Stow On the Wold to see the fine collection of stained glass windows in St. Edwards Church. Although the church was completed in the 15th century, the windows vary in age, with the newest one dating from Victorian times. Wandering around the church, absorbing the brilliant colors, I was surprised by the scene in one corner of the church. A massive organ partly obscures one of the windows. Surely the parishioners are happy to have the organ. Music is an integral part of a worship service. But imagine how upset the stained glass artist would be to discover that his work was now virtually hidden from view. Once an artwork is finished and sent off into the world, its fate is no longer determined by its creator. This is a reminder of why we should try to take most of our satisfaction and joy from the process of creating, not from the artwork itself.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kiln Failure

One day in 17th century Delft, the protective clay cylinder holding a stack of carefully-painted plates collapsed in a kiln. Imagine the disappointment of the potter when he discovered the plates, partly broken and welded together by their glazes. Now they reside in one of the ceramics galleries at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Almost cantilevered, they look like a moment suspended in time. They have a dynamic, accidental beauty born from a supposed failure.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Pentagon Memorial

A calm oasis lies between a busy highway and the Pentagon. Rows of benches, sleek as airplane wings, follow the trajectory of American Airlines Flight 77. Arranged by year of birth, youngest to oldest, the name of each person who died is engraved on the edge of each bench. Flight 77 flew low over my house on September 11, 2001, its shadow momentarily darkening my world. The shadow remains, a tiny package of fear and sadness that never quite disappears. It expands inside me and makes its presence known every September. I am grateful for the memorial. It is a place to pray for those who died and to pray for the living, who must find a way to live bravely and joyfully.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

National Cathedral

Our National Cathedral was declared finished In 1990, after 83 years of work. This is a short interval compared to the centuries it took to build the great cathedrals of Europe. Although it is primarily Gothic in style, the stained glass windows range from graceful Edwardian angels to a space-themed window set with a piece of a moon rock. On August 23 the cathedral was shaken by an earthquake. Spires collapsed and flying buttresses cracked. Cathedrals have burned, collapsed or suffered war damage and have risen again. Now the National Cathedral has joined the club, after a relatively minor calamity. Safely netting has been draped across the ceiling so that next week's September 11 memorial services can go on. Still, each day a kaleidoscope of light glides across the floor and over the columns, directed by the sun. The cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul endures.