Saturday, September 27, 2008

DC - National Cathedral

We spent the bulk of a whole day, on our recent Washington DC trip, at the National Cathedral. It's overwhelmingly large, and overwhelmingly beautiful. We're just the sort to want to wander all over it for hours and hours not missing any detail. And we did. And it's just the sort of place that's quiet and contemplative in a way that rests our souls. So we were stimulated and rested simultaneously. We were there so long, and so unwilling to leave yet, that we inquired about food and were guided to a small snack shop in the crypts. We ate among the restful departed, with Vivaldi and Beethoven playing quietly around us. Somehow it seemed ironic and yet perfectly natural for us to feed our bodies among the remains and memories of those who no longer need food.

The stained glass alone is worth an hour of careful examination. There are windows about so many different things. Never before have I seen amphibious landing craft in a church window (in the military shrine, a beautiful tribute and prayerful place for those we've lost in wars). I've certainly never seen a moon rock in a church window before. More on these in a later post, I think. I took lots of photos of the windows.

The vault is amazing, like the big cathedrals in Europe. And, with the bright sun streaming in the colorful clerestory windows, everything was bathed in complex colored light. Abstract banners hung against the massive piers, giving the place more warmth than I've seen in other Gothic structures like this. The space is awe inspiring, huge, stony, yet still inviting. Notre Dame, in Paris, had the same effect on dear wife and I.

And outside, with the bells ringing wildly for a wedding that had just finished, we passed through this magical gateway into a side garden. I could have stayed there for hours, too - as it is I think we were there for nearly an hour. It wasn't a large garden, but it was nearly perfect, and cascaded down the hill, with breathtaking views of the cathedral over the tops of the trees and flower beds.

I experimented with my camera's panorama feature. This is my favorite attempt.

>>>> Appendix de Grenouille #41 <<<<

I am tres fortunate to have good friends around me. Here I am perched on my sweet quiet singing friend, Debbie. Some days she is a fountain. Beneath us, in the perfectly round pool, is another grenouille. Small, black, pensive, and tres tres retiring, we do not see it much, but rather the splash of it's leap from stones at the edge. Debbie sits so still that she sees more of the grenouille than I. I have not that sort of patience.

And Etienne has his best friend with him, as well. I am consoled that I am somewhere on his list, and not jealous that his dear one is his first and best friend. In preparation for a coming trip, and knowing that there is usually an explosion in these days, the two of them have been trying to schedule the argument. They have been trying to get in fighting pose for days, poking and joking each other to goad and ignite, but rien. They are too close and connected this year to have the quarrel so far. Perhaps the packing will do the trick? It is not the favorite of anyone in the house.


Anonymous said...

The picture of the vault is amazing. I looks human, skeletal, like the roof of the mouth or a rib cage? I can't put my finger on it.

And perhaps the fight won't come. Wouldn't that be nice for your friends, M.Grenouille? Perhaps the pattern is changing.

Steve Emery said...

DCup - I hadn't thought of that (about the skeletal vault) - it DOES look like something's bones (from the inside). And wouldn't it be nice if the pattern changed on this one? It ain't a pattern we particularly like or are proud of.

Pagan Sphinx said...

Steve, you wrote:

And it's just the sort of place that's quiet and contemplative in a way that rests our souls.

I know just that feeling. Your post and photos parallel an experience I had earlier this week which is documented on my blog. It's a few posts down from the top post - photos of The New England Peace Pagoda.

Your photos are stunning. The stained glass, especially...

Alex said...

I was drawn to the colors washing across the ribs of the vault, thinking at first about how artfully it was lighted to create the contrasting/complementing interplay of color. Upon looking closer, I see that it is the effect of sunlight through the stained glass.

This leads me to wonder if the coloration effects are planned or just serendipitous.

Steve Emery said...

Pagan - I must go look - I haven't caught up on all my favorite blogs yet.

Alex - beautifully put. I wonder when the first stained glass went into a church window, and whether the effect of the light on the architecture was expected, or discovered afterward.