Not quite excerpted from a journal

On our last day in Basel, gray rain misted down outside, pleasant and soft. We had no firm plans, but had wandered down to a square hosting part of the city’s fall festival. The ferris wheel and bumper cars were not yet moving this early, the food booths just beginning to open, so we headed into the cathedral bordering the square instead. We’d been there a few years ago, but after a couple weeks spent visiting other cathedrals–not to mention stone mountains–it seemed worth another visit.

The silence struck us at once, deep enough that neither the tour group who’d preceded us nor our own echoing footsteps could lessen it. We walked slowly through the cathedral, staring at stone tombs, at stories of dragons and heroes and sea-creatures engraved upon pillars. After a time, as one does in cathedrals, we sat down, staring up at the vaulted ceilings.

Someone walked quietly over to us, handed us a sheet of paper. The midday service–it was noon. Others took seats around us, and the church bell began to toll, signaling noon.

So we halted there, and stayed for the unexpected service, and as hymns were sung and prayers prayed, high German words I didn’t understand, we heard the stone space, already sacred, transformed into the place of prayer it was meant as, the echoes taking the place of microphones the builders didn’t have, words and songs moving clearly through the space.

From outside, we heard another sound, too–the drifting tinny notes of music from the ferris wheel and bumper cars starting up. Old hymms and new recordings, side by side. After, we lingered in the place for a time, staring at the outline of the ferris wheel through the old stone windows, new metal seen from within thousand year old stone.

And I thought about how that’s what Europe is, at least when seen through North American eyes.

Excerpt from a journal

So sometimes you’re in a place and you think sure, it’s pretty–high mountains, snowy peaks, brown and green fields–but it’s mostly an intellectual sort of knowledge, not something your heart really connects to. And you think, that’s okay, not every place can be my place, it’s okay not to fall in love with every single place I go.

And then, after you’ve been out in those mountains a bit–say, four days maybe–on a pleasant hike surrounded by hazy distant peaks and brown fields–you round a bend, and enter a valley, and the light touches it just so, and everything comes into sudden sharp relief–brown alpine fields, brown autumn flowers, white slopes, gray stone–all if it turned, not bright from without, but bright from within, each surface glowing with more of its own color–and your hear breaks open a little at last, and you get it–heart and mind at last agreeing.

And you walk on, wondering at the color of the light–no color you can see or name–wishing you coukld bottle it and its strange stunning clarity and take it home with you.

But you can’t. And then the light shifts, or maybe you leave the valley, and some of the haze returns, sharpness blurred once more. But now you know, now you have your eyes for these particular mountains, and as you walk on, bits of fluffy white autumn seeds drifting down around you, everything is changed.

I’m not sure what time it is, but I’m sure it’s time to do laundry

Home again–Basel was lovely, the Alps were lovely, spending time with mummo74 was lovely, and my brother’s wedding was especially lovely.

Outside, the desert sky is blue and warm and bright–I glanced at my fleece and scarf, sitting draped over a chair, and tried to believe that a day ago I found them warm and comforting as I walked over cobblestones in the gray misting rain–I can’t imagine wearing them now. The world is a wondrous and varied place.

Don’t know that I’ll do a full trip report this time around, but I will try to at least post some photos and impressions in the next few days. 🙂