Wednesday, May 27, 2009

London is ...

London is ...

London is now. I’m in this confusing, complicated and enchanting city for two weeks. That’s it. Then it’s back home to suburbia indefinitely. London is new to me — an acquaintance. I am merely being introduced to its ways and customs ... its layout ... its opportunities.

I sit in Westminster Abbey on Sunday, attending services within its sacred halls. Stained glass windows line the walls; rich reds, blues, yellows and greens, depict the Biblical characters who inspire both awe and confusion in me, as the early afternoon sun shines brightly through the glass. Markers on the floor show the graves of those who passed before us. They urge us to take advantage ... to be inspired by the hall that surrounds us and in which they ultimately came to rest. Wooden chairs for the congregation contrast with the smooth and shiny mahogany pews reserved for the choir and certain visitors. The last line of pews has a high back wall of blue with golden ornamentation. Shiny and eye-catching.

The pastor presents his sermon — one asking why we can’t all get along — perfect for an audience of diversity. These sheep are different in age, gender, nationality, race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation and an infinite number of others.

But they’re all together. In one room. In London.

I sit next to an older woman, perched on her brown, wooden chair with an upright back. It’s not comfortable for me and definitely not for her. During the peace offering, we shake hands. “Peace be with you,” we exchange. Her light, striking blue eyes pierce my own, and her pale, wrinkled skin shows experience and wisdom. After the service, we strike up conversation. She’s from Scotland and is visiting family in London. It’s her first time at Westminster Abbey. We have something in common.

Out of her old-fashioned, black purse she pulls a bundle of paper ... sheets folded together. Cursive letters in blue ink are scrawled across the page. She says she writes everything down — everything that she sees and experiences here. She says I should do the same: write down my thoughts, observations, memories. You’ll want to go back and have them someday, she says.
I know she’s right. I spent the entire service looking around, wondering how I can keep every little detail of what I’m seeing in my brain. I’ll want those thoughts.

Otherwise, I’ll lose them ... because London won’t always be now. It’ll be then. And I won’t be able to go back. So, I’ll just have to do all I can to record and remember, but also live. To strike that balance between experience and living behind the lens of a camera. To have those mementos of my travels ... but to also make sure I make memories worth remembering.

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