Friday, May 22, 2009

A sense of space

I am certainly not a city girl. I’ve never really even been to New York City. The only city I have any familiarity with is Philadelphia, although I usually only go there to visit my family and attend sporting events.

If I didn’t have to worry about finding employment or a steady paycheck, I would happily live out in the boondocks of the Pocono Mountains, where the only traffic comes from NASCAR fans on race weekends and the construction on Rt. 80.

When it came to the thought of living in a big city like London, I didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know if I could sufficiently find my way around (not yet) or if I would be able to keep up with the pace of city life.

I like my space. I detest large crowds, where I’m jostled around, stepped on and shoved with bags — and my first taste of London in Heathrow gave me a bit of that experience. In my high school, with about 3,500 students and four minutes between classes, I learned how to maneuver through crowds, although that also gave me a distaste for them. 

It’s not claustrophobia; however, like any sense, in which one uses a particular function to perceive and react to stimuli, it has physiological effects. The perception of being closely surrounded makes me tense.

Since I arrived in London, I’ve felt somewhat cooped up. I suppose it is a bit of culture shock. Most areas seem cozy — the London Center … the store aisles … the street widths … the toilet paper rolls. Bristol Cars on Holland Road doesn’t even have an outdoor lot. Everything just seems squished together and closed in.

This is not suburbia, where size matters and bigger is always better.

Our trip to St. Paul’s Cathedral provided the absolute juxtaposition for that feeling. Meandering the alleyways up to the cathedral, I noticed the darkness from the height of the buildings and the narrowness of the walkway.

BUT, when you enter St. Paul’s, it opens up! It’s huge. The domed ceiling stretches up until I can no longer make out the details of the paintings. The Quire extends for yards, with its mosaics of Biblical scenes inspiring awe. There’s space. There’s nothing like a church to make you realize there is more to the world than your own little corner of it.

From the Stone Gallery, you can see the expanse of London. London then doesn’t seem small … it’s vast and sprawling. Above the city, you can breathe.

Climbing down those 376 steps to the cathedral floor and out into the street, I was disappointed I couldn’t spend more time inside. However, you must keep up with the pace of a schedule and the city.  While I don’t think I’ll give up my love of open space, St. Paul’s made me realize: Perhaps if there is such wonder in the open space, that wonder can also be found in the small spaces. Now, I’m intent on seeing it — finding my miniature St. Paul’s. 

1 comment:

  1. Great story -- my one suggestion would be in the third paragraph from the end. You say that "it's huge" and then gone to describe what you see. Remember that to a reader "huge" doesn't quite cut it. Many things are "huge". You need to boil it down for them -- give them something to compare it to. "It's two football fields long, and you could stack 15 double decker buses end to end before they would touch the roof." Something along those lines. As writers, we're always trying to give perspective of our surroundings.