Transnational First Impressions

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I expected more light to be let in through the intricate, colorful stainless-glass windows lining the walls. But everything was thrown into surprising shadows as we toured the Cathedral of Toledo, Spain. Our attention was directed towards a cherub-adorned ceiling depicting the stories of saints and apostles in a swirling sea of clouds. The rest of our group, talking in whispers and snapping pictures, continued across the hall. I, however, find myself rooted to the spot, my eyes glued to the Michalangelo-esque ceiling above me.

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In that moment it hit me that I was standing in a building that was built 800 years ago.

800 years.

I could feel the richness, the history, the wisdom and oldness of the land, the building, even the people around me. They have been here for thousands of years. They’ve been building, growing, learning, fighting, demolishing, rebuilding, There are physical ties holding everything here together, and holding everything to the past. In that moment with the marble statues and gold-pleated archways, I couldn’t think of something more beautiful.

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In America we talk about things like loyalty and family bonds and honor and country and pride, but we honestly know nothing about what it means to have those ties and obligations. The oldest things in America are the pride and history of others, of the people whose land we took. And our history is so fresh, 200 years of buildings and ideas. We are tied to our country and each other by 200 meager years, where as the people here have thousands of years of ancestors, discoveries, architecture, and land to connect them to their past.

It’s so crazy how you can miss something you never had.

As I stared at the art around me, Bible stories depicted in glass and paint and stone and gold, I found myself missing that feeling. Missing that feeling of belonging, that feeling of deep, unbreakable connection. Missing that feeling of being a part of something bigger, older, and grander; yet still as full of tenacity and vibrancy and life as day one. I wish I could do more than just absorb the history and beauty all around me. I wish I could be a part of it.

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