Petitions, Grace and Gratitude (re-mix)

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

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(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

***This post was originally published in October of 2013.
Normally I don’t re-publish previous posts.
I had actually shared this particular post yesterday with a friend as I thought the subject was of importance to her and to her current life’s journey. It is a post of literal travels and journeys, as well as journeys which reach much deeper than the mere physical.
Having re-read the post myself, I was moved by my previous words as it is a strong reminder of a faith, my faith, that is so much deeper, so much stronger and so much greater than me or of the current life “journey” I’m finding myself traversing along with my dad as my traveling companion. . .
May you find comfort in the story and the words as well. . .

4/19/15

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.

Petitions, Grace and Gratitude

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.
John Milton

DSC00607
(Image: a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of ST. BLASIUSKIRCHE , Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel. It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room. The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow. There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly, bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.
I once heard it put that religion was just something for old woman and children. Pity that…as that must mean that older woman and children are the only ones who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, too arrogant to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside. I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle, my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice. I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances of ancient worship–more than would be expected from my raising. There is a deep mystery which I believe many in our mainstream churches miss. This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age of the technologically savvy mega church. The ancient components to worship lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting, as if ready for the latest block buster to begin, to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements, each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room, I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present. She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation. She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees. The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s. Dark wood paneling with cream colored walls. Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed, acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room. This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings, statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs heralding glad tidings. This chapel is small, dark, ancient and humble. Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross. I begin my “conversation”—it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense of warmth and contentment engulfs me. I then begin my petitions—not for myself, but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey. After some time, I open my eyes. How long had I been praying? I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim. I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…I want to be a part of each moment in time. I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer, watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure, but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers. I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way. I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life, wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice. I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew. I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive. I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes. I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles. I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful. I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door. I make my way back outside, into the light. It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright. The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets is almost painful to my ears. This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment I had a glimpse of the Divine. I feel different for the encounter. Changed. Better. Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate to be privy to something so rich and so special. I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special secret that no one else knows….no one other than that older woman back in the chapel and myself.

What’s in a door? Utilitarian necessity or art? I say both.

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“Strange – is it not? That of the myriads who Before us passed the door of Darkness through, Not one returns to tell us of the road Which to discover we must travel too”
Horace

Over the weekend I had another blgoger visit my “site” and reblog the post on “Thank the Door Openers.” I, of course, am humbled and honored whenever anyone visits my posts, likes my posts, and especially wishes to reblog something I have posted. As I am a relative new baby to this blogging business, having just started at the end of February, I am not the most savvy when it comes to blogging—the procedures, the etiquette, the whole ropes of the blogging world. I just try to do my thing, and hopefully bring some sort of knowledge, pleasure, hope, happiness to anyone out there who may stumble across my little blog.

I also tend to be a bit naive when it comes to people, always just expecting people to be more like myself and mostly wanting to do the right things, especially by other people. So I’m assuming (there I go again) that reblogging is a good thing. The visiting blog site is all about “doors.” I’ve showcased a couple of my daily quotes with some pictures of doors I’ve taken on various adventures. The blog, which visited my little blog, is: legionofdoorwhores.wordpress.com
And I must say that there are some very beautiful pictures of doors, from all over the globe, on this blog.

When I first saw the name of the blog site, the word whore in the title kind of threw me, as the word has very negative connotations in my world. Growing up the word whore was used to describe a pretty low individual, mostly female, who just threw away, in most cases, one’s body for sex to and with everyone and anyone indiscriminately—it was an individual who possessed little to no self esteem, and as a younger person, the word, to me was just really bad.

As a lifetime high school educator, I have learned that certain words that were once considered negative and bad to, say, my generation, are used very freely and loosely today by this generation. I don’t necessarily think that’s a good thing and I could write an entire paper on this little topic but that is not my intent today. I just really want to talk about doors.

So back to my being humbled by someone wanting to reblog my posting on a door…which got me thinking…. You may have seen my post “Never be deterred by the closing of a door” with the images of the Parisian doorknobs…I explained in that post how, on a trip to Paris, I had become captivated by the myriad of beautiful and old doorknobs, I was suddenly noticing, gracing the doors to home and shops all over the city of Paris.

Being a history nut, plus spending my life as a visual arts teacher, I saw the knobs as tangible links to Pairs, her ancient stories, as well as very small intimate pieces of her beautiful art…art that was not showcased or housed in a museum but actually free for everyone to see, touch and enjoy—but a type of art that most people simply walked passed without giving a second glance or thought.

I must confess that it was, however, on an earlier trip to Italy, that my visual interest to such things as doorknobs and doors was actually piqued. I began to understand the importance and history, as well as for the storytelling, which was behind so much of the aging architecture in these ancient European cities and towns. Maybe I feel this way because I am an American who has grown up with urban sprawl mentality– the concept of if it is old tear it down and make way for new, modern and sleek, because we know new is much better than anything old…I am sad to say….and that kind of thinking is indeed oh so wrong, but there I go digressing again.

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Our American story is the story of a baby compared to so much of the rest of the world. In the South, life dates to the Civil War, and in some spots, even to the Revolutionary War. Up North, things date to Pilgrims—out West it’s all about cowboys and gold rushes…none of this Mozart slept here, Galileo taught here, Peter and Paul were imprisoned here, Hadrian built this wall, etc, ad infinitim.

So what someone may see as a utilitarian object such as a knob, a door—I see as art, as beauty as history. On the latest trip, the great retirement adventure, I wanted to look at things other than knobs—windows perhaps. I had really liked windows in Italy. My future daughter-n-law told me that Prague was known for having beautiful doors…. maybe it was to be doors.

Once we landed in Zurich and began the acclimation to our new world, I was finding that it was to be doors after all. I began snapping pictures, much to the consternation of my traveling buds…. “Wait, stop here,” “no, wait, here, this is better,” …but soon my weary companions were eager partners in crime as they canvassed our jaunts picking out and choosing the next “star.”

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By journey’s end, almost 3 weeks worth of adventure, I probably had 150 shots of doors alone, not to mention my endless pictures of the sites and visions from our overall adventure. The doors are all from Zurich, Switzerland, Innsbruck, Austria, Salzburg, Austria, Vienna, Austria, Prague, the Czech Republic and Berlin, Germany.

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There are pictures of doors from the oldest Synagogue in The Czech Republic, to those of historic individuals such as the door to Kepler’s home in Prague, Mozart’s home in Salzburg, Schubert’s humble childhood home in Vienna. There are the ancient doors to mighty Cathedrals and welcoming churches, doors to wealthy homes as well as to humble homes. There are doors to offices, banks, businesses and schools as well as for back alley service doors.

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Doors to hotels, bathrooms, restaurants, doors to castles…some of the doors are well worn with age, some appear new. Some of the doors are metal; some are elaborate and decorated with intricate carvings, some simple and plain. Some of the doors have windows; others are just ancient slabs of heavy wood. There is even the door to Angela Merkel’s office at the German Chancellery, which is no different form all of the other doors in the Chancellery—a simple blue door.

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I suppose doors may be seen in one of two ways—they are either doors that invite or doors that repel. They are perceived as either shut and forbidding, or open and welcoming. I, for one, have never looked at a door as something that cannot be opened—at least, eventually opened—as in, come back later during operating hours, or, knock or ring the bell and someone will let you in.
Perhaps it’s all a matter of positive and negative. The proverbial glass that is half full or half empty. I just have never taken the time to think that a shut door necessarily means “no, not ever.”

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There are reasons, sadly, to lock and bolt doors—as in “don’t come in and rob me, hurt me, steal from me, harm me”—Churches in the big cities, here in the States, use to always keep doors open—24/7. Even now, in the smaller towns, sadly, churches must lock their doors. What once was open for those indeed of some quiet time lost in prayer is now locked tight from those who wish to take that which is not theirs—or those who wish to harm the alone, the single, the lonely. The sad list goes on and on.

But to me, however, a door, the knobs of a door, are all pieces of something beautiful. They are artistic, especially the older ones, the ones not usually found gracing the entrances here in the US. That’s not to say we don’t have pretty doors—we do, it’s just that they are not a prevalent as they are “across the pond.” If we want an old door, we usually have to go out to an antique store in order to buy one—on the other hand, across the pond, their doors have been up for quite some time—a couple of centuries at best.

May you view doors not as mere barriers but rather as stories—stories old as well as new. May you view doors as the handiwork of artisans and carpenters. May you view doors not as stopping points but as beginnings. There are possibilities behind every closed door, the possibilities begin when you knock and turn the knob—and don’t worry if it’s locked—just come back during operating hours.

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I’m including a few of my pictures with this post to give you some idea as to the type of doors found on an adventure. I’m also including a couple of the shots of the door book I put together—similar to the book of doorknobs….
Enjoy one person’s take on the utilitarian…

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…and to anyone who sees “their” door here…I am sorry if you are upset. I am not making any money from your door–I just thought it beautiful and wanted to share it with those who just pass by it every day without stopping to see beautiful “art.”

Beware the green giant of the mountain

We sometimes encounter people, even perfect strangers, who begin to interest us at first sight, somehow suddenly, all at once, before a word has been spoken.
Fyodor Dostoevsky

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This is a picture of the entrance of the Swarovski Crystal Museum in Wattens, Austria, about a 15 minute drive outside of Innsbruck. I visited in late September. I won’t go into a full review here as I did on TripAdvisor, but trust me when I say this was not like any museum I had ever visited. My review for TripAdvisor was titled “and I thought Salvador Dali was bizarre”

The museum has nothing to do with crystals (as this is somewhat misleading as most of Swarovski crystals are simply glass), the history of Swarovski, or insight into production—-it is a surreal underground trip through various rooms that are more or less bizarre “artistic installations”– and I use the word artistic loosely. And just like Disney, the end of the trip through the “museum”, dumps the tourist right out into the middle of the huge, overpriced gift shop…..

I did, however, think the quote by Dostoevsky was perfect for this image…for when one first views the outside of the museum, it is certainly intriguing and captivating to say the least. The green giant of the mountain almost summons one to “come take a look,” but once he “gobbles” you up, and your euros, you wish you’d stayed back in Innsbruck….. or moved on to Salzburg or Linz….

Austria is one of my most favorite countries in the world—it is stunningly gorgeous with history galore. From Mozart to Schubert–from Liszt to Strauss—it is a country that has so much to offer culturally. I could have done without the stop in Wattens. Take more time in other cities. Visiting the Vienna woods which surrounds the beautiful city of the same name is a much more magical moment–sans crystals 🙂
I did think the picture of the green giant pretty cool however, so maybe the stop was worth that photograph.

Rainy days and Thursdays always get me down….

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…or Mondays, or Tuesdays, or, well, you get the idea—however, as this is April and it is raining, I do have hope. It is this very rain that will give way to the flowers of May and beyond. It is a day that provides the time, if not exactly the incentive, to clean house, work on neglected paperwork, etc. So on this rainy, April Thursday, I offer you a glimpse as to why today’s rain is beneficial…here is to warmer, sunnier, abundantly colorful days ahead (and if it’s not raining where you are and it is sunny… enjoy the flowers!)
(Photo: Julie Cook/ Salzburg, Austria 9/2012)