Friday, March 18, 2011

just another cathedral

Once you've seen one cathedral, you've seen 'em all. Right?

When I was 15, my parents brought our entire family (7 people total) to Europe for 3 weeks. It required a huge amount of planning and, even though we took the "Europe on a Shoestring" approach, it was not cheap. My oldest sister was 17 and my youngest was 6. My parents' dedication to carting around 5 kids with such a wide range of ages in an attempt to introduce us to European culture, architecture (and patisseries, at my father's insistence) astounds me. My great respect for what they took on (as well as suspicion that they may not have been completely sane in doing so) has grown with each subsequent child we've had.

Although I remember my siblings having their own hangups that added to the stress of our European experience, it is a well accepted fact by all my family, me included, that I was the biggest problem we faced while there. (Except, perhaps, for the tent poles we forgot to pack and the replacements we never managed to locate for the rest of the trip.) At 15, the thing I most wanted was to blend in with everyone else. As a family of 7 with two parents who spoke a smattering of French, German and Spanish between them, we were obviously tourists. Instead of enjoying the experience anyway, I spent a fair amount of time sullenly hiding out in our van as the rest of my family toured museum after museum, castle after castle, and cathedral after cathedral. After all, I reasoned, once you've seen one cathedral, you've seen them all.

How is it that something that looks so unremarkable to a 15-year-old can cause an adult to snap photo after photo in an attempt to capture the artistry and lines of the architecture, no matter how many cathedrals they've already seen? This cathedral I visited a few years ago in Bordeaux, France was one such place. I couldn't get over the light shafts cutting across the arches, accentuating them. So I decided to paint it as well.

As an adult, I have been to Europe twice. I visited every museum, castle and cathedral available to me. And, of course, I stopped in at quite a few patisseries. Well done, Mom and Dad. I finally get it.


  1. having braved the major natural history museum an hour away with six kids today, I am in complete awe of your parents: logistically, economically, conceptually. unbelievable. would we could pull it off.

    and the watercolor is perfect -- lowlight, highlights, the mix of greys and browns. that does it. the watercolors are coming back out tomorrow.

  2. and by the way -- I love the reminder that appreciation for some things just takes a while to sink in for some of us. I may have been tempted to strangle that kid in the van after hauling them across the ocean. my awe for your parents knows no bounds right now . . .

  3. Yes, get out the watercolors!

    Allyson, I suspect I wouldn't have lasted long in your family :)