In the summer of 1999

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On a hot July afternoon I waited until the church clock struck 4pm. I remember I stood next to that old wall made of uneven yellow stones and each stone was very hot. Everything around me was hot from the sun and I just waited there and listened to music with the headphones in my ears. I did not want to think, I was nervous. When the church clock and then the church bells announced 4pm I walked up the narrow stairs adjacent to the wall and rang the doorbell. After a long silence a priest dressed in black opened the door. I walked inside the room where the air was cold.

“I am here to see the priest,” I said.

“I am the one,” the man replied and stretched his hand to me. “Please sit down.”

We sat for a minute in silence on the opposite ends of a large wooden table. He looked at me and then I finally said, “I want to convert into Catholic.”

He fixed his eyes on mine and the silence became even deeper and I could feel the texture of the wooden table under my hands. And my fingers became cold and I did not move.

“Why?” he asked.

And I told him a story of love. I told him that I was in love with a man who was Catholic and believed in God. And I was not Catholic and did not know if I believed in any God or religion. And that I thought that if I would become Catholic I could probably see the things that he sees and have a new perspective on things, and love differently. And be loved.

I did not say anything else.

And then the silence and the cold air inside the room became unbearable. And we looked at each other. May be five minutes have passed. And then the priest spoke.

“You do not need it,” he said. “You do not need to become Catholic or believe in anything else apart from what you believe in already. You have it all within you. You are strong. You do not need anything else.”

He talked for a little bit longer, but I could not concentrate and I did not remember his words. I felt calm only when I was outside walking fast up the street. It was hot again and the sun was burning my skin. It was the summer of 1999. The priest was the priest of Santa Maria del Mar church. And I was 21 then.

…..

The Santa Maria del Mar church was full of tourists. I stood there and watched how all of them were buying church candles and lightening them. I stood in the middle of the crowd and looked up for a while. There is silence when you look up. I hesitated if I should get a candle too. Then I walked outside. I stood on the church steps and looked at the people passing in front of me. Since the first time I crossed this church entrance in 1999 I got attached to it. Apart from sharing the name, I loved that this is the church where wives, lovers, and daughters of the sailors came to pray for the men who were in the open sea. I thought that I would also light a candle for somebody who is on a mission. Every time I left this city I became one of those sailors too.

I stood on the steps thinking all this, and thinking about all the moments I spent inside this church. Never like a passer by. I crossed its doors when I felt down, sometimes in despair, sometimes full of resolution, once with the tears in my eyes. I never came here on purpose either but found myself to be nearby when I need it the most. And then I always found strength to go forward.

I went back inside the church. I got a candle and walked along all the saints and looked at them. And then I saw one who was not suffering. She stood with her head high and with two little angels around her. It said Santa Maria Cap de la Cort (Santa Maria the head of the court). I lighted a candle there, watched the flame for a second, and left the church.

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A comment

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Yesterday night my seven-year-old daughter was reading us a book before going to sleep. In the book a boy, Anton, gets angry because other kids do not want to play with him.

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Anton says he will leave and never come back, because he will be dead. And then he pretends that he is dead.

At this point my four-year-old son asked, “Is he really dead?”

To which my daughter replied, “Or course not. Can’t you see? He is just a small boy. Children never die. To die you have to live long and grow old. To die you have to become an old man with a beard. Haven’t you seen how old people look? He does not look old. Look! You can’t die when you are that young.”

“Aga,” said my son. “Then he is not dead.”

“Of course not. He is just pretending, because this is the way he plays.”

I just listened and my daughter kept on reading. I thought that the way children see the world is very different from how we see it. May be we know more, but their view is truer to what is should be. I keep thinking about her words and wondering what future in her head looks like. I get to know it little by little through her comments and games. Interesting & inspiring!

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So you walk on stage…

Palau de la musica

I was sitting in the theater, on the first balcony, right above the left side of the stage. I watched the young girls dancing below me. I could see their hands, faces, and feet. I could also see all the small mistakes and inexact movements. Now that I have been on the rehearsals I knew what the perfect performance should look like. But it was not the uncleanness of their steps that bothered me.

While listening to the Mozart’s music and seeing the little bodies transforming the stage in to a magical world I thought that what did not let me enjoy the performance to its fullest was the tension. The tension was visible on almost every ballerina face. The tension transformed their hands and feet. It was the tension and the attention to detail that danced that night. It was not the joy of dancing. Coached to smile while on stage, some of the girls would suddenly stretch their mouths in long smiles. But the smiles were not radiant. The glow did not come from inside. I longed to see a ballerina who enjoyed the dancing more than each particular detail of the dance. And right then one came on stage. And the glow was so radiant that I closed my eyes for a second.

I stood up and leaned on the wall right over the stage. And looked. And then I thought that our life is not different from that. After years of being grown ups we become professionals at this grown up life thing. We know how to do our jobs, how to run our households, how to bring up our children, how to maintain our relationships, how to talk to other grown ups and how to talk to children. Those of us who are any good focus on details, because finally details are what make us be us. It is about how you talk, how you eat, how you dress, how you hold your pen, how you close the door, how you sleep on the couch when you are tired and nobody is watching you. All these are details and our faces are tense making sure we do not omit anything. Then there is the next level: the radiance of living. Once all the details are perfectioned and become part of us, once we remember what it feels like to gaze at the sky, to laugh without stopping, to run for no apparent reason, once we love ourselves again only then we are able to make others smile. Only then we are able to give something valuable and irreplaceable to the world around us. And it is not easy and it does not happen by itself. And then I thought that I always appear serious in life and on the pictures. I thought that I was no different from these young ballerinas who learned all the details of the dance, but have not yet got to enjoy it truly. Without this glow we can never create anything of value.

I ran down the beautiful theater stairs, I crossed the hall, I showed my green pass to the guard, and pushed the hard wooden door. I ran down the simple greenish stairs and went straight into the open door that said Camerinos. There I found my daughter already changed.

“How was it?” I asked her.

“It was great!”  she replied.

“Lorena, listen, next time you go on stage just enjoy it, ok? Do not think about anything, do not think about your hands, your feet, your face. Just think how you enjoy dancing, how you enjoy dancing on stage. Think about yourself. Dance for yourself. It does not matter if you make mistakes, it does not matter if you lose extra second with a movement. It really does not matter now. Just love yourself when you dance. Will you?”

“I will. I already do,” she said.

And then I thought that she knows so much more than I do. So, you walk on stage… and you must love yourself. I am learning from her now.

Ballet Junio 2014