March 28, 2011

The smell of the Sistine Chapel

"So if I asked you about art, you'd probably give me the skinny on every art book ever written. Michelangelo, you know a lot about him. Life's work, political aspirations, him and the pope, sexual orientations, the whole works, right? But I'll bet you can't tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You've never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling; seen that ... I can't learn anything from you [that] I can't read in some f---in' book."  

-GOOD WILL HUNTING (full scene here)

Bear and I just got back from 2 weeks in Massachusetts (ha! After 25 years, visiting the state finally forced me to learn to spell Massachussetts Massachusetts properly). I figured I'd come home with MAGGIE polished and ready to query, but I was lazy while we were gone and made very little progress. I'm now looking at a mid-April query start date.

Oh, well. I had a great time and watched enough cable television to remind me why we don't shell out $60 a month for it (click - Snookie drunkenly dancing - click - couple whining about having to downsize to $400k house - click - pundits yelling at each other about Charlie Sheen).

While in MA, we visited the Freedom Trail in Boston, which is a 2.5 mile self-guided tour weaving it's way through Boston's most historic landmarks. The site I found most special was the Memorial Garden at the Old North Church:


It looks like more like this during the summer:

Source
We didn't get a good shot of the sign, but this is what it says:

THE MEMORIAL GARDEN
This Memorial Garden is to honor the men and women in the Armed Forces and the civilians who have lost their lives in the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars.

We pray for all victims of war.
May their souls and the souls of
all the departed rest in peace.


I paused for a moment of reflection while Bear took some shots of the memorial. When the wind blew, something happened that took my breath away:



The sound and sight of thousands of dog tags clinking in the wind and glinting in the sun? The video doesn't begin to do it justice.

It sounded like bells, eerie and beautiful and poignant.

And no matter how much I read about the Memorial Garden, I would never have known about this most special and fitting detail had I not seen it myself. For me, that small detail elevated the memorial from something I was examining to something I was experiencing.

If you keep an eye out for it, I suspect you'll find many of these instances in your own life, too. Some of my most detail-rich memories include:

Standing before Stonehenge in a misty rain, realizing it's actually sorta small...
Laying on the couch as a kid with a BABYSITTER'S CLUB book, a glass of pink lemonade, and a bowl of buttered popcorn...
Looking out the window of a plane, watching the Northern Lights dance in the dark sky...
Sitting in the bleachers at Fenway Park, picking salt off a pretzel as Big Papi hit a homerun...
Throwing my heels aside on my wedding day, not caring my white dress was dragging the dusty floor...
Eating gelato with a little plastic spoon on the steps of the Smithsonian in Washington, DC...
Seeing my brother's plane land, hugging him and feeling the grit of 'moon dust' on his uniform...
Retreating into the cool, sun-dappled woods on a scorching day at Valley Forge...

All experiences that are undeniably unique, each made rich by the tiniest details that no amount of reading, hearing, or watching from afar could conjure. This is true of even the simplest of things: the sound of your dog snoring at the end of the bed, the excitement of seeing a hummingbird flash through the air, the smell of honeysuckle in the back yard...

Life is in the details.

Tell me about a time in your life when the little details made all the difference...

5 comments:

Miss Cole said...

Standing on the Mile High Bridge on Grandfather Mountain, NC, with my best friend and listening to the wind singing through the metal structure. Tiny details, but so amazing. You're right, life *is* in the details.

Yahong said...

Wowy, that's a deep post. I can't watch the video (it's blocked), but dog tags clinking? Sounds pretty wicked.
My favourite details are the kinds you can find when you close your eyes. ;)

The Blue Lipstick Samurai said...

The garden just seems magical...

Details have the phenomenal ability to define us and connect us. I can't begin to explain it. I have perfect moments, and terrible ones, but each one completes me and makes me whole.

Love this post.

Sarah Allen said...

Beautiful post. And I agree...its the personal, emotional experience that really matters. Fantastic quote, too.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

Rebecca B said...

This is a simply gorgeous post.

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