Gaudí’s Garden Part II: Sagrada Família

I saw a rainbow on my drive home today.  Just a small, vertical sash of colors bleeding together.  The further north I drove, the more it revealed itself until I passed it at half arc.  There’s just something about rainbows that splits my face into a silly smile no matter what kind of mood I’m in.  

Perhaps it’s because these natural rainbows have such an unexpected and fleeting existence.  I know it won’t last.  And I don’t know when I will see one again.  So the moment is there and everything else, all my problems and concerns, fade away.  Fade away until the rainbow does just that and then everything comes back into focus.  

But I am still smiling.  And the world is a little better.  And it has always been this way for me.

It’s been a cold winter followed by a soggy spring this year.  The long gray and drizzly months that give the Seattle area such a bad reputation seems to be lingering longer this year.  Most everyone here is done with it and craving the blue skies of summer.  

It’s this time of year where past adventures in warm, sunny places surface just long enough for me to grab a hold of. When I decide which place I want to go, I dig out my old travel journals, and find the right one to remind me of the little details since forgotten. These little leather bound books are full of my atrocious handwriting and they transport me to another place and time. Like a Pensieve from the Harry Potter books, into my memories I go!

Tonight, I open the little, light pink one.  It has a connected book marker, an elastic band to hold it closed, and a loop to hold a pen.   All in matching color.  Inside the cover is written:


2021 August

With rainbows on my mind, I flip through the pages until I find the entry for “26 August 2021 Thursday.”

“We are sitting on a cool stone bench across from my favorite set of windows that Laurel and I have named the rainbow window.  Perhaps not very creative, but very aptly named.”

The bench was a plain slab of stone, if I remember correctly. It was cool to the touch and that made it wonderful. It was great to sit for a few minutes since the summer air of Barcelona was hot and muggy. My hair became larger than life in that week of humidity and, save for the 20 minutes a cell phone was lost, we learned to slow our American pace.

It was mid morning on that Thursday and my travel companion, Laurel, and I were waiting across from the cathedral designed by Antoni Gaudí.  We didn’t know if we were in the right spot to meet our Sagrada Família tour guide.  As two ladies who once missed the middle school band bus, this was nothing new for us.  We’d roll with it like we had been doing our whole vacation.

Luckily, we were in the right place and time.  After watching other much younger and less clothed tourists take Glamour Shot style photos in front of the cathedral, we found our group and began our tour.  And it was well worth the extra expense to skip the line during tourist season despite the decreased pandemic numbers.

We started outside the cathedral with a bit of history and some great views with the help of the binoculars I packed. Tall, skeletal spires pierced the sky with cranes reaching even higher into the blue.

Just like nature, the building, this modern yet baroque style church, is a work in progress.  And there is something about being unfinished that resonates with me.  It’s the unfinished state that lends to the life of its existence.  Are we not all unfinished works of art?  Are we not all changing as our lives progress?  It is the same with this monstrosity of stone.  Changing, alive, alive until it is complete and rests as many colossal cathedrals have done before its time.

Bible stories were built into the outer shell.  I really didn’t know any of them, but my friend’s mom would have been proud of her recollection.  I admired the craftsmanship and the mosaic glitter atop a few spires that was created to look like fruit.  The biblical reference was of Mary’s fruit.  It was just regular fruit to me though and I was getting kind of hungry.

It was a ridiculous amount of details that I could not, even with my binoculars, comprehend within a week or a month of staring at that monstrosity.  An afternoon was just enough to wet the artistic mouth, but hardly enough to taste the exterior brilliance, let alone the magic within.  

I forgot my hunger completely when we stepped through huge doors flanked by metal ivy. Little did I know that when my friend and I visited the vast garden of Gaudí’s Park Güell, that it wouldn’t be his only garden in Barcelona. Gardens seemed to appear everywhere his art was. Like magic. And it really was.

“I am finding it hard to find words grand enough to describe this place.  It is the most beautiful place I have ever set foot in.  There is no sin inside,  There is only light and color and my heart is full of light.  I could sit here from sun up to sun down and not take it all in.  The light changes and shifts color throughout the walls and floor.  It is ever changing.  Just as nature is.”

“The tall columns stretch to the heavens branching out like the trees Gaudí meant them to be.  The floor reflects the mosaic stained glass windows.  Organ plays.  Even if it is just a recording, its notes reverberates off the walls and columns and windows.  The design has both beauty and purpose.”

I wish I was talented enough to convey the magic held within those walls.  I have stepped into other must-see places.  I experienced the Cathedral of Notre Dame before the fire.  Those cold stones formidable around me.  Dark inside save for glowing stained glass windows and candles lit by those with whom to light for.  I have seen the paintings of Michael Angelo above my head inside the Sistine Chapel.  “No photo.  Move to the inside,” was shouted at the crowds the entire time.  I’ve felt the emptiness of the tomb of Agamemnon.  All wondrous for sure.

But when I entered the Sagrada Familia, my breath caught. Tears threatened to fall from the corners of my eyes. And I am not often moved to tears.

So. Much. Color. So much life. Colors flooding the floors, climbing the columns and splashing the walls! I had to resist the urge to toss myself on the floor, roll to my back, and then flail my arms and legs like kid in a pile of snow. Only no snow, but numerous rainbows and I felt like an angel swathed in its light.

The windows were all alive. Ever changing with the sun’s constance dance with time. I could have easily spent the day and still not experienced all the changes in light and color.

“I love it here.  If stone and glass could be alive, this is the place where that miracle would happen.  This garden of light.”

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