I remembered that London was damp and overcast in February, but I had forgotten that the temperature hovered in the low 40s. A bit brisk, but no matter. Avid gardeners, thumbing their nose at Father Frost, had already set out multi-colored plantings of Primrose. What a treat – not a genuine harbinger of spring from Nature’s hand, but man’s hopeful yearning for the season to turn.
The daffodils were mostly green swords with just a bit of swelling at the tip, but the snowdrops had shown themselves and the Lenten hellebores were in full bloom. My favorites are pale green – an appropriate just-born color.
Church always plays a large part of my London life. A visit would not be complete without attending Evensong at Westminster Abbey. The service is held most days at 5:00 p.m., but I’ll share two tricks. First, go on-line and check the schedule. If at all possible chose a service when the young boys are scheduled to sing. Their voices are otherworldly, and listening to them is a transcendent experience. Buoyed by their voices, you soar above your seat. My second tip is to stand in the church service line no later than 4:30. If you are a half hour early, you will be lucky enough to be seated in the choir stalls behind the choristers. In this life, as close as you will get to heaven.
Not as popular, but equally impressive is Southwark Cathedral on the South Bank. I never fail to visit. (And while you are in the neighborhood, don’t forget to linger at Borough Market – food to ogle… food to eat… and food buy for later.) This visit I was intrigued by a temporary Lenten installation by Angela Glajcar. She calls her piece “Light of the World.” The reference is John 8:12: I am the light of the world; he who follows me will not walk in the darkness.
Glajcar’s interpretation of this verse was to hang during Lent, a glass canopy from the east end window, down the nave, to the choir stalls. Her intention was that as the window light changes throughout the day, the light striking the panels would vary in terms of light and shadow. The inscription accompanying the installation reads: With the lightness of a feather / with the gentleness of dawn, / sweep across us, Lord.
My third church of choice is St. Martin-in-the-Field in Trafalgar Square. The evening candlelight, classical music concerts are to die for, but for me, the feature that calls me back time and time again is the East Window behind the altar. Designed by Shirazeh Houshiary, the window speaks to me. I love the ambiguity of the leaded lines. They form a cross, and yet… they waver… they are not absolutely linear. In her rendering, there is room for speculation, wondering, and doubt. I also see in the center… a sort of worm hole which leads to the larger universe and the galaxies beyond. Rather than being a concrete religious symbol, the East Window leads the viewer to speculate… to consider the many forms of spirituality.
Stay tuned. I have not finished my London trip.