News: from Lorna

May 19, 2005, May 2005

May 2005 The trip to Paris and London was rather unusual for me since I wasnít on any kind of mission; I just allowed myself to flop into the role of tourist in Paris and delight in the company of friends in London. I met up with my Irish friend, Geraldine at Heathrow and we flew to Paris. We stayed in a great little hotel on the Left Bank and did all the touristy things: Notre Dame, and other churches including a trip to Chartres Cathedral which I had longed to see, especially to view the labyrinth, one of the few left in Europe. I had hoped to be able to walk it but unfortunately, it was covered by chairs. We did the Eiffel Tower at night, sat in cafes, visited museums but best of all, for me, was the Louvre. The sheer size and scale of those palace rooms, I felt, made the Metropolitan in New York Ė no trifling museum Ė look like a miniature. Goodness, would it not be wonderful to have endless amounts of time just to wander through all those galleries? Of course, I had to see the Mona Lisa Ė I was prepared to be unimpressed since one has seen it so many times in reproductions and everyone, including my own mother, had said how small and uninteresting it was. I did not find it to be either small or uninteresting. I was amazed. Even though it is now displayed in a hideous beige shadow-box-type thing behind glass, and one is forced to stand at least three feet from the painting, it truly transcends all the human constraints on it. To me it was a 16th century jewel whose brilliance could not be dimmed by time or the horrid modern security surrounding it. I stood for ages totally transfixed and felt quite emotional. I was utterly surprised and unprepared for this sort of a reaction. I remember feeling the same way when I saw the Taj Mahal: I had gone to see it just because it was there and itís one of those things one does if one is in India, however, the actual monument took my breath away and all I could do was stand awestruck. While in Paris the Pope died. I had said to Geraldine that we would know as soon as he died because we were in a very Catholic country and church bells would toll. No such thing. We learned of his passing via CNN in our hotel. I hadnít realized how secular Europe has become. However, the Sunday after he died we were walking across the Seine late afternoon when I heard choral singing coming from the direction of Notre Dame. We hurried towards the cathedral and discovered a huge throng in the square watching mass on a giant screen with the sound amplified so all could hear and participate in the service inside. Fortunately, the weather was fine so standing outside was very pleasant. The mass itself, I donít quite know why, was extraordinary. When it was over the great central doors of the Cathedral were opened and out came a priest swinging a censor of incense followed by another holding aloft a crucifix; these two were followed by a long column of at least eighty priests and deacons and the choir. They all processed slowly around the square with the people parting to let them through. The organ music flowed out across the afternoon, the choir was singing, the great bell of Notre Dame (which is rarely sounded) was tolling) boom - - boom Ė all that was missing was Quasimodo swinging from the towers. Such a moment! The following week I was in London and watched the funeral on television. I was struck by the fact that the Popeís coffin during the mass was placed on a small carpet the floor. There was only a crucifix to one side Ė no profusion of flowers or any other extraneous stuff. The following day was the royal wedding and early that morning my young friend Maggie, and I were strolling in Hyde Park near Kensington Palace. Walking towards us was a young man in full morning suit; as he passed I said, ďYou look great, are you getting married?Ē He replied, ďNo, Iím not getting married, but Iím going to the royal wedding, Iím Prince Charlesí butler.Ē I had a lovely time in England visiting with friends and having long talks. Itís always great to be in England and have an opportunity to fluff-up my Britishness. But itís good to be back in New York too. Iíve been home for over a month and have done a little speaking, emceed the Hudson Link event, and led a retreat as well as filling book orders and trying to catch up on the endless amount of reading I want to do. Currently Iím reading: "Son of Man, The Mystical Path to Christ" by Andrew Harvey "The End of Faith" by Sam Harris (I think this is an extremely important book Ė everyone involved in the Spiritual, Political, Information arenas should read this book) "Nine Horses" Poems by Billy Collins I just finished reading: "The Glass Palace" by Amitav Ghosh Ė this book is set in Burma at the time of the British takeover. Itís very moving and I wanted to read it while the experience of Burma was still fresh in my mind.


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