Friday, March 16, 2007

The box of joy...

I am remembering a time a couple of years back in England.

I was at Greenwich, which is one of my very favorite places. One of the loveliest works of man, it's so gorgeous and peaceful, a fantastic beautiful work of art to experience. Built to house pensioned sailors, then (after Nelson and Jervis' veterans died off) the Royal Naval College, now it is Trinity College of Music.

I was walking in the courtyard between two of the wings, each 3 stories tall and made of stone. These were the dormitory rooms for the hospital's pensioners, and so they had big windows for light and air. Inside the wings, where I was, the walls are flat so the passer by is in a huge rectangular solid.

This is one of those places, for me, that stores up its memory in itself, in the stones and glass. You can almost see the old tars sitting about, missing bits torn off by shot or sheet or shark, bowed by ten thousand night watches in storm and ice. Spitting tobacco, drinking their beer and dressing each other's queues.

Funny to think that these spaces once echoed to first person yarns of destroying the Armada, circling the globe with Drake or Cook or Anson, shipwreck, rescuing slaves, mapping the earth, and all the other perils and triumphs of the Royal Navy since 1550 or so.

Anyway, it was a warm autumn day, and all the windows were open. From each window came the sound of a beautifully played instrument or an amazing singing voice. Each different, each playing a different melody. Each student was practicing (as he or she thought) alone. But for their secret auditor, it was like being in a giant reverberating stone box of joy, roofed with a bluer than possible sky.

The world can hold such unexpected brilliance.

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