The view from our London rental flat: the dome of St. Paul's. We're in Amen Court. Walk across the road with that spirally metal thing on your right and you're in Paternoster Square.
I have a niche in my soul for St. Paul's. When I'm here I always try to attend daily Evensong, and other services if I can. I've always loved English church music, and after years and years and years of planning and leading services, I find liturgy as restful as a soft springy bed. All you have to do is relax into it. And, after all, I'm not responsible for getting all those choirboys to sing in tune.
But there's more than that to St. Paul's, for me. Not sure exactly of all the dimensions, but two I can identify.
St. Paul's is a Wren building. It feels familiar; Wren designed the buildings where I did my grad work and taught for eighteen years. The lines and spaces and colors are home-like, even so far from home.
And St. Paul's survived. This part of London was nearly obliterated by the Blitz, but the dome stood above the dust. Ultimately the City rose back up around it. Resurrection in stone: the most obdurate, least cooperative material ever.
So this week, I'm working in the shadow of St. Paul's. Evensong nightly, bells on the hour.
Susan, have you read Blackout and All Clear, a duo by Connie Willis? In many ways, St. Paul’s is a character in them. I recommend them highly!
I was stationed in London for two years when I was in the Navy, and I went to Saint Paul’s as often as possible. It is truly a treasure!
"Resurrection in stone..."
Promise you'll never stop writing.
Evensong is a beautiful service.
Went to London first time in June, life long dream! St Paul’s easily was a favorite and we climbed all the way up and stayed for Evensong after. I had told my boys if I suddenly had tears in my eyes during the trip it would be because I’ve wanted to go for so long...listening to Evensong in Wren’s most magnificent cathedral after touring it brought them on. Absolutely incredible, only St. Peter’s holds a candle.
Beautifully written. This brought tears to my eyes.
Always remember the unforgettable picture of St. Paul's during the "Blitz."
I love posts like these. I just got back from England and missed every Evensong opportunity for various reasons.
In various ways, in different workshops and essays and books, I've been saying for years that speed and quantity are values of industry, not qualities of intellect and spirit. This piece is another excellent reflection on that truth.
Reading it, I was reminded again that two of my children are naturally slow readers--insightful, intelligent, thoughtful, creative young adults whose natural pace is simply on the slow side. Both of them feel that this is somehow a reflection on their intelligence. It's a very hard message to shake off.
This essay reminds us what is valuable, intelligent, insightful, thoughtful, and creative about covering less territory."
"We hear a lot today about recovering the lost virtues of slowness – by, for instance, spending time on locally sourcing and preparing a meal, or leaving children to explore the world unsupervised and at their own pace. But the slow reading movement has yet to take off in the same way. Reading is constantly promoted as a social good and source of personal fulfilment. But this advocacy often emphasises 'avid', 'passionate' or 'voracious' reading – none of which adjectives suggest slow, quiet absorption...
"Slow reading feels to me like a more generous, collegiate form of reading – rather as listening is a more generous act than speaking, and more difficult. Slow reading gives someone else (the writer) the gift of your time, without any guaranteed return, and with the risk that you will be bored or discomforted by the writing’s strangeness or difficulty. Slow reading is a gradual encounter with the obdurate otherness of another person’s mind. Like any such encounter, it should take as long as it takes and be its own end.
"The human need for this kind of deep reading is too tenacious for any new technology to destroy...the hunger for deep reading endures. We still read intricate, involving novels. We still seek out layered, contemplative writing online that resists the impulse to reduce itself to glibly articulate opinion. We still want to savour slowly gestated ideas and carefully chosen words."
I firmly believe that the art of concentration is lost on so many today because of the speed with which information is disseminated. Complete focus on reading, pencil in hand for underlining or annotating, and the physicality of learning are lost in our electronic world. Just as practicing the piano develops pathways in the brain that otherwise may not develop, so concentration, slow reading, and physical writing will enhance one’s reaction to all learned material.
Your comments are reassuring, my son is a slow reader. At one time I would've of rushed him through a reading because I would of likely fallen sleep but now life is so different. I so enjoy the pace of it all, listening to his thoughts and added sound effects brings a smile to my face.
This makes me feel much better. I enjoy reading slowly in order to pause and think about what I just read. Sometimes I back up and reread a passage.
In psychology there are Highly Sensitive People who process information much more deeply than the average person. Might want to have your kids take the test. You might be one yourself. hsperson.com/
Another thing that I like to do is copy by hand my favorite quotes into a journal.
Caroline Welton I thought you might appreciate this.
Tonight is opening night of Peace Hill Farm's Corn Maze!!! The gates of corn open at at 4pm. Join us and get lost in the creepiest of mazes. If you're scared of being scared, grab a cup of hot chocolate and try a hand at pumpkin painting on a pumpkin picked right from our patch. Then take a stroll through the path in the woods to see all of the animals at the farm.
Dear @Delta: We have a dysfunctional relationship. I only tweet at you when something goes wrong. So, to break out of bad patterns, THANK YOU for getting me into LaGuardia nearly forty minutes early yesterday.