Sometimes inspiration comes from angles you don’t expect. I mean, yes, I was actively looking for it, scrolling through old travel photos in the hope that something to write about would jump out at me. But I expected at most to shake loose a memory that might make a good story to tell.
Instead, I uncovered a metaphor.
I once visited Vienna, and while I was there, I went to see St. Stephen’s Cathedral. I always enjoy seeing church architecture and art, but St. Stephen’s was even more interesting than normal because it was in mid-restoration. Soot and grime that had been building up on the exterior for goodness knows how many years was being removed. Areas that hadn’t been completed were black, while those that were done revealed the rich, creamy stone underneath.
The variation in appearance and texture was fascinating, as was trying to intuit the restoration process. But beyond that intellectual puzzle, the work-in-progress was visually stunning, especially the figures adorning the walls. Only partially cleaned, they looked like photo negatives. It was a bizarre effect, and it gave the figures, similar in style and design to those I’d seen on countless other church, a rare uniqueness. They were absolutely gorgeous.
St. Stephen’s Cathedral has held a special place in my heart since then, because when I saw it, it was a work in progress. I always thought that when I wrote an article about it, it would focus on the restoration project. But now that I’m here, typing away, it turns out it’s not an article about the restoration of a church. It’s about a restoration of myself.
For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling pretty stonelike. Between the pandemic, and some unrelated concerns about the health and well being of certain friends, I’ve been more stressed than usual, and to cope I wrapped myself in a pretty hard shell for a little while. That’s neither a healthy nor helpful way to deal, though, and as time went on, it felt more and more like that stony exterior was starting to crack.
And then I came across these photos, and thought that maybe I could try to emulate those figures. They may be stone, but they can still adapt and change. All it requires is some time, and work, and care, and your world can get a bit lighter.
So I put in some time – to determine what it was that had pushed me to the point of closing down instead of dealing with the stress in a healthier way.
And I did some work – to wipe off the grime and chip away at the stone, and let some of me back out into the world.
And I took some care – to remind myself that my feelings are valid and there’s no need to lock them away.
I’m feeling much better, now. But I suppose if it hadn’t worked, I could always have had some of whatever Jesus was having.
Dude clearly has access to some good shit.