Taking a Short Trip
We are all thinking too much about everything. Come with me on a quick vacation.
Early this year, I visited Krakow, Poland. I stayed in the Old Town, a place that has barely changed in centuries. The guild hall and market square are medieval perfection. Even during the German occupation in World War II, the town hardly changed. It’s a beacon of endurance.
The Church of Saints Peter and Paul is one of the area’s many showpieces (see photos here; panorama here). I visited it on a January afternoon, the white reliefs in the dome a somber gray and shadows leaning across paintings in dark marble shrines. Even the abundant gold ornamentation was subdued. This first Baroque church in Poland was finished in 1605, and it felt every bit that old, yet still magnificent.
After a few other stops, I returned to the church for an evening concert. I arrived breathless after a hurried walk across the square and down cobbled streets. My shoulders were tense from being in unfamiliar surroundings too long, my feet had trod through too many museums, and my entire body was anxious about the next stage of my trip. Going to the concert felt like an obligation, not a joy.
Easing into Comfort
All that fell away with the opening strains of Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” itself a Baroque gem. Even in the chilly church, my muscles warmed, easing into comfort. I relaxed into slower breathing as the string quartet soothed my soul.
The frugal evening lighting made the cavernous space more intimate. Although I couldn’t see the inner dome, I felt its presence. The players were directly under it, so its acoustic perfection heightened intricate musical patterns. I imagined the notes communing with frozen saints and symbols and playfully sliding off the golden curlicues that sparked to life in the low light.
I’m not a classical music enthusiast, so my mind often wanders during concerts. My thoughts returned to my family and country. Even before so many troubling issues arose this year, I had my worries about what 2020 would bring. But something about breathing in the music and the atmosphere calmed me.
I started thinking about the building I was in, its rock-solid mass having welcomed millions of Poles and visitors through the centuries. I thought about how the market square was renamed for Hitler during the German occupation and restored to its original name afterward. I thought about my own dear relatives, who had been imprisoned during that same occupation and eventually freed. And I was grateful that the arc of history has turned for Poland; it came through the war and endured the Communist regime. Now, it is seeking its own democratic balance.
Savoring My Souvenir
So now, when I feel overwhelmed with the issues facing my country, I take comfort in recalling the concert. The great and timeless beauty of architecture, music, and art reaches across the centuries to us. This deep foundation supports and nurtures us as we travel into the future.
Written by Anne Malone, who is our AoCC Voting Team Captain. This post is part of a series of inspiring articles from the people behind AoCC to encourage you to persevere.