SGAA Summer Conference Saturday - Church Tour

Email by Elizabeth Steinebach on July 4, 2008
Categories Filed Under: ARTICLE

SGAA Summer Conference Saturday - Church Tour Image

Who knew?

I certainly didn't.

I would have denied it, if I had been asked up to the moment, before something changed.

We gathered, like good little sheep to be shepherded off, by coach, to our various church destinations. There had been a change and we needed to start with the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Assumption. The drive was most pleasant, as I had an opportunity to chat with Vic Rothman.

Saint Mary's was stunning, the blurb in our hand outs did not do it justice. Soaring 170 feet up, within this massive concrete structure, is this thin line of dalle de verre. The column of light draws the eye ever upward to the 120 foot square cupola, pierced with a dalle de verre cross. It's shape, also square, not the a traditional Latin cross. The juxtaposition of light, translucent and so evidently, yet seemingly without structure, yet built in dalle, next to this matrix of concrete, which should feel heavy and dark, is just the opposite. The volume is filled with a soft diffuse light. Only near the base, where the pillars meet the floor do you get the sense of being in a great cavern. A womb, in the belly of the great Mother. As architectural statement, this was a very non traditional approach to worship space. The dalle de verre work was extensive. And in my opinion, tried very hard to fulfill this unique expression of the designer, a professor, neither trained in stained glass nor having the ability to build it. I was also taken by the extraordinary sculpture that was throughout the Cathedral.

Our next stop was Grace Cathedral. Perched on a hill with some wonderful gardens laid out before it, it was an unexpected surprise. This cathedral - has a labyrinth. I was immediately drawn to it and without hesitation started on its sacred path. I love labyrinths. The energy afforded in this cathedral was unique, as all labyrinths are. It was such a pleasant surprise that even without all the preparation and energy, set by intention or ceremony, I left this labyrinth changed. And it surprised me. Nidia Mezalick arrived to meet us for the lunch, the lunch we were going to have on the lawn. We had had such a wonderful time, that day before, driving with the top down, in her convertible and taking the long way back (through San Francisco) to the hotel, from Bendheim West. It didn't take too much arm wrestling to tag along with her, as she wanted to explore San Francisco on her own terms.

Now this is what changed. I would normally never leave, a paid in full activity. I would normally never leave a church window tour, because I love looking at windows. Yet today, at this time and moment, I had had enough. I am sure that this might offend many of you reading, and I do not wish to suggest that it was the tour that I was dissatisfied with. On the contrary, something within myself had changed and today I did not want see another old window, done by an old reputable firm, depicting some traditional biblical theme. Somehow, perhaps the psychedelic lecture had planted a seed, I wanted freedom from these constraints. I accepted Nidia's offer to go explore, on our own terms.

What happened next was a pure sensual and delightful experience. I purchased the $11.00 day pass and rode my first San Francisco trolley down a very steep hill. Lurching and jarring to stops, wind blowing and gleefully enjoying the ride not for the destination, but for the experience. We detoured into Macy's for a pair of socks, only to be welcomed by sixty linear feet, about six feet high, of modern architectural glass used as a room divide, with bright red antique laminations with small squares of blue flashed glass etched with patterns. This, in my new eyes was just a relevant as any of the church windows I would have continued to view, yet this was more real. It was in a commercial environment, with hundreds of people passing by it every day.

Nidia shared that she had heard that the de Young had a Dale Chihuly exhibit. Did I know who he was? and Did I want to go and see if we could get in? YES! YES! I had had an opportunity to visit the Pilchuck School, as a day trip from Vancouver, away back when and had followed Dale's work over the years. What an opportunity! We were very lucky, we could just get tickets for the 4:30 pm entry. This exhibit was a mind blowing riot of color, shape and form. He offered many of his personal belonging to add dimension to the show and it was worth every precious moment. The de Young also has a wonderful tower, that stands nine floors up, just over the canopy tops of trees and has a wonderful scenic view.

We took the bus back through town and passed the winding down of activities of the preamble of Pride Day in San Francisco. If it is anything like Pride Day in Toronto, tomorrow would be wall to wall parade goers, with many gays and lesbians taking advantage of the permission to wed. Rainbow flags, barricades and port-o-potties lined the downtown core. We transferred to a bus that would take us along the Embarcadro, the shoreline road. We were hungry and were determined to find just the perfect spot overlooking the bay, to enjoy a brilliant seafood dinner. As it happened, the special of the night was prime rib, which we devoured equally enthusiastically. Content, enriched and inspired, Nidia drove us in the direction of the hotel, only to remember that there was one more thing that she needed to do. Find Lombard street. Now for those of you who may not know, Lombard is this totally switch backed curved roadway through a short section of a residential area, where the incline would make a billy goat breathe heavy. At a mere five miles an hour, with throngs of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, we found our objective and road the road, twice! It is one of those bucket list, things to do, and because of Nidia, I can say that I have done it. I cannot thank her enough. With the cold, there was no question of me thinking to to rent a car. Her friendship and like minded, go for it fun, was just the right tonic, for a depleted immune system. She offered experiences freely and joyfully and I highly recommend that should you ever find yourself traveling alone, that you say yes to the offer of a stranger, who can ultimately become a very good friend. Bless you girl!

Our way home was filled with quiet contentment. I day lived well, filled with beauty and joy and gusto!

Doing the curves on Lombard