Tuesday, May 13, 2014


In my struggle to find some inner quiet, I was thinking about a different crucifix, one I saw back in 2001 in Madrid. It dates to 1063, and was made in Aragon under the patronage of the King Ferdinand I of Leon and his wife, Queen Sancha. They poured enormous amounts of their money into the arts. For that I am hugely grateful.

The ivory crucifix haunted me when I saw it in the Museo Arqueológico Nacional. Christ is impassive, long. His feet rest on a board. He does not truly hang, and under him, a tiny figure holds him up. He skin is luxuriantly smooth; his eyes are kind, and yet piercing. The crucifix is bordered by intricate Celtic design. You know I love that. The area the crucifix came from, the town of Jaca in the north, was settled by Celts, and you can see its influence quite manifestly. On the back of the crucifix are the Agnus Dei, the symbols of the Evangelists, and more interlace. I commune with this Christ and feel peace, anytime I feel shattered. He helped me out today; He is much better than Xanax.

Then I got to thinking about how frustrating the world is, and how I am tired, and how I feel finished. But He reminded me that I haven't made it to Jaca (or Leon) yet. I have work to do. I need to visit the cathedral in Jaca, to find this playful Romanesque bear. To walk around all the capitals, to find the jokes on the margins.

For some reason, I feel most at home in the Romanesque. Is it that it was a transitional moment? Is it the continued strangeness of antiquity and Christianity in conversation, before the Gothic wiped out the last cobwebs? I need to walk down from the Pyrenees and see this view of Jaca, on the Camino, like those Romanesque peregrinos on the Roman roads that were old, even in 1063. I need to take another pilgrimage. It's time.

And if I am walking the Camino, I have to start in France and visit Ste. Foy in Conques. She started me on all of this back, back, back all those years ago as a confused young woman.

I think about walking meditation, and my beloved friend Boreth. And how clearing the mind by walking is the best medicine. I leave you with words from one of his essays on the body and peace:

As I prepare to go for a walk on the beautiful campus of the University of California at Santa Cruz where I now teach, I am reminded of the words of Maha Ghosananda, who led a peace walk from Thailand to Cambodia right after the Khmer Rouge genocide: 'The Buddha called the practice of mindfulness "the only way." Always in the present. At this very moment. From moment to moment. In all activity. In this very step.' 

From "Buddhist Walking Meditations and Contemporary Art of Southeast Asia," Boreth Ly, Positions, 20:1, 267-286.

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