I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would admire; I thought it classic.

Last day in Ávila.

Last night the remaining estudiantes all went to Miguel’s house, for sangria and good music and (another) last hurrah with our spanish amigos. After we left his house we went out, but the night went downhill dramatically when a classmate lost her wallet & passport. She was (understandably) very upset, so I called her parents, made sure the credit card would be cancelled, left a message with the program director, helped write a note in Spanish for her host family, and Anna and I walked her back home. All should be okay. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll leave the country without any similar misadventures.

Today I packed, finished up some laundry, and coughed up a lot of slime. I’m so sick and congested. I hope I feel better by the time we get on the plane. Once I flew to Nashville while congested, and that one hour flight was hell… I don’t really relish the thought of 8+ hours of that.

I don’t even like relish.

Relish doesn’t look like a real word, does it?

Okay, basta with the relish.

Carmen’s children and grandchildren and a few assorted relatives were all at lunch today. I’m going to be sad to leave.

I finally went into Ávila’s cathedral today. I think it’s one of my favorites that I’ve seen here in Spain. It’s beautiful and feels peaceful.

The churches here are sensory overload. It’s boggling to me. In the treasury of the cathedral is a huge monstrance that must be as tall as I am. It’s crazy.

Looking at all the chalices and gold and silver and religious *bling* produces some mixed feelings. I have very strong memories of my home parish in Maybee. I always helped the sacristan clean and set up all the necessary items for mass. It was a small country parish, not Europe, and our monstrance was nowhere near as extravagant as the one I saw today. But everything was still treated with respect, and I miss that almost daily routine of taking care of the church. It’s the tactile & sensory memories that are the strongest for me, always. It’s why people hang on so long, maybe for the wrong reasons: it’s comforting to have things you can see and touch, even if it’s just angles of light, cool heavy gold, embroidered fabric (ironed meticulously), saints made of plaster–always familiar; it’s the people who change.

The Catholic Church has a long history of beauty and romance that has gotten all tangled up in their idea of religion. Candlelight and flowers and songs and rituals. But like any relationship, the romance can only carry you through so long. The gritty difficult decisions outside, in daylight and in daily life, are something entirely different. If the romantic rituals are all you have, the relationship falls apart. No amount of romance or emotional residue can make up for serious character flaws or a lack of integrity. In the last month and a half I’ve seen a lot of romance and centuries and centuries of history tied up with the catholic church. There’s a lot of gold, a lot of empty beautiful churches, a lot of saints in museums, a lot of ruined cities that were sacked in the name of some kind of God, a lot of politicians & royalty buried under altars. If anything, being in Europe has only further obscured any realistic understanding of what religion should and should NOT be. God and I have been giving eachother a mutual silent treatment for a while now – less hostile than at one point, perhaps, on both sides – but that’s all separate from everything else: the romantic *bling*.

And I am sensory… not romantic. I’ve recieved plenty of flowers but my favorite was the Free Rose If Your Name Is ___ from that florist on Washtenaw, which wilted slowly in a beer bottle on my desk. My fondest memories are of train bridges, fire escapes, getting lost on purpose, reading on my roof, skinnydipping in summertime, driving barefoot with our feet out the window, inopportune picnics, climbing trees at night, spanglish on scaffolding, jumping on furniture, and other weird things.

And all that – religion and relationships alike – are tangents for another time and place.

Maybe as this trip winds down to a close I just feel like I need to make some big! overall! summary! of the experience. Sometimes I forget that I am NOT poised at the first sentence of the last paragraph of a five paragraph essay.

But thank god I don’t live in a didactic narrative.

And on that note, I am off to finish packing

say my last goodbyes

wake up muy early to go to madrid

shlep around madrid all day tomorrow

sleep in the airport – NOT the streets

get on the plane early monday morning, madrid time

get off the plane monday afternoon, chicago time

return to michigan sometime tuesday

and I will see you all stateside.

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One Response to I kissed you in a style Clark Gable would admire; I thought it classic.

  1. ashesbear says:

    I had the same response in Europe (well kind of). Part of me felt ‘awwshit this is so beautiful! Hm, so this is why there are so many Catholics…’ But on the other side it’s ‘this money could have went toward real people.’ I guess after seeing the 8000th church with gold plated ceilings it sort of gets to you. Bling bling!

    In other news I’ve been studying for the GRE’s and learned what didactic meant the other day. I’m glad this learning experience is better helping me understand your nickel word blogs. See you soon.

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