When I was a kid in northern Canada, some Sunday mornings I would go with my minister dad to the local radio station, CKGB Radio, where he would do a live radio show, “Thoughts from the Book”. It was located in the offices of The Daily Press, a building in an Art Deco style in downtown Timmins, Ontario.
The buildings of that mining and lumbering community that old-timers still call The Porcupine Camp favour function over architectural flights of fancy. But that building somehow tugged at my heart and stirred my imagination. For reasons that my 7-year-old self could not name, it filled me with simultaneous calm and excitement, joy and longing.
Strange though it might seem, I was thinking of that old Daily Press building as I stood in front of the east entrance of La Sagrada Família cathedral in Barcelona last fall. The figures sculpted over the arched doorway, with faces, hands and bodies both down-to-earth and yet exalted; its exuberant forms, both stately and playful; and its story of creation, birth, death and resurrection carved into graceful curves and arches staggered my imagination. It is a poem in stone, a visual and tactile symphony.
I could have stood there all day.
The repeating vertical lines of the Daily Press building had a rhythm to them, like an elegant ballroom dance, a fox-trot perhaps. The Sagrada Família is full of rhythms, whirling, like waves of the Mediterranean that Gaudi so loved, or like a whole company of flamenco dancers, stamping and clapping in syncopated time.
I’ve spent my life (so far) building small cathedrals in words, music, rhythms, melodies. Well…maybe not cathedrals. Chapels. Small places that invite people to congregate and offer praise to the Creator. The craft of words has given me a language in which to appreciate some of the richness of the architecture that is all around us.
A child living in a company town gets the message that life is business: you learn a trade, you earn your keep. But I sensed, even as a hockey-playing 7-year old, that there is more; that all around us, as if they are the only ones who see The Play, the hills are standing in silent ovation, clapping their hands.