catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 3, Num 13 :: 2004.06.18 — 2004.07.10


Vacation as pilgrimage

A celebration of marriage

Using all ten spelling words in a paragraph was our weekly third grade assignment. As a child I recall my first literary success, my paragraph to be read for the spelling test at the end of the week. This week my topic was vacation. This is a vivid memory because it was my first journalistic recognition and because vacations are central family events. Even so, the teacher needed to make a concession, the creation of a noun-modifying word ?station wagon? to accommodate the word ?wagon.?

Those were the days when vacation was ritual. Although we lived in land-locked Ohio, my father had always vacationed at the Jersey Shore. Consequently, we of the next generation did also. We had our assigned week at the same house, sharing it with the same family of four, visiting the same relatives on the way. The setting provided the romantic otherness of sunlit-sea and saw grass, sounding-surf and sand crabs. This was foreign territory to the maple tree woods and apple orchards of our backyard existence.

It wasn?t until I married that I encountered ?vacation as pilgrimage?: a vacation where work was involved which gave spiritual pleasure. A gift from God I received when my cardiologist husband began making a name for himself was a vacation that coincided with our anniversary every other year. A cardiology meeting in Nice, France has been the platform for our working vacation and the beginning of my pilgrimage.

In the morning when my husband walks across the street to the Palais de Congress I extend my walk up Cimiez Hill, past the Chinese market, past the smart apartment houses often containing Docteur?s offices, past the French Bible store and the motorcycle mechanics to the lavender garden surrounding the Museum of the Biblical Image. Often I wait seated on the outside wall under the overgrown tree watching the fashionable homes being renovated.

It is too hot to ?make aliyah*? later in the morning, so I often rest until its opening. Anticipation is heightened for what is drawing me heavenward?five strong paintings in red hues, Marc Chagall?s gift to my marriage: his works depicting the Song of Solomon. I come to pray before these and others of his Biblical images to complete my vows of being ?an intercessor in faith ? on my husband?s behalf.

The movement of Chagall?s paintings?Cantiques des Cantiques (en francais) is captured by the museum?s architect Andre Hermant. He used stone from higher in the Alps, which are reminiscent of the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem. These five paintings are displayed in an inner chamber, past the illustrations of Genesis and Exodus. I like to think of them as Chagall?s Holy of Holies.

I was glad to discover that my favorite was the first work of the Five, labeled number two of the sequence. It had been key to my longing prayers for my marriage. The other four are so active, their subjects flying or being catapulted from the canvas. Painting number two is the one of rest and repose. The man faces down, circumscribing womb-like, the woman. She is the object of reverent thought, his posture prostrate before God.

Please share in my joy by entering this hallowed place via the web. May your own worshipful thoughts unite you with our Great Creator who provides leisure in the midst of work. ?Bonne Vacance!?

* Aliyah: Hebrew, literally going up, but also used to describe the assent to Jerusalem or a pilgrimage to Israel.

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