Experiencing the Transcendent. “Where words fail, music speaks.” -Hans Christian Andersen (Glen)

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Transcendent [tran-sen-dun nt]

  1. going beyond ordinary limits; surpassing; exceeding.
  2. superior or supreme.

It’s amazing how some things have the power to transcend language and cultural barriers. Julie and I experienced that this week.

For those of you that have followed our blog, you’ll note that we’ve written about the Santa Maria del Mar Cathedral several times.  This beautiful, gothic cathedral is very close to where we live and we walk by it every time we walk into the city.  We often pop in for a few minutes to quietly sit and enjoy the incredible architecture, which draws the eye forward and up.

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On one such impromptu visit, we noticed a brochure announcing an upcoming concert.

Mozart’s Requiem, and his Symphony No. 38 (Praga).

We couldn’t resist and bought two tickets.

We attended the concert on Wednesday, and as you can imagine, we were not disappointed.

 

IMG_3873Julie loves to sing and she joined Trinity Lutheran Seminary Choir in Bexley in 2015.  The choir performed the Mozart Requiem. As you can imagine, having participated in singing this work, Julie had a special appreciation for the music.

Here’s a picture of Julie with the Trinity Seminary Choir Director, May Schwarz. May is a delightful and incredibly talented woman!

Though the requiem is sung in Latin, and even though neither Julie or I  know all of the intricacies that distinguish Catalan gothic architecture from other gothic architecture, we were moved by the power of the music and the beauty of the place.

It’s a great marvel how music, art, and architecture have the power to transcend our language and abilities.  It reminded us of a good friend, Jim Calhoun, who shared a similar experience he had when he visited St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and happened upon an orchestra rehearsing for a performance.

Hope you enjoy the pics and a brief video of the concert.

Preparing to walk across Spain! Camino de Santiago de Compostela (753 km) here we come! (Glen)

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Julie and I have decided to do the Camino de Santiago. There are many routes to Santiago, we are taking the “French Way”.  On May 8, we will depart from St. Jean Pied de Port (France), hike over the Pyrenees into Spain. Then, we will walk the entire length of the Northern Spain to Santiago de Compostela.  It will take us nearly 40 days.  We will complete the walk on June 16.  We’ll post a bit more about our decision to do “The Camino” before we leave, however once we head out we won’t be doing any posting.  We’ve decided to go silent during the duration of the hike.

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On Sunday, to prepare, Julie and I decided to take a hike up to Mount Tibidabo.  There it is circled. I took this picture from the balcony of our apartment. It gives you a perspective of how far it is to there and back – a very walkable 22 kilometers.

There is a beautiful church and statue of Christ with outstretched arms over Barcelona.  See pics below for a better view of the church. We can see it from our balcony of our apartment.

The hike was fantastic.  It was a beautiful, sunny, spring day.  We were amazed at the terrain and flora.  It is so different just a few miles north of Barcelona.  We could see, smell, and feel Springtime on the walk. Here are a few pics of our adventure.

 

 

The Basilica of Sagrada Familia (Julie)

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Although we had been by the exterior of The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia on several occasions, we finally took the tour of the interior this past week.

Construction of Sagrada Familia – Holy Family – began in 1882 by architect Francisco Paula de Villar.  Antoni Gaudi took over in 1883 when Francisco resigned.  Gaudi transformed it with his architectural and engineering style.    The completion of the Basilica is scheduled for 2026 – the 100 year anniversary of the death of Gaudi.   The estimated final cost will be 1 billion euros.

Comments on its unique design:

  • “It is probably impossible to find a church building anything like it in the entire history of art.”
  • “One of the most hideous buildings in the world.”
  • “Sensual, spiritual, whimsical, exuberant.”
  • “One of the strangest looking serious buildings in the world.”

Is it unique and original? Absolutely!  As Gaudi said, “Originality consists of returning to the origin.”  And, he would have certainly agreed with Richard Rohr’s sentiment, “Creation is the first Bible.” Gaudi, who was dubbed “God’s architect”, sought to incorporate aspects of creation throughout this magnificent tribute to the Creator God.  Truly, beauty IS in the eye of the beholder, and I was enthralled.

In trying to capture the beauty and essence of any natural or man-made wonder, photography falls woefully short.

We went up into the towers and we were awe of the design and beauty…even at the very tops of the structure.

In other news . . .

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On our way home from the market recently, we thought we noticed a familiar face in the crowd.  We called her name and happily she turned around.  It was “Amma” Susan Smith, the priest of St. Albans church in Bexley which we attended.   She was on a cruise with a day stop in Barcelona.  What are the odds?

 

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Today on our way to church, we noticed a gathering in the square of the Barcelona Cathedral including these ginormous characters.  We investigated and discovered it was The Festival of Saint Joseph.

Go to this YouTube link if you’d like to see more.

 

 

 

I want to be well-read (Carly)

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(This is the third and final installment from our daughter, and guest writer, Carly Zehr)

“The world is a book, and those who don’t travel read only a page.”   – Saint Augustine.

My month in Spain has had a lasting impact on my personal story. I came to Spain from a place of weariness and questioning, not unusual for someone in their twenties. I experienced some difficult transitions leading up to my month abroad and the more people asked if I was ‘ready to leave’ the more I doubted that I was.

Opening myself up to this time of self-reflection and quietness has transformed me into a person with vision and excitement. Spain taught me to walk to my destinations, both mental and physical. And though I will miss the sea and the mountains as my constant companions, I am ready to return to my little mountain town in Tennessee.

Cooking Class with a Market Visit

Interesting and Crazy Art Everywhere

Great Food

Good Times in the City

 

 

 

 

“Every Child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” – Pablo Picasso. (Carly)

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(This is the second blog installment from our daughter, Carly.  Enjoy!)

Several of my favorite artists have come from Spain; Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, El Greco, Glen Zehr, to skim the surface. We decided to buy a museum ‘passport’ allowing us to visit 6 museums for $30 dollars! I honestly think we set the bar too high by visiting the Picasso museum first. How can you compete with his sweeping array of styles, subject matter and genius?

Showcased in the museum are over 4,000 of his paintings, sketches, and sculptures. What I love most about Pablo (we’re on a first name basis now) is that he drew primarily from three vantage points: his world around him, marginalized people groups, and his family. Evident in his work is both a familiarity with and discomfort in the suffering he witnessed in his world.

Another young, budding artist is my Dad.  I’ve loved seeing his progress over these months. Once a week he takes art lessons from Jorge a loving, but demanding artist. Jorge is adamant that my Dad learn how to draw before he learns how to paint. Months later my dad is developing his sense of style that I am sure will continue to evolve over the years. My dad’s subject matter has primarily been his world around him and his family, not unlike Picasso.

Here are the paintings my Dad did of my brothers, Connor and Clinton, and myself.  I’m not sure why he painted them as butlers. He captured me at Wild Love Bakery with a pie.

Stay young and stay an artist!

Carly Takes Barcelona (Carly)

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This week we have a guest contributor to our blog… our daughter Carly.

I would like to start by thanking Dad and Mom for allowing me to be a guest contributor on their blog this week, such an honor.  A week ago today, I arrived in Barcelona and it has quickly taken hold of my heart.

 

I’ll admit that jet-lag accompanied by sickness kept me somewhat close to home the first several days. But when your view overlooks a pier showcasing a Russian billionaires yacht, can one really be too disappointed? (See pic of my view below)

For those of you who know me well you are aware that directions and names of places are far from my strong suit. From a young age, I remember my dad writing down directions to get me to the most basic places in my hometown of Columbus, OH. This was before iPhones came equipped with the Google Maps app, and praise be to Yahweh for that.

I remember first traveling to Barcelona for a school trip my Junior year of high school. We only stayed for a few days and, you guessed it, I couldn’t remember the places we visited. Though I probably should work on my inner-compass I do remember one thing very easily, my feelings. And Barcelona has this electric feel that leaves a lasting impression on those who wander her streets.

I’ve taken to running by the beach in the mornings, I still hate running but it does seem more tolerable by the Mediterranean sea. I love walking everywhere with my parents seeing the city hustle and bustle all around us. People are much freer here to touch, stand close, drive close, and talk animatedly. The city is both fast where it needs to be and slow when you want it to be.

Yes, it is only my first week but possibly what I love most about Barcelona is that the city takes you in as though you’ve lived here all your life.

Until Next Time, Carly

 

Good People, Good Food, Good Conversation (Glen)

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No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.

– John Donne

One of the great things about traveling abroad is the new people you meet and the new foods you put in your mouth. Special conversations happen when you chat with folks over a meal. This is not a new insight, but it is a true one: food and drink do a great job breaking down cultural barriers. Julie and I often think about how we would have never come in contact with these people if we hadn’t taken the journey.  In this week’s post is we’d like to highlight a few of them.

St George’s Anglican Church. Today, we celebrated a calçot feast after church. A calçot is cross between a green onion and a leak. The calçots are cooked on the grill and get black on the outside.  With helpful instructions from local Catalan “experts”, we learned how to strip the outer skins away, dip the calçot into a special tomato, garlic, almond sauce, and then slide it into our mouth and eat it.  Messy, but yummy.

 

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John Chapman – John is the chaplain at St. George’s Anglican Church.

Julie and I had a wonderful lunch with him on Wednesday. John is Scottish, and his wife Deborah is American. They have had some incredible experiences in Europe, Latin America and the Middle East. It was great to discuss God, politics, life, and how things don’t always go according to plan.

img_4243Jorge Nunez Segura – Jorge is my art teacher.

He’s 84 and I love chatting with him as much as the art lessons. Jorge served in the Spanish Navy for a short stint. He worked in Paris as a graphic designer at the very beginnings of the modern advertising age. After that, he worked as a book cover illustrator with more than a 1000 pulp fiction book covers to his credit.  He is a great painter and a fascinating man.

 

 

img_4247.jpgJanet Webster (Jorge’s Wife) – Janet is one of the most kind, inclusive and welcoming people you could ever meet.

She has an incredible gift for connecting people together. If we had a question about anything in Barcelona, Janet would be the first person we’d go to.

Julie and Janet enjoy tea and a chat when George and I are painting in the studio.

 

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Unknown Nuns and Monks – We had heard about nuns who make and sell cookies (thanks to Jana Lechner).

We did some research and found a small shop by the cathedral that sold cookies from a variety of monasteries…plus some specialty liquors that monks had brewed deep in the basements of their abbey.

Thank you, nuns and monks. Although we didn’t get to meet you in person, your homemade goods were yummy and sparked some good conversations!

Park Güell and Walking Barcelona (Glen)

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Last week, Julie and I did a lot of walking in Barcelona.  We had a string of beautiful, sunny, weather, and so we thought we’d take advantage of it. A lot of miles on the feet – this is good preparation for something we’re planning to do later in the Spring…more to come.

We hadn’t been to Park Güell and so we thought we’d make the trek to the hills north of the city center. Check out our pics below. Here’s the backstory about Park Güell.  If you want to learn more, check out: http://www.parkguell.cat/en/

  • It was designed by Antoni Gaudi and Eusebi Güell. They were good friends; which is pretty cool. How often do good friends get to do something epic like this?
  • Their vision was to create a planned community for well-off families.
  • Park Güell is in the hills and provides great views of the sea and the plain of Barcelona.
  • It’s a unique place. There are many interpretations of the symbolism embedded within Park Güell.
  • Every single square inch seems to be well thought-out. It’s a place to live…it’s art…it severs the dividing lines between nature, or creation and architecture.
  • UNESCO declared it a Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

Reading, Art, and Learning Spanish (Glen)

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The holidays for Julie and I—like everyone else—were filled with travel, connecting with family, and celebrating.  An added benefit of living in Barcelona was that we got to experience some unique holiday events: Handel’s Messiah performed in Santa Maria del Mar cathedral, the outdoor Christmas markets, and the three kings parade. http://www.santamariadelmarbarcelona.org/home

As you probably noticed, in January we paused our blogging. We were in Nashville with our children over Christmas week, and Julie stayed on a bit longer to enjoy some time with Carly.

Julie has devoted a lot of time to reading. Here’s what she’s read—an incredible list! The Divine Dance and Immortal Diamond (Richard Rohr); The Seven Storey Mountain   (Thomas Merton), God Winked (Sara Rigler), Poems from the Heart of Yoga – Go In and In (Danna Faulds), Wrestling with Yoga (Shelly Dembe), Road to Resilience (Sherri Mandell), A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith), Land Twice Promised (Noa Baum), and Revelations of Divine Love (Julian of Norwich). Yes, I am married to the most well-read woman in the world!

In December, I began taking art lessons with Jorge Segura Nunez. I’m learning how to sketch and paint with oils. This is something I’ve always wanted to do. Jorge is 85 years old and is a great artist. He’s exhibited in Barcelona, Madrid, London, and New York.

I can tell when he’s not happy with my technique, because he breaks into rapid-fire Spanish and takes my pencil away from me. Here are few of my early works.  The oil painting of the fruit is one I am working on now (the image on the left is by another artist, the image on the right is my version). I’m just starting out and there’s much to learn!

I also enrolled in immersive Spanish language courses and have completed five weeks. I’m the only student from America (Estados Unidos) in the class. The other students are from Europe and in their 20s and 30s. This is not an exaggeration: everyone of them already knows at least two or three other languages. There are times when I feel like I don’t have a clue what’s going on, and other times when I think I’m getting it. I’m sure there’s a life lesson in there somewhere.

Welcoming the Tres Reyes, or Three Kings, to Barcelona (Glen)

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Friday, January 6, was Epiphany.

Epiphany is a celebration to honor the three kings, or magi, who travel to meet the baby Jesus and bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. This is the day that children in Spain (and Latin America) open their Christmas presents.

Families also enjoy a special meal together. One of the main treats of the meal is the tres reyes cake. Below was our delicious cake, with the king, that I found in the cake on the first bite!

The day before Epiphany, January 5, is day that the three kings arrive in Barcelona (via ship) at Port Vell.  It’s a big deal. Barcelona town officials give the kings the key to the city and one of the kings gave a speech. Music and pageantry.

After the speeches at the port, the kings parade through town. This takes them three hours. Honestly, it seemed like the entire town turned out to watch the parade. This was easily the biggest crowd of people that I’ve been in. Children give letters to the kings asking for specific presents that they would like to receive. It was an incredible spectacle. Here are some pics.

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The last two floats in the parade have canons that shoot candy into the crowds and up the to top balconies. Crazy amounts of candy are blasted into the crowds. Children with bags scramble to grab up the sweets. This could never happen in the States…too many lawsuits from hard candy raining down on people. That’s a shame, because the candy cannons are a riot.

Finally, here are a couple of videos of the singing and dancing.  Enjoy!