Monday, March 12, 2012

Thin places

This was the New York Times recently, about "thin places."  Thinness refers to the place's ability to move us, to bring us into a higher state of mind, and make the barrier between the everyday and the heavenly "thinner."  I wanted to make my own list of thin places -- places where I have felt calm, spiritual, inspired...

-St. Stephen's Basilica in Budapest.  I don't have a picture of my own, because when I was there it was nighttime and I initially ducked inside to skip out a rainstorm.  It was November, and my shoes were leaking, and I thought I would just wait inside, peer at some art, and get on with my day.  But the Basilica is huge -- the largest church in Budapest -- and when I went in, the entire space was lit by candlelight.  Walking through the cavernous space in candlelight, with everyone else being as quiet as possible, I actually remember crying.  For no reason.

Mt. Hope Bay

-Mt. Hope Bay, Rhode Island.  This one is personal, because it is where my mother lives.  It is also absolutely gorgeous, casual, friendly New England.  You won't find better seafood, Portuguese doughnuts, or coastline.  And I always think of it, because it's a place I would go whenever I needed to solve life dilemmas -- where to go to college? What jobs to apply for?  I've gone there after breakups, for holidays, and just when I need to get out of the city for a bit, and I always find my shoulders dropping the moment I turn off Route 24.

Varanasi, India

-Varanasi, India.  One of the holy cities of Hinduism, it is the epitome of a thin place.  Cremations happen around the clock, and the city is crowded with the basics of life -- eating, music, laundry, bathing in the river, prayers at dawn and dusk.  You have city life, and you have a quieter river life, and you have the seediness that poverty and tourism create when they are in close quarters.  Varanasi is actually my favorite place in the world.

Koh Tao, Thailand

-Koh Tao, Thailand.  This picture is of the entire island as I rode the catamaran back to the mainland.  Koh Tao is touristy, filled with foreigners and dive schools, and is so small you wouldn't need a vehicle at all if the center wasn't jungle.  But I fell in love, and very nearly never got on the catamaran -- the night before we left, having already extended our stay by many days, I was on the beach, thinking seriously about what would happen if I moved there.  I learned to dive there, something I had always thought I was too scared to do, and I just became obsessed, earning an extra certification -- I dreamed about becoming a recovery diver, bringing up lost items from the sea floor, and maybe teaching.  Koh Tao is also where I realized that I was living the life I wanted, and when you have moments like that you don't tend to forget them.

Looking at this list, I realize that most of my places are on the water -- I wonder what that says about me?

What are your thin places?  Where have you felt most like yourself, least like yourself, spiritual, satisfied, or some other form of "thin?"

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