I’ve had the great blessing of being able to travel for pleasure. Some of my best memories are from those trips where I have had not only time to sightsee but time to reflect on what it is I’m seeing and photographing. In most cases, however, especially when traveling within a group, I am not aiming my camera at what the majority of my travel mates are trying to capture for posting on their facebook pages or online photo albums, and I’ve been known to hoof it off on my own, even in places where I don’t speak the language in order to capture images which speak to my soul.
Last fall on a trip throughout the German states of Bradenburg, Saxony and Bavaria, I had time—precious little time—in Switzerland too, where I became terrible ill. I forfeited a day in bed, sleeping like the dead, but I refused to miss a second day. My motto became “Never Say Die” as I wearily trekked the streets in search of medicine…and photos.
A common photo subject for me when I travel is architecture, especially doorways and windows. I can’t really explain why when the people around me are snapping those pristine postcard photos to share with family and friends, I am tucked under eaves and awnings looking for something entirely different—the slant of shadow, the dapple of sunshine, the curve of a doorknob that’s been turned a thousand times in the comings and goings of people throughout the generations, or the apartment window that offers a glimpse into the lives of its current occupants just as it has for its previous ones over decades or centuries.
It might be, for me, that the thought of all those who have come and gone before through those doorways gives me pause in the inertia of sightseeing—it brings into focus the reality that our lives on this earth are transient, that our movements through this world are finite. That one day our own doorways and windows will be “home” to someone other than us.
In the symmetry of a pair of age-old shutters or the peeling paint of a door’s trim, I find an affinity. I, too, am a bit more worse for wear than I was 20 years ago. My facade includes its own cracks and crevices that have come to the surface in my comings and goings. But there’s an odd sense of comfort for me in this too. As I peek around corners of gated patios and consider the lace of a delicate curtain there’s a sense of something bigger hidden inside those spaces that I cannot see, things I will never see in this world and so am left to imagine. Taking a photo is my way of filling in the blanks.
Do the precious things people place on their windowsills for the outside world to see show something of themselves?
Does the candle flickering behind the glass indicate our longing to shine our light outward to others?
If not, maybe it should. That’s why I take those pictures, as a way of reminding myself that there is only so much time that I have to reflect something good out to the world.
Q: Post a photo of what’s good in your world to share with other readers.
KAISER WILHELM CHURCH, BERLIN
When I visited Berlin last fall, to kick my jet lag I hoofed it downtown to the commercial district to do some sightseeing and a bit of shopping. On the drive in to the hotel, the church/memorial had been pointed out, and as the afternoon was a brilliant early fall afternoon, I just had to get some photos too.
The battered skeleton of the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church makes for a somber landmark even in bright sunshine, the hull of its broken steeple tower a modern day reminder of war’s destruction all these years since its bombing in November of 1943, which lead to the fire that destroyed it.
The starkness of the ruins today is just as poignant as it must have been the morning after the bombing; inside the west tower there are archives of items and photographs to help tell the church’s story in relation to what happened here that dark night 68 years ago. It’s a somber reminder that regardless of our seemingly advanced culture, we are still mired in the weaknesses of being human, which includes our distortions, our perversions, our rage, and our fallen nature.
Stepping back outside and into the sunshine, I took a closer look at the hexagonal bell tower that was erected in 1961, as part of a new, modern church—a symbol of Berlin’s resolve to resurrect the city after war. The contrasting designs of the two facades are as seemingly different as the reasons for why we make war in the first place. And yet, for all their differences, it struck me that in the destruction of the first, came the life of the second. In that realization I found that so it is with Christ’s dying and rising, and that regardless of our various sins—our sinful nature itself—there is hope for believers. The ruins of our earthly lives can and will be resurrected.
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