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Last Tuesday, Hilary and I stopped by the Cathedral San Saveur to see a concert of Mozart, Bach and Greig concert that we’d seen advertised around town. Learning that it cost 25 Euros we deferred to getting drinks, but afterwards we couldn’t help but put our ears to the Cathedral door, like poor disenfranchised souls listening angel music outside the gates of heaven. Against the wrought iron doors we could hear a muffled but full-sounding a symphony of strings, rising up as if from earth and mist, reverberating off the vault ceilings inside. I laughed or I closed my eyes or looked up at the little stone saints on the facade against a smattering of stars and thought how nice it would be if I could capture even an ounce of what being there was like.

We moved into an interior lobby where the doors were still closed save for one, which was cracked open to the inside light. I stuffed my jacket in to prop it open and Hilary and I sat down on the stone steps and listened, periodically standing up to listen through the crack of the door. An usher caught sight of us and let us in for free. We were too ecstatic to even speak French to thank him.

And how could I describe what it was like inside? Full, living sound, like clouds growing out of clouds, glowing through moving light. Like life itself – like stems growing from the ground in a rainstorm on soft earth. My mind and heart and ears were not enough to take it all in. They were not enough to take in the strings rising up and humming off the old cathedral’s rising clerestories and vaults, and then the paintings on the wall, and its musty smell and incense and its dim light. They were not enough, and that, at least, I could put to words.

I half-joked to Hilary that I didn’t know what to do with myself next as we walked back down the hill to our apartment to check our e-mails, wash our faces, and maybe read a page or two before going back to sleep again.


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