Category Archives: Sydney

Getting “Short” in Sydney

Monday, 21 October 2011
Getting “short” in Sydney

I’m down to my last couple of days in Sydney. I have had a wonderful time! I really enjoy being able to stay in one spot for a few months at a time and get to know places… and have time to completely “see” things, instead of just glancing at them.

A great example would be “St. Mary’s Cathedral” in Sydney. It’s a beautiful sandstone Gothic building located in a fairly central area. I found myself wandering into St. Mary’s a couple of times a week to just enjoy the view. The exterior does not have a lot of sculpture (as cathedrals go) but the windows are particularly nice. I am fascinated by sacred spaces and before my pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, Spain, I had made a effort to learn some of the iconography of churches. You may have heard that the stained glass windows of medieval churches were meant to tell bible stories to the illiterate. Well, in order to do that, there has to be a certain visual language that people understand. If you are trying to tell the story of the Virgin Mary, people have to know which of a group of women IS the Virgin Mary.

Well, it turns out that the Virgin Mary is always depicted in certain recognizable ways. She wears a blue robe or garment, has a halo around her covered head (often made of 12 stars to depict the 12 tribes of Israel), holds or is near white lilies (a sign of purity), holds the infant Jesus, stands on the heads of angels and/or a crescent moon, wears a crown, sits on a throne, points to her sacred heart, etc.. She may not have ALL of these images at once, but she will be recognized by a combination of these.

Along the same rules, John the Baptist will be shown wearing a hair shirt or rough furs, carries a walking staff that has a cross beam at the top (reminiscent of a crucifix), is haloed, and often points (indicating he will be followed by another). And we all are familiar with the iconic images of Jesus. Who doesn’t recognize an image of Jesus?

There’s a little gift shop in the Cathedral and one day I asked if they had a book I could buy about the windows. They did not have a book for sale, but the nice man there allowed me to borrow a photocopied explanation of the windows that a St. Mary’s priest had written. How wonderful! For the next week or so, I visited the cathedral for a couple of hours each day and studied the windows. The “cheat sheet” meant that I didn’t miss any important details and I learned quite a few things! I knew, for instance, that John, the beloved disciple, was usually shown with a clean shaven face… I did not know that he is also usually shown wearing a green robe. Mary Magdalene is usually shown wearing red and with her hair uncovered… things I didn’t know before!

I had a great time learning, with the help of that cheat sheet! I eventually ended up with my own copy of it… the generous man in the gift shop had a day off and the person manning the store did not believe she was allowed to loan me the book. Bummer. When my friend finally did returned, he suggested that I take his photocopy to the library a few blocks away and make a copy for myself! That was really nice of him!

I became a “regular” at the Sydney Art Gallery. The gallery is free, has a very nice cafe and free internet! What more could you ask for?… oh, ART too! Each Wednesday they had an Art After Dark program where the museum stayed open later, there were guest speakers and special tours of the galleries by the curators… and they served wine! Again… what more could you ask for? The first time I was there “after dark”, I was un-royally “dissed” by some nouveau riche socialite… I haven’t laughed so hard at the lack of class of THAT type since I moved from Southampton, NY! “Bless her heart!” as they say in the South!

The Sydney Library was a favorite haunt of mine too. The main reference branch was as much “museum” as library and had some really interesting exhibits!

My friend Ann came to Sydney a few days ago. She likes to travel with groups so this year, as she did last year, she spent a few days with me before she took off on an Outdoor Adventure Travel tour. Last night we took a tall ship cruise around Sydney harbor. It was a very nice experience! The wild fires in and around Sydney have made for some great sunsets (unfortunately) and the boat was a really nice old sailing ship. There were finger foods and drinks… and a guide to answer questions. Very nice. They “drive” on the wrong side of the channels here though… a little disconcerting to an old sailor like me! Lol!

Tomorrow I will pack and Wednesday I will fly up to Arlie Beach in the Whitsunday Islands… the Great Barrier Reef area. I have a week up there, then I will spend two weeks in Auckland, New Zealand and then back to Melbourne, Australia for my last week here. And then home! I visit with a friend in California for a couple of days on the way home and end up back in North Carolina TWO days before Thanksgiving this year! Last year I got home the day before Thanksgiving and had 12 people over the house on Turkey Day! I haven’t yet counted who all will be at my house this year, but there will be another gathering of friends.

Life’s a TRIP!

Here’s a link to my Sydney album: