One of the earliest images seared into my memory is that of Christianity’s cross. Whether it was at the end of my Nana Lily’s rosary beads, hanging from the necks of the sister’s at St. Mary’s School or ever present atop the big hill off Route 1A in East Boston, the cross always was, and is, a sign of good from my narrow perspective. From CCD class, I recall being taught the 14 Stations and the unimaginable suffering endured during them. Even today I’m always fascinated by those 14 depictions in Catholic churches I visit.
Today I’m also skeptical of religion, but am not completely sold a “big bang” is responsible for this incredible life, and I wonder, “can 2 billion Christians be wrong?” Then I consider the same thing of 1.5 billion Muslims and a billion Hindu’s and the Buddhists and the Jews… They all believe. I wish they’d be a little more tolerant of each other, but that’s a blog for another day, or not.
Of the near 300 stills we snapped off during our French adventure, three of my favorites feature simple intersection imagery…
The Cathedral of Notre Dame on the Seine was gorgeous inside and out, although out was a spitting Monday and contrary to this beautiful photographic evidence, Joyce’s “Umbrella Boy” did the majority of the work protecting her follicles. Once inside, the photo op’s were plentiful, but so were universal “no photography” symbols, mostly forward of the altar in the church. Sadly, that didn’t stop many tourists from snapping away, flash and all. I tucked Joyce’s new Nikon P300 in a little clip-on case hung off my jeans and captured those images to memory not yet accessible via a USB cable. Once in the shadow of the altar, I looked for “the shot.” You know, it’s that process when you get a mental frame set up and you try to place an interesting image in it. It’s the kind of shot that provokes people to remark, “You have an eye.” You just have to look around at different angles until something clicks. Then the shutter does and you have it. Here’s one I like quite a bit…
The beaches along Normandy’s North coast facing England are long and dotted with pleasure boats, wind and water surfers. It’s difficult to imagine the hell that strangled those pristine shores June 6th, 1944, but the sacrifice there by our “greatest generation” compelled me to place Omaha Beach and the American Cemetery overlooking it on my “must see” list.
Finally seeing the 9,387 white memorials, mostly crosses, didn’t overwhelm me. It’s too daunting to connect with, but the memorial videos featuring short tributes to individual soldiers forever interned rip the emotions for sons and brothers and fathers who never came home. It’s hard to comprehend how each human being carried the individual burden it took to capture that beach. A 1960 article from the Atlantic magazine explained it simply, “The high ground was won by a handful of men who on that day burned with a flame bright beyond common understanding.”
A few times during the trip I noticed the cross necklace Joyce often wears. She wore it the day we visited Omaha Beach. I’m not sure if it was a coincidence, or if she knew she’d need it for the time on such solemn ground. I also recall glancing to see her grasping it firmly between right thumb and forefinger when the air got turbulent on the flight home. It represents her faith and I witnessed it providing her comfort. I wonder how many of the 9,387 souls wore crosses or carried pocket bibles during their last day in hell? Overlooking the beach on the way into the Memorial and American Cemetery, I asked Joyce to get some pictures of the foreground flags and expansive shoreline vista. This image she captured is one of my favorites from the trip and speaks for itself.