I spotted this on the Mains and Crosses blog a while ago. I must stop to explain why I picked up this picture and decided to write a post about it. I am not religious; haven’t been for many years now. That picture is not visible on the blog anymore so instead here’s a picture of what occurred to me when I saw that blog. My school.
This is a picture of my school entrance. My school was a century-old institution that belonged the church that it faced. A village had sprung up around the church, decades ago and many of those houses still dot the landscape. To this day, that area is called ‘The village’ and the church is its most prominent landmark, with my school coming up a close next.
Between the school building and the church was a graveyard, always locked away. I entered it once, 7 years after I had left school. I was part of the procession for the funeral of a 21-year-old girl who had died in an accident on her way to her first day at work. She had been my classmate. Many years earlier, I had stood next to her at that very gate and she pointed to one headstone and said,
That’s my dad over there.
She was buried not far from him.
I remember the church as an imposing structure with a steeple and a huge bell on the top. It was reconstructed a couple of years before I left school to a spanking new design. But somehow it never recaptured the grandeur of the old church. Outside the church, a vast courtyard was laid out in neat tiles and slabs of marble here and there. As a child, I’d imagine that they were the graves of people who died before the graveyard was built and I always felt uneasy walking over them so I’d stick to the paths in between.
And ever so often, I’d turn back and look at the school building where I spent the better part of twelve years of my life. A few feet to the left of the church doorway, a statue stood, erected on a high podium and surrounded by a locked enclosure. In my six-year-old eyes, he seemed to tower up into the sky, long hair cascading over his shoulders, one hand on his heart and his eyes watching with a mixture of deep comprehension and gentle compassion. Even as a confused kid with no means to articulate the tangles in my mind, I felt understood.
All these years later, I find that same undefinable something reaching across to me that spoke to my soul before the words came in and decayed all faith. An idea of beauty is truly a joy forever until it is burdened by the weight of human foibles.
It was also remarkable to note the title of the post on the blog – St.John’s Road. It’s been over a decade since I finished school but I guess I never stopped being a Johannian.