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In our blog, you’ll find information about metaphysics and spirituality from Lazaris and Jach, excerpts from Lazaris recordings and interviews, and travelogues from Jach’s adventures around the world.


The Quest in India #5

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #5

From the Taj Mahal in Agra, we bused our way to Delhi. It’s the capital of India. Eighteen million people. I expected to experience a big city that could be any big city in the world. I was wrong. Delhi, the old Indian city, and New Delhi, the city that the British created, weave together to create an intricate complexity that has a surprising high resonance. I felt an excitement in Delhi; there seemed to be a buoyant pride and an imposing confidence in the potential of India and in the Indian future. And besides, we met a faerie in Delhi. More on that at another time.

We visited a huge mosque -- the largest in India -- but it was the Gandhi Memorial that spoke to my soul. After India’s independence, Ghandi, almost 80 years old, was staying at the residence of a powerful Indian family, the Birla Family. From his bedroom, Ghandhi walked the pathway to the garden to participate in evening prayers. Along the way he was assassinated. We didn’t walk the path, but we walked beside until the steps stopped. I stood there for a very long time. Silent. Still. Blurry eyed and reverent. It was a quiet highlight of this journey.

We traveled by train from Delphi to Haridwar and then by car to Richikesh. People in India drive exactly like they drive in Colombia. Wild and crazy. Insane. I rode in the front seat of the car we were in and I had a grand time. I love driving in Colombia and I love riding in a car in India.

Rishikesh is a city along the Ganges River best noted for the Ashram of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and the home of TM, where the Beatles spent time in 1968 -- 50 years ago. We visited the ashram. It was abandoned in 1971 when the Maharishi left for the Netherlands. It was eery and wonderful.

I could feel the laughter: George and Paul and maybe John. Mia Farrow along with her sister were there. Donovan was there. I could feel the color and the light. The light and the enthusiasm were vibrant. Innocence and eagerness blossomed then. Yet now the loss and the emptiness were almost overwhelming. Abandonment. Forgotten. After there time in the ashram, the Beatles broke up, and each one of them went their own way.. They came to India and the ashram to find themselves. Maybe they did. We didn’t like it, but maybe they did find themselves. Could be.

Once a world famous ashram, now it is Rajiji, a tiger reserve. The buildings are decaying with black algae slowing covering the walls. Broken glass and rotting wood window frames. Weeds growing through the broken concrete. The kitchen, the post office, the printing room, the meditation rooms, the Beatles bungalow, the Maharishi’s bungalow, and the roof top where they all gathered. The memories are all there and the vestiges of that time are also still there. Decaying. Rotting. Yet still clinging to life. It was eery. Depressing and exhilarating.

Rishikesh was our last stop in India. We arrived on September 15. We are leaving on September 30. Only 15 days? No. A lifetime. We are currently in Kathmandu and we are going trekking for the next three days. In the Himalayas, in the quiet villages, and there I will sit with my experiences of India.

It wasn’t what I expected and I suspect it was more.

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The Quest in India #4

Thursday, October 18, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #4

The Taj Mahal at dawn. I had images in my head: A magical moment, a solitary moment with that majestic structure and its grand gardens. I imagined that a full moon would set just as the sun would rise and it would be a memorable moment, maybe even a defining one. In my imagination, I stood alone, just the Taj Mahal and me.

Once again on the bus at 5:30 for a 10 minute drive to the bus parking lot and then a golf cart type bus ride to the entrance. The moon was amber and, yes, it was full. However there were hundreds of people already there and bus loads of people were arriving by the minute. Scrap the solitary moment.

We got in the men’s queue and waited for the gate to open. We moved quickly and orderly through security and then through the gate. I stood there alone among hundreds of people who, in that moment, all disappeared. I stood alone suspended in silence being held by beauty. The right side of the dome shown bright. Dazzling, while the left side remained in soft shadow. I thought of the quotation: “Beauty is a demanding lover.” I had understood that at the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. I understood it again this morning. Majestic is too small a word.

Everyone I had talked to had said that the Taj Mahal was so much more than could be captured in photographs. I took photos, and they were right. Even so, I wanted to record a moment. I wanted to create an iconic symbol of a moment that is eternal.

Finally I moved. I walked slowly forward, then down the steps and along the pathway. A long fountain and then a reflective pool to my left and two of the four gardens to my right. Aware of my surroundings, I kept my eye, my focus, on that shimmering white marble sculpture called the Taj Mahal -- that shimmering light that stood there unobstructed against a clear blue sky. There was a reverence there. Serenity. Peace. Sure, there were kids running about and laughing or talking loud, but even they would fall quiet.

Beauty demands respect. It can also awaken respect, and it did.

We were there for only two hours, but when time stops, that is enough.

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India, September 23, 2018

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: India, September 23, 2018
What a day in Jaipur! Riding elephants is a slow way to go, but it's fun.

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The Quest in India #2

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #2

Today was delicious. India finally came alive for me and it was hot and sweaty and exhausting and wonderful. I could feel the juice of India and I could inhale the scent of this land and its people.

We had been in Trivandrum for two days. Our tour group of 17 were packed and lining up to board the bus. We would travel most the morning to our day’s destination. I don’t remember the town. That wasn’t significant. Our destination was the canals that had been all man-made centuries ago. We would board a house boat, three couples per boat, and we would cruise the wide canals as we ate a tradition Kerala cuisine lunch. After lunch we would board smaller boats to tour the narrow canals -- the neighborhood canals -- up close and definitely personal. As the sun set we would have dinner on our house boat and eventually retire to spend the night.

The houseboats were converted rice boats: table, dining chairs, and lounge chairs on the front deck under a thatched roof, three bedrooms, each with its own air conditioner and private bath, and then there was the kitchen for the three-man staff and a chef. We had a sweet afternoon with a delicious lunch.

At 4:30 we boarded our small canal boats and headed into the narrow canals. I first noticed a pile of books with swollen pages, books. lots of them, that had gotten wet. They were spread out on the retaining wall which was made of brick and dried black mud. Then I noticed pillows, couch cushions, and mattresses piled on those crusty mud retaining walls. Oh! I remembered, this area had been flooded about two weeks ago. Our boatman said the water had been chest deep. The water had retreated but the scars were still visible and the sadness was almost palpable. Even in the midst of that tragedy, even as much of the beauty had been flooded and washed away, there were telltale signs of recovery. Laughing children. People greeting each other as they walked the pathways lining the canals.

We returned to our houseboat. We traveled a bit further and then they moored the boat. Dinner was at 7:30. We had planned to play Euchre after dinner but everyone retired to their rooms by 9:45. It had been a full day.

After breakfast on Tuesday morning we disembarked, and we were off again on the bus to the Cochin Airport for our flight to Mumbai. 17 of us and our guides, each with luggage to be checked and with carryon, yet it went elegantly. A bit slow but easy.

Mumbaii didn’t speak to me. It’s the financial capital of India. There are 18 million, that 18,000,000 people in the city. Over 7 million of them ride the metro system each day. It’s big, it’s sprawling, and the traffic is insane. As we were inching along in bumper to bumper traffic midday on a Tuesday, I thought this insane traffic is just like the traffic in Colombia. The drivers are crazy wild yet they never collide with each other. There are shockingly few traffic lights or stop signs. It’s a free for all. And then add the swarming motorcycles and motorbikes. Like cockroaches, they scurry in between cars doing everything they can to get to the head of the line of traffic. On a mission to nowhere.

I realized, I am still in my safe place. This crazy traffic is so familiar, so comfortable, and it so at home in Colombia. I also realized that it’s much harder to get outside my safe place than I thought it would be. We stayed at a beautiful hotel in Mumbai -- Taj Land’s End -- even so, I didn’t feel I had touched India yet.

We flew to Udaipur on Thursday morning after two nights in Mumbai. We are staying at The Taj Lake Palace Hotel, and it’s one of the most elegant hotel I’ve encountered. It’s a beautiful hotel in the middle of a manmade lake in a region of manmade lakes. It’s beautiful and elegant, but mostly it is the impeccable service that we are receiving that makes this place special. But no matter who grand the hotel is, it was are very busy day today that has awakened my passion.

We went into the city and headed for a tour of the Palace, the Crystal Palace, and then to the Monsoon Palace that sits perched high above the city. All of that was really wonderful, but for me it was the walk down a street lined in small shops with vendors trying to lure you into their place that was alive and wonderful. Groups of locals standing around talking about their day, beggars quietly asking for money, people just living their daily lives. A boy, five maybe six years old, was struggling to push a rickety wheelchair with an obviously crippled old woman. Shriveled body, crippled crumpled legs, arthritic fingers. He was opening and closing his hand asking for money, screaming at me without uttering a sound. We walked to the Hindu Temple which was alive with music and chanting and dancing. It was enchanting. As we walked up the countless number of very steep steps, there were two very young boys sitting on the side. Their hands were opening and closing. I recognized the language. One had to be only 5 and the other couldn’t have been more than 3. On the other side of the steps an ancient man cradling an infant sat silently quietly blessing anyone who gave him money. The smallest gift -- $10 in India rupee (14 cents USD) was appreciated. It was painful and it was beautiful. I didn’t “love it,” but I thrived on feeling it.

India came alive today. Maybe I came alive today. I definitely stepped outside my safe place.

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The Quest in India #1

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: The Quest in India #1

If it weren’t for all the electronic equipment, entering the Trivandrum Airport would have been akin to stepping back into a simpler time, a more comfortable time. It was balmy hot but 30 degrees cooler than Dubai. The breeze was soft but yet springtime sweet even though Fall is approaching. We had to stop to finalize our e-visa which we had purchased online months ago. It was fast and simple. Luggage came and we were out the door.

We traveled to Dubai with friends. In India our friends and we joined a small tour of 14 other people. Some from the States, but most are from Canada. By 2:00 p.m. we were checked into the Taj Green Cove Resort in Trivandrum, India. It close to the lower tip of India, on the west coast on the Arabian Sea.

First impression: it felt a bit like Bali and a bit like Colombia to me. Lush green, an abundance of Palm Trees. Hot, muggy yet balmy and delightfully inviting. The multicolored building -- bright pink, turquoise, lime green, and drab white or beige -- were made of concrete block with flat roofs and stucco finishing. Litter -- plastic bottles, scraps of paper, miscellaneous junk -- everywhere. The stucco was stained by age, mold and mildew, or neglect. Ugly and beautiful in the same moment. Yet even the ugliness seemed to have a certain undefinable stature. As we bounced along on the bus from the airport to our hotel, I thought about how my first impressions of India were a mix of Bali and Colombia. It’s a mix of my past, of places I’ve been to and of places with which I am familiar, comfortable, and safe. I am begin this quest for “my safe place,” which is in the mix of the past, even in the seduction of the past, and it’s time to break free. So I will step beyond my safe place, but first I will acclimate here -- here in Trivandrum. From here, I don’t know but I realize that i am seeking a new kind of freedom. Freedom to become other than who I’ve been. Yes, this trip is going to be significant.

We arrived at Taj Green Cove Resort. Off the main road, along a short open road, we quickly came to the gates of an elegant resort. The sweeping wood floors and the lobby without walls, the local juice drinks as we waited to register, and the golf carts eager to escort us to our rooms, yes the resonance of Bali thrives everywhere here.

It’s a unwind and recover from jet lag day. However, having flown in for Dubai, it was just an unwind day in my ‘“safe place.” Down the cobblestone pathway we reached our room, a cozy cabin with a balcony looking out over the lush foliage that crowded the view.

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On Our Way to India #3 . . . Goodbye Dubai . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: On Our Way to India #3 . . . Goodbye Dubai . . .

 

On our second full day in the Middle East (Thursday), we took a tour to Abu Dhabi. The drive across the desert was uneventful. What stood out was the vastness of the desert. Baron. Lifeless. However, when we enter the Emirates of Abu Dhabi, there were green trees lining the highway. More life amid the vastness. As we approached the city, it seemed to all of us, that the resonance was very different here. Our tour guide explained that Abu Dhabi, the largest Emirates among the seven Emirates still has a massive supply of oil so it’s development remained “local” while Dubai’s development became foreign. There is a clear sense that Abu Dhabi has mainly local residents -- Emirati. However, currently Abu Dhabi is following Dubai’s map and tourism is on the rise. And again, the biggest, the best, the first are the key words.

We had lunch at the Emirates Palace Hotel. It was built in 2002 and it was the most expensive hotel ever built. The room rates more or less begin at $1,000.00 USD per day and can reach $25,000.00 to $30,000.00 USD per day. Insane. But the buffet lunch that caters to tourists was delicious.

We then went to the Grand Mosque. It truly is grand and majestic. Powerful. The white marble with its floral inlaid design and the jeweled chandeliers, made the Mosque so light with such radiant beauty. It was stunning. Breathtaking. It’s grandeur captured the light of spirit and the religious experience transcends organized religion. It was a divine place regardless of what name you give divinity.

It happens to be the 7th largest Mosque in the world. The first and second largest ones are in Mecca. It also has the largest hand woven rug in the world; over 1000 people worked on it. I couldn’t help but thinking of the Lemuria women working weaving magic at a Lemurian Festival. Such magic still unfolds. The Mosque however is new. It was built in 2007.

Enrique and I had seen Mosques in the Andalusian region of Spain when we were there last March-April. They are build of regional stone and mostly in the Gothic style. Dark. Closed in. But not gloomy. They were also majestic in a different way. They were also rich with history and with tradition. They were build for the purpose of worship and to express gratitude. There was the sense of divinity and that sense was mixed with something that I call regal. I think I appreciated the depth of those Mosques more than the radiant light of the Grand Mosque.

We returned to Dubai, took a nap, and then headed out to dinner at the At.Mosphere Restaurant in the Burja Khalifa. It is the tallest building in the world and on the 123rd floor there is a fabulous restaurant with amazing views of the Dubai. We had a window table. We sat down to dinner at 9:15 and after an elegant evening we left the restaurant close to 1:00 a.m. Our waiter, Bruno from Croatia -- 80% of the people in Dubai are expats – was amazing. We won’t forget his name nor the quality of the service. This dinner was one of the highlights of our time in Dubai.

Friday was our quiet do-nothing day. We did nothing. It was too hot –114 degrees. We packed and got ready to go the airport. Our flight from Dubai to Trivandrum, India left at 2:50 a.m. (early Saturday morning). We would arrive in India at 8:45 a.m. Saturday, September 15.

So we said goodbye to Dubai. I am glad we stopped for a few days. Had never been and I wanted to see and to feel the place. However, I wouldn’t return. It feels too man-made with too little green. It’s progressive and inventive, innovative, even, but it’s not a place that I would like to vacation. So, goodbye.

More to follow.

 

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On Our Way to India #2 . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: On Our Way to India #2 . . .

The small white building between the two tall buildings is a Hilton Hotel in Abu Dhabi. In 1960 it was the tallest building in that city. Amazing.

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On Our Way to India #1 . . .

Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Blog: On Our Way to India #1 . . .

On the way to the restaurant, my thoughts drifted back to the past. 2003, Enrique and I were on our way to dinner. Then we were in Washington D.C. and we walked across the bridge into Georgetown. We stopped at an English Pub. Our waiter was Colombian. What a coincidence, right? And then the bus boy was also Colombian. I joked with Enrique: Colombia claims to have a population of 75 million, but I think there are probably 150 million and half of them are spread all over the world. Who would imagine that at an English Pub in Georgetown would have two Colombians working there? The joke precipitated because we encountered a Colombian vendor on the Santa Monica Pier a month earlier and two Colombians on our way from Los Angeles to Washington D.C.

Tonight we were in our way to a restaurant, “La Hambra” at the “Al Qasr” Hotel in Dubai. We were on our way to meet, wait for it, one of Enrique’s Colombian aunts and one of his many Colombian second cousin and family for a birthday dinner. Really? We stopped off in Dubai for a few days on our way to India and not only do we meet a Colombian, we meet up with Enrique’s family of six Colombians. Enrique’s aunt lives 10 minutes away from us in Colombia and we haven’t seen her in six months, but we meet up with her in Dubai. Well, half the population, and now half of Enrique’s Colombian family, are out there scattered all over the world.

After the workshop in Los Angeles, on Monday afternoon, we boarded our flight for Dubai. We arrived Tuesday evening after adding 11 hours to the 16 hour flight. We will be here for three days to sort of “de-jet lag” before arriving in Trivandrum, India on Saturday morning. For the following 21 days we will be traveling up the west coast of India to Mumbai and eventually to Kathmandu, Nepal. We will be trekking for 3 days in Nepal before returning to Kathmandu to fly home to California.

Dubai is a fascinating city that is teeming with construction — I saw at least 30 construction cranes, really I am not exaggerating. It is also a city that is adding new “firsts” to its already long list of firsts: Tallest building in the world, first indoor real snow ski slopes (in Emirates Mall), largest aquarium (in Dubai Mall), largest Mall (again Dubai Mall with over 1000 stores and a construction cost of close to $65 billion USD), largest water park (again in the Dubai Mall). The list goes on. In 2020 Dubai hosts the World Expo and they expect one 200,000 tourists, and the expected revenues are astounding. This city is excited about the future and eager to create its new world.

Dubai was a small fishing village in the 1700s. It was one of seven tribes that eventually became seven Emirates. It was nothing more until after World War II. Oil was discovered in 1962, production began in 1969, and the seven Emirates united. Thus the UAE -- United Arab Emirates. Oil and natural gas are still prevalent in Abu Dhabi , but they are all but exhausted in Dubai. I was surprised to learn that oil production is only 4% of GNP in Dubai. Tourism is first, real estate investment is second followed by financial services. In the 2008 economic collapse, UAE and Dubai took that failure as a springboard for massive innovation: Tourism.

We had a really fun dinner at “La Hambra” a Spanish restaurant with Spanish speaking waiters: Tapas and wine and passionate conversation spiced with laughter. Tomorrow we are off to Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. More to follow.

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Road Trip in Spain #6: The Procession of Alhambra in Granada

Monday, May 7, 2018
Blog: Road Trip in Spain #6: The Procession of Alhambra in Granada

I don’t know what happened. All of a sudden, a rush of energy and tears were flowing down my face. I was laughing. I was overwhelmed with caring and compassion for humankind.

Saturday was Cathedral, museum, and Procession Day in Granada. We skipped breakfast, walked out of the Parador de Granada Hotel at 11:00, and caught the bus down from Alhambra to the Plaza Nueva. From there we walked the side streets toward the Cathedral, and stopped at a tiny pizzeria for a slice – breakfast. We continued along what seemed an alleyway that was lined with little restaurants, bars, and cafés. We rounded a bend, and there was the Cathedral. Grand. Looming, but not majestic. It took more than 180 years to build, and its architecture expresses three different styles. It’s bell tower is shorter than it had been planned – cut off – because the foundation of the building was Gothic while the bell tower was Renaissance. A Gothic foundation couldn’t support the weight of a Renaissance tower.

We waited in line for tickets and marveled at the human statues standing so still waiting for tourists to give them change in exchange for a photo. There was one that I thought really was a bronze statue until Enrique pointed out he was looking at, not a book as I had first thought, but at an iPhone. I gave the guy a big tip for his creativity and got a photograph.

We did the Cathedral tour; I wasn’t impressed although it’s a really significant Cathedral. Second largest (next to the Cathedral in Sevilla) in Spain and it has the authentic tomb of the Catholic Monarchs and the remains of three other Royals, one of which was Michael who would have been king of both Spain and Portugal except he died at age two. His was the small coffin at the side of the tomb.

From the Cathedral we walked to a museum of the Inquisition in Spain, and specifically in Granada. It was fascinating and disappointing. Fascinating because it had a collection of torture devices used in the Inquisition along with vivid descriptions. I was amazed at how sexually “erotic” so many of the tortures were: The prisoner was strapped naked on this device or naked to that device or placed naked in a cage in the public square for all to see. Anal and vaginal probes were used as well as nipple clamps for men as well as for women, and hot pokers were prevalent. These uptight, prudish, and “pure men of Christ” played out their dark sexual fantasies. Reminds me of the pious evangelist who is having an extramarital affair or the Pro-Life zealot who encouraged his mistress to have an abortion. Hypocrisy is timeless I guess.

The museum also had a section about the Jewish population of Granada and how they were persecuted during the Inquisition. For many the Inquisition was inspired as a way to rid Granada of its Jewish population and to punish those Jews who had converted to Catholicism. Ironically, they were considered heretics and had to confess their sins. Their punishment? Often death, but for sure the confiscation of their property and their wealth. Amazing. But I was disappointed because the information around the Inquisition and the Jews was very limited and pretty superficial.

We kept watching the time, well, I kept watching the time, because at 5:00 one of the most famous and beautiful processions – the “Maria, Virgin of Alhambra” Procession – was scheduled to begin. A Procession is a parade with usually two bands and with church participants, many in colorful costumes, and carrying religious symbols and artifacts. Lots of candles and robed men and women. Children too. The focus of the processions is to carry the religious float-statue from the church to the Cathedral. I say float-statue because I don’t have the proper words. It’s a huge life-like statue depicting a scene in Christ’s life especially around the crucifixion and resurrection. Easter. There are often two or more figures on a float, countless candles, other elaborate gold or silver ornaments, and lots of flowers. These statue-floats weight 2,000 to 3,000 pounds.

In this procession on Easter Saturday, it’s two statues – Mary overcome with sorrow as she holds a crucified Jesus. The statues, as with so many others in other processions, were crafted in the 1700s and have been carried to the Cathedral for what seems forever. This procession begins when they open the church in Alhambra. The marching band plays and the participants take their places as the Stevedores (they are the young men who carry the float-statue on their shoulders, Stevedores, that’s what they’re called) leave the church and begin their march to descend through the Gate of Justice, down the switchback narrow roadway, and then on to the Cathedral.

It was 4:00 and we hadn’t eaten since our slice of pizza in the morning. We ducked into a side alley and found a delightful little restaurant for a fast lunch. 4:30, we returned to the street and began walking up to get close to the beginning point of the procession. The procession should begin at 5:00 and it should arrive at the Cathedral at 9:00 -- four hours later -- to travel a distance that would take 30 minutes to walk. The street was filling up as we continued to climb the street to get closer to Alhambra. Finally we found a place and we sat on the stoney curb to wait. It was 5:00. We hear the band playing.

5:45 -- “Hey, it’s Colombia ... no it’s Spain!” The procession finally began. Now I have no particular affiliation with the Catholic Church, and I am not particularly enamored with other expressions of the Christian religion or with any religion. Religious experiences and a personal relationship with God/Goddess/All That Is and with my Soul? Yes. So I am curious and I am enjoying the procession. Many of the marchers wear pointed hoods. They were hoods used by knights in the medieval times. They looked akin to Ku Klux Klan hoods. Spooky. Or like dunce caps. Funny. Others are obviously church dignitaries and elders. They march very slowly, and they stop frequently. The Stevedores are carrying lots of weight, and they have to stop and rest regularly. Suddenly everything stops. No movement for 10, 15, 20 minutes. What’s wrong? People moved into the street to look. Nothing.

Suddenly movement again. Applause begins flowing down the street ahead of the approaching float. The Stevedores, carrying 2,500 pounds on their shoulders, had to kneel down and walk on their knees for 30 feet or more to get the statue through the Gate of Justice! On their knees! A stoney path for 30 feet! On their knees! OMG. Devotion. Responsibility (returning to their promises to God). Stunning.

The statue came along. The statue of Mary in her sorrow was amazing. Without warning tears streamed down my face and I was laughing with joy. Not for the church, but for the honor and responsibility of the Stevedores and joy and caring and compassion for humankind and humanity. It wasn’t about religion, it was about a religious – a re-aligning – experience that transcends form.

I thought I would include a photo of the float-statue, but I didn't. My photographs didn't capture the richness or the beauty. It fell far short of the reality. So no photo.

I came away with understanding beyond accessing, with understanding that involves inference, appreciation, and valuing valuation. These processions have value historically and ritualistically for people of the Catholic faith, but I think they can have value for so many more and for so many other reasons -– reason other than the obvious.

For me, Saturday and the procession was unforgettable and it was life shifting and life changing. More than memorable. Magical.

 

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Road Trip in Spain #5: Alhambra

Monday, May 7, 2018
Blog: Road Trip in Spain #5: Alhambra

A palace, a fortress, a walled community, a self-sustained village, Alhambra was all of this and more. Now a World Heritage Site, Alhambra began as a Sultan’s summer home and governmental palace as well as his homage to Paradise. It was also a strong hold of Muslim power in the Iberian Peninsula for 12 Sultan before the Christian Conquest by the Christian Monarchs, King Ferdinand, along with Queen Isabella, in 1492. The Monarchs worked to preserve and enhance the palace and summer home. They also added to the grounds with their own buildings. Carlos V also worked to preserve the beauty as well as the integrity of Alhambra. He also added his own palace with the ancient walls as a honeymoon gift to his bride, Isabella (a different Isabella). However his palace was never finished and never occupied. It remains unfinished now.

Wednesday: We arrived in Granada mid-afternoon, and after a few wrong turns even with our GPS guide, we found our way to the Parador de San Francisco -- the Parador de Granada. We chose this hotel because it is within the grounds of Alhambra, a plateau in the heart of the city. Of the Paradores we’ve visited, it is the most elegant. It was once a monastery built on the orders of the Catholic Monarchs, where there was once a Muslim palace; remnants of the palace remain. Muslim and Christian architecture are intermingled, and the hotel, with its grand interior courtyard, is now totally refurbished and remodeled with an additional “new section.” Now it’s one of the exclusive hotels in Granada. Our room with a view is in the old section. The hotel is a bit of paradise in its own way.

Before sunset we walked down to the city. Out the Gate of Justice and down a very steep hill, we reached another gate to the city of Granada. The narrow street was lined with shops and small cafés and busy with tourists walking up and down. We continued walking down and arrived at the Plaza Nueva (the New Plaza). We explored a bit and found an outdoor café for tapas and Sangria. As night surrounded us, we could hear the percussion of a distant Easter Procession. In time, we hailed a cab to drive us back to Alhambra. Because of all the Easter Processions during this week, he had to take the long way around. It took 30 minutes to walk down and another 30 minutes to drive back.

Thursday: Yesterday afternoon, we had scheduled a private tour -- the only way to enjoy the rich history of Alhambra --for today. We met our guide, Maria, in the hotel lobby at 2:00. Since our hotel is within the walls of Alhambra, we had a short walk to the vast formal gardens so characteristic of the Muslim style and sensibility. Sculpted shrubbery with low bubbling fountains and water canals embedded in the tile floors create a mystical ambiance of tranquility and peace -- exhilaration and serenity spontaneously. The summer houses and the palace were resoundingly reflective of the Moor and Arabic expressions of beauty. The courtyards held visions of glorious serenity and of peaceful yearnings for the unfathomable of the divine. The words I write are not enough but they are the best I have to describe the wonder of Alhambra.

Our three hour tour lasted 4 hours. Maria, our guide, was gracious and so eager to answer all our questions. She was a sweetheart. The tour was in English, but she was delighted that Enrique spoke Spanish. That reality enhanced our private tour.

A full and fulfilling day was even more. Enriching. Enchanting. Alhambra is almost overwhelming. The beauty of the Muslim art is astounding. The precision, the attention to detail, the symbolism, and the vision all augment the richness of color and light and wonder. Room after room, courtyard after courtyard, fountain after fountain, it is unending.

There is so much that I could say about Alhambra but the thing that stood out for me was how the Muslims and the Sultans created enchanting beauty and the Christians worked to maintain and to enhance that beauty. Even as they destroyed mosques to build their own churches, they didn’t destroy Alhambra. Again the realization: Beauty is eternal. It speaks to our soul and to wherever is divine in each of us, and it speaks throughout the Ages.

Thursday was full. We were fulfilled. Granada is an amazing city. A triumph of beauty.

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