When is a Rose Not a Rose?

Why, when it is a rose window.

Tintern Abbey

Count the petals.

And again:

Tintern Abbey

In the second window, the bricked-in one, the one just above, the petals form a cross, but in the top one? Look again.

It’s not a rose. Rather, it’s a pagan image from Ukraine (and elsewhere), and a symbol of the sun. As you pass through the music that is the cathedral…

…silent music for a silent order, it reappears over and over, each time the same, and the walking, the body walking, speaks the words that would otherwise be praised by tongues.

It is the magic of calling the world into being by being in the world and by noticing that the noticing is the call. You don’t have to do this in a cathedral. You can do it in a cave.

You can still walk it, though. The image below shows a road cut in Vernon. Here, the power of the Earth was not framed. Rather, it was blasted away, so that it conformed to the idea of a road. The result is not a series of openings or discoveries.

It is the past, set aside — perhaps the same impulse that saw the destruction of Tintern Abbey in 1536. In other words, to visit this cliff…

… is to visit Tintern …

… and vice versa. Some openings close nothing off. They open into openings.


One is born into an undefined space, a near-infinite one like the sea. It is the birth that defines it.

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