It’s just a photo

And yet a half dozen ideas collide in the mind; cities, clothes and robes, curiosity about a book called The Exorcist, war and more importantly – faith.

The photo was taken about 20 years ago in Hyde Park. I asked the husband to take it, his wife in the middle, her sister to our left. They may have wondered why, it was a little awkward at first but I wanted to take their picture and the two women were fine with it. Maybe they had something to say.

The quality isn’t great but it remains a favorite. There’s so many details and memories.

I used to go to London allot, back when travel was fun. But I was never a great traveller. In fact I’m surprised I traveled as much as I did. I took my kids, Colette and Godot, the two little papillons in the pic, to 27 countries. By plane, mostly by train and sometimes by car. Never really wanted to venture beyond Europe, although I did, and if I never get on a plane again I’ll be eternally happy.

Yet travel changed me, and made me a chronicler of cultural realities and tribes. It educated me how reference points shape our minds. How they change everything

Yesterday, I posted this photo in a photography group on LinkedIn and so far about 70 likes. It’s just a photo but it’s full. I should mention I’m wearing Issey Miyake because I felt my outfit was similar to their own, feeling some sort of silly solidarity, but that’s just me. I’m wearing a pair of shoes a Parisian friend hated but i loved all the more.

When I used to travel to London, I remember the impact of seeing Middle Eastern women in full garb, their clothes flowing so dramatically in the wind, so atmospheric, powerful, as i walked along London streets, visiting museums and friends.

I might as well have been hearing “tubular bells” . If you’re an American you’ll identify with that music and that haunting scene as she walks home, passing the nuns, and so much more, in The Exorcist. Robes flowing and menace in the air.

I experienced moments like that in Paris whenever I passed a small church lurking in the shadow of Notre Dame, located near our place in the 5th arrondissement. It was known for its Opus Dei undertones, so many nuns walking in and out, all at once, it was almost too much.

But I had to take that picture in Hyde Park. It was a different city, and a separate idea, but when I saw those robes flowing in the wind, in London, war was in the air. So those images come back too easily as war is closer now, on my own continent.

And then there’s that movie and the book and those Tubular Bells

William Friedkin directed The Exorcist and insisted on the following; if you saw the world darkly, you saw one film, but if you had faith (in humanity, god, etc) it was another film entirely. That idea took hold in the mind.

When I lived in Paris I had lunch with a friend at Cafe Flore and I told him I read The Exorcist at 12 or 13. I was captivated by the book. Whatever brought that up that topic I do not know but I specifically recall his response, “What were you doing reading the Exorcist at that age, did your mother know?”

I called Muv. Suddenly I too was curious, I called that very night, asking if she knew. Her response was quick and cool, “Of course I did darling, but you were reading everything else in our library”. I was also reading the Happy Hollisters now that I think about it.

She was the perfect mother for such a curious kid, but this photo got me thinking about lots of things. About cities and clothes, but really, it’s made me meditate on the idea of faith.

Life does take its time but it dawned on me precisely why that book captivated me at that age. I was entering the stage of reason. And I was beginning to understand how important it was to have faith.

To feel gratitude, deep gratitude and to have faith in me and those around me; in humanity, in everything – in spite of it all.

Published by baileyalexander

An American living in Piemonte. Sailed across the Atlantic aboard our 43 Nauticat in 2002 and spent over a decade living in Rome, Paris, Prague, Malta, Venice and Bucharest before settling in Piemonte, Italia.

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