Wednesday, October 15, 2014

pumpkin spice kremówka

I saw a small little book in the pew: The Shorter Book of Christian Prayer.
Instantly, I remembered my own little Shorter Book of Christian Prayer that I had left on the bottom rack of the coat rack of the cardinal's palace in Kraków.
How strange, that our memories can leap like that so easily: from one thing to another.

I ran outside my front door at 5:30am, hoping against hope to see the blood moon.
My quiet city street was lit up with that eerie autumn light that hangs in the sky in the dusk before dawn.
The wind whipped through the trees, creating a mournful rustling sound.
I forgot how much I loved that time of day: that time when even the most crowded cities are deliciously lonely, when even the mundane townhouses are a bit uncanny.
I don't know what it is about autumn, but it full of so many distinct sensory moments and impressions.
There's something about the world around us dismantling and falling asleep that heightens all our senses. You can try to capture the essence of fall in many ways (here's looking at you, pumpkin spice latte), but I feel that there is no substitute to the experience of autumn in the morning, in that dark time just before dawn. It's in that dark space just before dawn when you discover or what you are really missing.
One place I have been missing like crazy is Kraków. This is taking me by surprise, because Kraków is not a place I had ever long desired to visit, or desired to see. But it is a place I visited last fall, during the part of the season that can only be described as "high autumn."
 It was that lovely October weather that everyone is trying to imprison in a pumpkin spice latté, but you cannot capture it without diluting it.
But Kraków in the fall is like a wonderland of golden light, like a loaf of bread baked just past perfection. I remember walking through the old city, experiencing something completely new: not just new surroundings, but a new part of my heart inside of me.
Being in this ancient, melancholic land shook up something inside of me.
As the autumn leaves of Eastern Europe swirled under my feet, I felt a new loneliness and a new freedom well up inside of me, all at once. I was someone new, someone unknown. As dear and tender as this land about me, and yet, strangely, just as foreign. 
 Somewhere among the winding streets and savory tea shops of Kazimierz, the woody heights of Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, and the rough and shining stones and bright stalls of Stare Miasto, I became someone entirely new. 
And now, I miss it. I miss the taste of fresh air from Jasna Gora in my lungs and the powder-y sugar taste of kremówka on my tongue. I miss waking up in a room filled with other pilgrims. I miss the strange adventure of bus rides through the countryside. I miss the churches, and the constant surprises within them.
Now, a year later, I wonder that I thought so little of my new self at the time. Isn't it funny, says Prince Caspian, how day-by-day, nothing changes, but when you look back, everything is different.

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