Even a construction site looks lovely in this city! I don’t know what they’re doing here, but this site is in front of the Royal Hawaiian hotel (also known as the Pink Palace) and it sits on the main street through Waikiki.
Last Sunday, when we were wanderering through Waikiki, I decided to snap something other than the typical beach and palm trees. Here is the only revolving restaurant in Honolulu. I’ve never eaten there, but they claim to have a fantabulous view. I’m sure they do. It’s hard to have a bad view when you’re several stories up and only a block from the beach.
But my favorite experience of the day was the Catholic church. Mike, Mark, and I were walking along when I decided to veer off and go into the church. Why not? In Europe, churches (cathedrals, really) are always open and the public is welcome to wander in (unless there’s a service). Indeed, people expect to see a group of camera wielding tourists pointing and standing with their heads tilted back at unnatural angles.
I entered the gate, then walked back toward the glass doors of the church. A lady was coming from inside, but she didn’t blink when I opened the door (after peeking inside first). The worst that could happen, I figured, was I’d feel uncomfortable, like I was intruding, and then I’d turn around and leave.
But, no, I felt a sense of calm the instant I walked inside. One man sat in a pew, about a third of the way up, and the sunlight shone rainbow bright through the stained glass. The ceiling soared, up and up and up, like an inverted ship’s keel; I’m not sure, but it looked as if it were lined with small strips of teak or bamboo.
I sat on a pew in the very back and gazed at the light-drenched church. Amazingly, though busy Waikiki is right outside, and the ocean is across the street, no sound penetrated the interior. No cars, no people, no crashing surf. I didn’t take a picture of it, but all along both sides of the church are ornate, almost porthole looking circles in the walls. And the circles have cutouts to the outside, no screens, no glass that I could discern, and still there was no sound from the outside.
In spite of the simple beauty of this church, it hits me that I miss the cathedrals of Europe. Entering one of them is like walking inside a treasure chest. You never know what you’ll find: the ornate tombs of saints, the sculptures and frescoes of Michelangelo (or his tomb), the soaring ceilings ringed with angels and cherubs and saints, intricate wooden altars, golden altars, vials or boxes of saint’s blood or hair or bones, a robe of Christ (Trier), intricate stained glass windows, an organ that Mozart or Bach or Beethoven once played, medieval crypts, and a million other things I can’t even begin to list. The tiniest church in the smallest village can house a masterpiece of Renaissance art. The big churches take your breath away with their soaring vaults and chilly air and intricate altars.
In contrast, and I know it’s not fair, American churches are often plain in comparison. Once, while visiting my inlaws in Florida, Mike and I had occasion to drive to Ocala. We passed this gigantic, sprawling complex of modern looking buildings. I only realized it was a church by the presence of a cross on one of the buildings. In fact, it turned out to be one of those churches that broadcasts its Sunday service on television. You know the ones: huge auditorium structures that look like they’d be just as capable of hosting a Shriner’s convention as a religious gathering.
Maybe they’re spending all that dough on nice cars and Rolexes, or mascara as the case may be, but is it too much to ask to funnel a little bit of money toward some nice frescoes, a medieval crypt or two? 😉
After I pondered the delicious irony of an Episcopal priest videotaping inside the Catholic church (it’s a long way from the Reformation, yeah?), we headed out to the street once more. I kept thinking about the church, however, about how quiet it was. I told myself I would come to Waikiki during the week and I would go to the church and sit inside for as long as I wanted.
But I won’t do it, just like I won’t do many of the things I think I will during the week, like go to Waikiki with my Neo and sit in the Honolulu Coffee Company and write. Why? Because I start to think about the traffic, when’s the best time to go downtown, what time do I have to leave to avoid the afternoon rush, and where will I park that won’t cost a lot. That takes all the fun and romanticism out of the idea.
And really, when the sun is shining right outside my window, and the beach is a short car ride away, do I need to go to Waikiki? It’s just another day in paradise, where yesterday was like today and tomorrow holds the promise of more sun and sea breezes. In fact, though I might miss the majesty of European cathedrals, the true majesty is right here every time I walk outside: soaring lush mountains, lapis lazuli skies, white waterfalls, and a turquoise sea. Even Michelangelo can’t compete with that.