30 seconds in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London

A piece I wrote in January and thought I had posted, but apparently had not. 


The first time I saw St. Paul’s Cathedral rising over the Millennium Bridge was about 10 years ago. Then, as now, I was coming to the end of a long and transformative trip. Then, as now, I was exhausted on some deep cellular level. Then, as now, my hands had physically molded into the shape of my suitcase handle. I had the added complications of sloshing hormones, a tattered relationship with a good woman and the woefully incomplete self-knowledge you could expect of a 20-year-old who, on top of it, had a disability and a gender identity she didn’t yet have the tools to understand.

But, then as now, the towering majesty of St. Paul’s took my breath away. Even as an atheist, even as someone who’d only passed through London a few times, I understood the power of the image that appeared in London papers at the height of the Blitz in 1940, of the Cathedral dome rising out of the smoke of the bombs. Even though I was unsurprised to find out that it was partially a montage — “more of the picture has been changed than not,” one researcher said — the symbolism shook me.

I even, for the briefest of moments, regretted my decision not to have kids. It would be something to be able to walk with a child along the Thames, past Shakespeare’s Globe and the Tate Modern, up to the Millennium Bridge,  briefly grab their upper arm and say Stop. This is grace. This is beauty. This is permanence.


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