sketching chagall into my novel

These are quick illustrations I made of the Chagall windows at St. Stephen’s in Mainz, Germany in 2010. I needed the illustrations to help me write a chapter in my memoir ‘One Hour to Madness & Joy’ that takes place at St. Stephen’s. Now my drawings and whimsical interpretations are folded up in Sean’s wallet, and have been for months. You can see where I spilled coffee on it. It’s my emblem, my mark of ownership. Spilled coffee. Everywhere.
I would have never guessed, when Albert – my ex – and I spent time at St. Stephens that seven years later that I’d be going back there again and again with Sean in our imaginations as he helped to write this chapter. Sean was there with me all along, editing my movements and thoughts from England in 2013.

Sean told me that I’ve retraced my steps along the nave of St. Stephen’s Church so many times while editing the church chapter, that the amount of time I spent there in real life – one afternoon –  is just a fraction of the time I’ve inhabited aisle space in my mind. Sean wrote

 “I was musing earlier upon the fact that capturing your walk along the length of the aisle in the Chagall church involves such a long procession of writing and revising and revisiting…the initial moment may have been minutes, you original walk with Albert…(I am not sure how long, I am guessing here) but to recreate the walk there has been the journal entry, and the sketchings of the idea, the rough draft, the longer writing, the manuscript version, now the re-write…and you are not only noting the facts of what happened, you are flowing through events, with a unique eye, watching everything, seeing everything, the stained glass window, drawing upon personal mythology. The intensity of the walk needs a poet to capture all of these threads, to convey the moment, and you are of course, right back in the church, in your imagination. I wonder how many times you have walked up and down the aisle today, the floor shall be warm to your steps.”

The nave of St. Stephen’s Church is the longest in the world, I think. I am still only approaching the altar. This is a very real sort of haunting.

Sean and I visited Reims Cathedral in France in November and saw the Chagall windows there. It’s a bit of a pilgrimage for me. Chagall, windows, cathedrals…

The Chagall windows at Reims Cathedral, France. They bear a striking resemblance to the windows at St. Stephens – if you scroll back up to my sketch, you’ll see the same triple lancet windows, the languid sapphires.

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