The space is large and quiet, the air still; at my feet blue and green tiles warm gently as they bask in the diffuse glow of the afternoon sun tipping in through a glass roof high above. It’s quiet here, distant voices bouncing to me over the vast floor, the hubbub of the crowd reduced to a murmur.
If I listen, close my eyes and really listen, all I hear is the gentle throb and hum of a public building – air conditioning? escalators? – punctuated by the melodious cadence of voices close enough to hear and to know they speak various languages, but whose words are indistinct.
This is my cathedral, my sanctuary, my sacred space. Over the years, as evidenced by my journal entries, I have returned repeatedly to this very spot – this seat at the far end of the landside Departures terminal at YVR airport – to reflect, to pray, to write.
It was from that phone bank, that booth there, that I telephoned my mom in 2007 to say our plans had completely come apart and we were unexpectedly heading in a different direction; I was on the next flight out, back to Amsterdam. She cried, and I did too. In this seat, over the years, I have variously fretted and rejoiced as I confided my anxieties and aspirations to my journal. And it was here, last November, that I reviewed my notes one more time before boarding the flight to London that would see me secure my present employment.
Vancouver International Airport succeeds better than any other I know in recognizing the airport as sacred space. Here, West Coast architecture, augmented by natural design features (wood trim, gentle colours, curved lines) and remarkably numerous and striking artwork all work together to heighten one’s awareness that travel is a spiritual exercise.
Totem, Graham Clarke Atrium
In this place we are all at a threshold, the bleep of a scanned boarding pass marking another life event: the death of a loved one, the birth of a child, a visit with a dear friend, a job gained or lost, a few days away to catch our breath again.
On this occasion my passage is joyous; I am heading home following my daughter’s wedding. But even as I said goodbye to my father-in-law this morning, at his condo in Abbotsford, I wondered at his frailty and if his passing might one day soon be the reason for my next visit. Or perhaps the birth of another grandchild?
I don’t know. But I do know that I will again seek out this corner, this quiet place, this sanctuary.