My mother tells me that I went through a phase when I was little where the only movie I ever wanted to watch was Mary Poppins. Every day I asked her if I could watch it. I know the movie by heart. Do you remember the bird lady, who sits in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral, feeding the birds while Mary Poppins sings this song?
Early each day to the steps of Saint Paul’s
The little old bird woman comes.
In her own special way to the people she calls,
“Come, buy my bags full of crumbs.
Come feed the little birds, show them you care
And you’ll be glad if you do.
Their young ones are hungry,
Their nests are so bare;
All it takes is tuppence from you.”
Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.
“Feed the birds,” that’s what she cries,
While overhead, her birds fill the skies.
All around the cathedral the saints and apostles
Look down as she sells her wares.
Although you can’t see it, you know they are smiling
Each time someone shows that he cares.
Though her words are simple and few,
Listen, listen, she’s calling to you:
“Feed the birds, tuppence a bag,
Tuppence, tuppence, tuppence a bag.”
Standing on the steps of Saint Paul, I felt as though I were in a childhood dream. I could almost hear Julie Andrews sing that ethereal tune and see the pigeons circle above the steeple. I suppose the experience was so surreal because it provoked so many childhood memories, with a flood of reminiscent emotions that surged from the pit of my stomach.
I think it is the imagination that makes visiting historical sites so interesting. If I allow my mind to truly be in the present moment, I can stare at a painting or a statue and make it come alive. Can’t you just see the bishop striding toward the lowly lit altar, with his long robe gracing the cold tile and a crucifix hanging from his neck? Can you see the choir boys’s hair that was neatly combed by their mothers this morning? The sound of the Church bells ringing, the deep sound of the organ, the angelic voices of the choir? The strong smell of incense wafting up your nostrils?
What a fantastic feeling–to experience history through the senses, but more importantly, through the imagination.