I happened across a bit of serendipity yesterday. A couple of days ago we went to the zoo. There was a souvenir penny machine there. Noelle thought the crank was way awesome, so we made a penny. In the gift shop there was a souvenir penny collecting book. Well, being the collection making coin hunting man her father is I thought this is right up our alley.
On the back was imprinted a website, pennycollector.com. It is a database of all the souvenir penny machines in the world. Oh man. It’s on.
There are three in Santa Fe. Two are in historic chapels, one being the oldest church in the United States. I was hesitant about bringing Noelle, but you have to go where the penny collecting machine takes you. So Stephen dropped her and I off at the first chapel, the Loretta Chapel. Tucked into a shadowed nook by the entrance was a tree draped in a rainbow of rosarys. I was a bit in awe of its beauty. Quietly blowing in the wind hung testaments of people’s prayers offered humbly and reverently in front of this little adobe chapel. I think Noelle was as taken by it as I was.
We went into the chapel next, and Noelle slid quietly into a pew and looked around the church. I forgot how breathtaking the art and majesty are in these old cathedrals. It is enough to render even a three year old speechless.
Behind us stood the miraculous spiral staircase. This is what draws a quarter million visitors a year to this church. It is not held up by any supports and architects and engineers marvel at its perfection. The story is that the nuns who moved into the chapel could not use the ladders to the choir loft, so they prayed to St. Joseph for someone who could build them a staircase. A man showed up at their door 9 days later and built this architectural marvel, and disappeared as quickly as he came. There are three mysteries associated with the staircase: no one knows who built it, no one knows exactly how it is done, and no one knows where the non native wood came from.
After sitting longer than I was expecting to be able, we went to the gift shop where the penny making machine was said to hide out. Noelle loves gift shops. She is really careful to respect all the delicate pieces in them. I forget sometimes how grown up she has become. I usually have to cater our activities to what Sterling can handle, and so this was a wonderful and refreshing surprise to me to see how much she enjoyed such a quiet and reverent experience.
We looked at all the angels and statues. She is especially taken by Mary. She wanted a saint’s card of her picture and a rosary, specifically a red rosary. I told her Grandpa’s birthday is coming and he really likes all these beautiful things because he goes to a church like this one where he lives. She was especially excited to find some things she thought he might like .
On our way out we hung a rosary in memory of my father on the beautiful tree.
We walked a block down to the San Miguel Chapel, the oldest church in the country.
On the way Noelle stopped to marvel at glass sculptures, pottery fountains and hats, needing only an occasional reminder to just look. Visitors from the churches would stop to talk to her about her penny collection, and she would hold five minute conversations with them about all sorts of things. It was just really nice. I was basically in a state of amazement at her maturity. When did this happen?
That night I thanked the souvenir penny machines for what I was able to share with Noelle and for allowing me the chance to see the potential for many other outings together exploring a world of chapels and museums, quiet and contemplative experiences I knew intimately before she was born but I never dreamed I would know again so soon. I saw a side of this young girl I had only seen glimpses of before: quiet, reverent, in a world of wonder and thought, able to feel the energy of sacred spaces and fall quietly and comfortably into them.
A lucky penny indeed.