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yin and yang and jet trails

A few minutes ago, as I sat working by the window, I looked up and saw a long white trail being scrawled across the sky. Quite beautiful in a whole new way. Airports are functioning again, and now I wonder if Anna and I made the right decision. The timing was just that bit wrong, having to decide yesterday afternoon when a new ash cloud seemed to be looming. But now – up there is a trail. The world is slicing through the skies again, but my daughter is over there, and I am over here.

I will confess to you – since Anna doesn’t read this blog – that the selfish part of me is fine with that. The selfless mother part wants to be showing Paris to her right this minute. Before it’s too late and she vanishes completely into her own life, I want to share the riches of this culture with her – the care people take with food and dress, the quantity of sublime cultural experiences – a whole other way to live.
But the selfish me is perfectly content alone in my silent little flat, deciding each day what to do, changing my mind whenever I feel like it – it’s the ultimate in self-indulgence and good for the soul. I will probably spend late mornings and afternoons seeing things and late afternoons and evenings writing. That’s what I did today, and it worked wonderfully. In the morning, I plotted a path to the Musee Marmottan-Monet, right on the other side of Paris on the edge of the Bois de Boulogne – once again, as last year, trying to avoid the metro and go by bus. I found a route not too far from here and set off with my trusty picnic lunch – two sandwiches today – and water.
I ate my paté sandwich on the bus, looking out at wisteria, cherry blossom, lilac and Paris whipping by and listening to two Parisians, strangers to each other, help two French girls visiting here for the first time plan their itinerary. By the time the girls got off at Trocadero, by the Eiffel Tower, the four were giggling like old friends, and I thought again that Parisians are not at all cold and standoffish, at least, to people who speak French. The Tower was spectacular, silhouetted against the blue sky and surrounded by that welcome sight – swirling jet trails.
The Musee is a beautiful huge house that used to be a royal hunting lodge and holds a big collection of Impressionist paintings, including the very first, an 1872 painting of Monet’s that he didn’t know what to title. He said, “Call it ‘Impression of the rising sun,'” and the rest is history. There’s a subterranean room of Monet’s work including some of his water lilies, in front of which a young American mother with three young children bent down to ask her oldest, “What does that make you think of, Josh?”
“A plant in the sky,” he said confidently. Could be, indeed. Monet is so visceral a painter – a trio walk through a field of wildflowers in summer, and just by the shimmering green of the shade umbrellas they hold, you can tell how hot it is, smell the flowers and the pungent earth, hear the crickets. You can see how rainy it was on his trip to London, how misty the early mornings were in Giverney – surely no painter does mist better. There’s a section at the museum on his eye operations and glasses, so I guess there’s a question about whether he was really seeing mist or just having eye trouble.
There’s a lovely quote engraved above the stairs down, Louis Gillet about the waterlilies, that they show “ou le coeur se raconte … se livre … chante ses emotions.”
Where the heart tells itself stories – gives itself over – sings its emotions.
Upstairs there was a really good special exhibit of paintings by women through the ages; the museum itself has many canvases by Berthe Morissot, the only female Impressionist. And there were panels about the many salons run by women, which nurtured artists of all kinds, painters, musicians, writers. Proust seemed to be at them all. I wondered – where are the salons of today? Where are the rich people who like to entertain artists and be entertained by them, introduce them to each other and to other rich people and, not incidentally, give them much-needed free food and drink? Step up to the plate, rich people! Bring back the salon!
On the second floor are illuminated manuscripts from the twelfth to the fifteenth century, exquisite artwork done by priests in books of hours and missals.
A good time was had. Post cards were bought. Time for lunch; my ham sandwich awaited. My plan was to go into the Bois de Boulogne nearby, find a tranquil spot and have my own little dejeuner sur l’herbe, but as I walked into the wood, I discovered that a major arterial highway into Paris runs right under this part of the Bois, and I’d have to go quite far into the shrubbery to get away from the noisy rush of cars. I found a small park near the museum instead, ate my sandwich and chocolate, and got the bus back, getting off at the Eglise St. Germain and walking up the rue de Rennes. I had an important engagement with Arcus Shoes, which seems to understand my difficult, big, bunioned feet as no other shoemaker ever has. And sure enough, I found the perfect pair of flat, comfortable, lightweight shoes that FIT. To hell with art and culture, I think I came back to Paris just for that.
Well – and cheese.
And art and culture. Really. But Arcus shoes too.
Along Gertrude and Alice’s rue Fleurus, across the Jardin, home. Walked around in here admiring my shoes until I forced myself to sit down and start work. And, with a stop for supper and several stops for email and Facebook and YouTube – and you – I’ve been at it ever since. It’s 10.00 p.m., and I’ve said seventeen words all day, asking directions and pointing to shoes. If Anna were here, I would have said seventeen thousand. I miss her, miss her terribly, and I feel guilty for enjoying my solitary day. But onward.



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About Beth

I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

Some Blogs I Follow

Chris Walks
This blog evolves. It once was about travels. Now it’s a reason to be at the keyboard that I value.

Theresa Kishkan
Theresa Kishkan is a writer living on the Sechelt Peninsula on the west coast of Canada.

I walk on. With my feet, and in my mind as well.

Carrie Snyder
Wherever you’ve come from, wherever you’re going, consider this space a place for reflection and pause.


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