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the ridiculous and the sublime

A postcard I bought yesterday shows a Chinese proverb, translated as “La mémoire se perd, mais l’écriture demeure.” Memory is lost, but writing abides.

That’s the hope, anyway.
A good rhythm going here, for this writer in the Quartier Latin of Paris: mornings working, early afternoons doing errands, mid to late afternoons sight-seeing and galleries. The work is going well, that’s all I’ll say. Today’s errand was to go to look at the Galeries Lafayette flagship store, because it’s so gorgeous. Well. This time, I didn’t find it so much gorgeous as scary. There’s a Japanese feeding frenzy in there. What has happened in Japan, that there’s so much disposable income, such a ferocious drive for Western status products? As I wrote last year, there’s a special Japanese entrance to the store, and inside, hundreds buying Dior bags, Prada, Chanel, at vast cost. I don’t get it.
I wanted to see the new shoe department, and that’s pretty scary too – the entire basement level has been converted to a giant shoe emporium. Hundreds of brands, from the most exclusive to the relatively affordable, and there, thousands of women clamouring for shoes. I like shoes as much as the next woman, but I have to tell you, staying in that underground pit of consumption would have driven me mad. I couldn’t wait to climb out. It’s like the 5th level of hell. Bosch could paint it.
I wandered around the upper levels, the designer clothes – looked at Stella McCartney’s boutique, since she has such a fine name and a very nice dad. She is selling a lot of denim this season – you can get a nice jean skirt and jean shirt for a total of 690 euros – nearly a thousand dollars. I don’t want to diss Stella, who is very talented and a dedicated vegetarian to boot, but I can get the same outfit at Goodwill for $12.00. Seriously.
Anyway, that was my tour of Galeries Lafayette. I wandered out past the extravagant Opera and down Avenue de l’Opera to the Louvre, where my clever plan was to enter at the down time of 5 p.m. Friday is one of the late opening nights, so I figured I’d be between crowds – and I was right, got right in with no line-ups at all. And suddenly, I had gone from the Japanese at Galeries Lafayette to the Japanese in the Louvre, who walk up close to the canvases, snap a photo, and move on.
I went up to the Dutch-Flemish wing to say hello to my beloved Vermeer. Stopped along the way to look at Roger van der Weyden, whom I know now because Bruth introduced me to him at the Prado. What a sublime artist, and that whole school too. Stunningly fine, detailed work. And others, like Holbein.
But there, tucked in an obscure corner, is my friend. “The astonomer” made me cry last time I saw him, and this time too. I adore this work of art, a work of serenity and wonder, as Glenn Gould said. He is touching the great globe, his book and papers in front of him, and beneath, the usual thick crumpled tablecloth Vermeer liked so much. The famous light shines through the window onto the man’s face, onto the globe and the papers. Pay attention, the astonomer and the artist are saying. Look at the world with care and wonder.
Ah. Tears.
Next door, the lovely “Lacemaker,” which was in Tokyo last time I visited. I didn’t realize she is so very small, a tiny canvas of a woman intent on her work. We are invading her privacy as we stare, but she doesn’t mind. I sat on a bench to be near these great works for a bit, was nearly alone in the room with them several times. Magic.
Finally left the tiny, perfect, glowing world of Vermeer for another new favourite – Rembrandt. There are 3 self-portraits there, among the many Rembrandt painted of his changing face. I thought of the work I do, teaching and writing personal material. People say to me, why do you write about yourself all the time? Do you think you’re so interesting? Looking at those canvases, I thought about the answer. Rembrandt painted himself often, not because he was vain and thought he was showing the world a good-looking man. He painted himself because he had a human face that interested him, that showed, and still shows, truths about living and aging, love and death. That’s why.
Home on the #27 bus in the golden light, to celebrate today’s gifts.
And, of course, to eat cheese.

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4 Responses to “the ridiculous and the sublime”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Nothing can compare to the more expensive tools
    which are made from high-grade tempered steel. Naturally it is now on his medical records
    that he is highly allergic to Ibuprofen and
    has strict orders to never take it again. From picking up shells and walking along the
    shore to boogie boarding out in the ocean Water Shoes are made to stay on the feet and keep them
    protected.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Narrow blood vessels lie alongside the intestines of the earthworm and they absorb the
    nutrients from the alimentary canal feeding the rest of the body.

    * Team answer sheets – Basically a grid lined A4 type sheet with answer write in numbered
    boxes and a line on top for the team name. 8.

    Stop by my weblog … funny pub quiz names

  3. Anonymous says:

    Narrow blood vessels lie alongside the intestines of the earthworm and they absorb the nutrients from the alimentary canal feeding the rest of the
    body. At the end of each round read out the
    cumulative scores. The Bull's Head Pub, Bangkok.

    Here is my blog :: pub Quiz archive

  4. Anonymous says:

    Narrow blood vessels lie alongside the intestines of the
    earthworm and they absorb the nutrients from the alimentary
    canal feeding the rest of the body. At the end of each round read out the cumulative scores.
    The Bull's Head Pub, Bangkok.

    Here is my website – pub Quiz archive

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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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