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our day with Claude Monet

I’ll try to spare you too many rapturous cries of joy. But … Bruth and I went to Giverny today, to see Claude Monet’s famous garden and his water lilies. We were concerned that because it’s only mid-April, perhaps there wouldn’t be much happening in the garden at all.

Ohmigod. Oh. My. God. I just want to get home and plunge my hands into the soil. The loveliest garden I’ve ever seen. Brilliant M. Monet lived here for 43 years, until his death. He worked from home. He had a home office. I see him having breakfast in the vibrant yellow dining room and then telling Madame Monet he’s going to work. And off he goes with his paints and canvas to the end of the garden, to stand by the pond and paint his water lilies and bridges, flowers and trees. And then home for lunch. He ate well, Claude, that’s clear.
Stunning – colour, light, scent, patterns. All the fruit trees loaded down with blossoms. Since pansies are annuals, and there were about a million pansies throughout the garden, someone was very busy digging before the April 1 opening. Tulips, rhodos, azaleas, fantastic willows, Japanese maples and other trees, daffodils and jonquils and hyacinth, forgetmenots, lilies of the valley, everything that can possibly bloom in April was blooming at the top of its lungs. It was paradise.
There were a lot of other people, mind you. We met several batches of American ladies on the train there, who needed help with tickets and recommendations for restaurants in Paris – one bunch from the garden club of Long Beach, California and another from Boston. There were many Americans in the garden, it seems an American thing to do. But there were still corners where you could escape the crowds and just drink it all in. A perfect day, too – bright, warmish.
Oddly, this is the one place I’ve been on this trip where there were very few Japanese tourists. Not so odd, when you think about it, I guess – no one can teach the Japanese about gardens, not even Claude Monet. In fact, in parts, he was trying to create a Japanese garden himself.
I was profoundly moved, as ever, that human beings find it necessary to create beauty and then to share it; that we all want very much to be part of it. The marvel that this man created an extraordinary retreat, and now thousands, millions, get to appreciate it. There was a group of punk teens going around, a girl with leather clothes, orange hair and many piercings, and I wondered what Claude would think of this strange person in his garden. I think he would have been interested in her.
At one point as I walked by the little river at the bottom of the property, a French woman remarked on a water rat she had just seen. “They ate these when they were hungry during the war,” she told her friend. “They’d make them into paté.”
Finally we had to leave, to go to the village to see the Museum of Impressionism, which had an exhibit of Pierre Bonnard’s work – Bonnard lived nearby and was a good friend of Monet’s. Again, wonderful – bursts of colour, and a great love of domesticity. Some of his work has the flavour of Vermeer, Matisse – a celebration of the breakfast table, of women at work, the hearth. La couleur, c’est la raisonnement, he wrote. Colour is a way of thinking. There was a photo of him toward the end of his life in 1937, a meek scrawny little man with glasses, looking like an accountant – and nearby, vast canvases he was painting at the time, colour pouring from his soul.
We decided to walk back to the train station, four and a half miles, which was mostly along a very nice path through fields. “This is fucking bucolic!” cried Bruce, in what will become a classic description of nature, I’m sure. We walked to the town of Vernon – it was funny all day, dealing with Vernon, because Vernon, B.C. is where my ex-husband was born and bred, a lovely Okanagan town I know well. This was another Vernon, also very beautiful in a different way – rows of medieval houses, a huge cathedral, and the train back to Paris.
On the train, we met a man from Toronto who’s an engineer working with a French company that makes vaccines. We whizzed through the pretty countryside talking about cholera, polio, maleria. I learned what stem cells are and why they’re important. Hooray for vaccines.
Tomorrow, my best friend and Bruce’s, Chris, arrives from Vancouver. The crazy man has decided to walk the length of France as a fundraiser for the Performing Arts Lodge of Vancouver; so far he has pledges of over $15,000. He is, incidentally, HIV positive with heart problems and bad feet. But also invincible. I had to go to FranPrix and buy a giant bottle of Diet Coke, which he drinks constantly. Hid it at the bottom of my shopping bag, though, below my milk and bottle of wine.
Only three more days.
PS Learned from the Boston ladies that the governor of Massachusetts, whom I so admired on Jon Stewart yesterday, is more sound than action, “quite disappointing,” they said. Too bad. Chantal Hebert writes in today’s Star that Harper is still on his way to a majority, unless his mask slips and he loses “the veneer of moderation he has so painstakingly applied.”
I think I’ll stay in France. Can’t bear to watch. I’ll go back to the garden and sit this one out.

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One response to “our day with Claude Monet”

  1. clothing says:

    Thank you share with us your experience, I like the post, because it has taught me a lot. Thank you to let me continuous learning everyday.

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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.

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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.

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

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