Monday, May 24, 2010

Paris: Soaring Towers and Sunken Ponds

I am back from Paris, an amazing trip.  It has taken me a week to be able to write about it; first, because I've been busy with my baby daughter's college graduation and surprise (!) bridal shower. Second, because I needed my thoughts to stop fluttering around in my snow globe head and to settle.  

I won't bore you with every place I visited; surely you know Paris has many sights to see. I will tell you that my two favorites were the palatine chapel, Sainte Chappelle and Monet's water lilies at the Musee de l'Orangerie. 

The upper chapel of Sainte Chapelle is a room that is completely surrounded in stained glass - floor to ceiling, 360 degrees around.  It was commissioned by Louis IX, the King of France, to house the crown of thorns and a fragment of the True Cross, which he purchased in the 13th century for a vast sum.  When I stood in this room, it felt something like being inside a Tiffany lamp. The colored light was everywhere.  I imagined what it must have felt like for Louie IX to go there and ponder great decisions. 

The water lilies are almost completely abstract versions of dawn and dusk views of Monet's garden at Giverny:  the reflection of trees and clouds on water.  The magnitude of these paintings is daunting:  six and a half feet tall and curved to arc completely around each of two rooms.  I walked around each chamber, stopping to look at the view from various perspectives and, as countless others have, imagined I was seeing Monet's world through his eyes.  I'm not exaggerating when I say that it was such an experience that I was dizzy from the realization of the masterful accomplishment.   I assure you that once you enter the cool twilight of these impressions of garden ponds at Giverny, you will not ever want to leave.  

More to come...

Thursday, May 6, 2010

iPods, walking, fantasies and Sting

Are you an au naturel walker, enjoying the sounds of the lawn mowers humming and birds chirping as you walk, or do you don the protective gear - hat, sunglasses and iPod - before embarking on your walk?  

I enjoy hearing the birds when I sit outside for coffee, but when I'm out for a walk I'd prefer to have my mind occupied a bit more. I enjoy the change of pace music brings to my life. I live in New York City and unless I count the subway rats and the pigeons on my windowsill, or I go out to Central Park, there isn't much wildlife in my immediate neighborhood.  

There are some city sounds I love: horse hooves tripping up 50th street as the hansom cabs from Central Park return to their stables; steam escaping from subway tunnels. (The jackhammers? Not so much.) So now and then I go for walks taking just my ears with me. But walking with my iPod and headphones has always had it's charms, whether in the city or country, because music changes my mood entirely and allows my walk to take on a life of its own. Sure, I could stay in the present and see my "real" neighborhood day after day. But how much more fun to allow myself the indulgence of seeing it through the blushing lens of Sting's Brand New Day, where haunting melodies like Desert Rose or A Thousand Years will transport me, just for a little while, to a magical kingdom that I can build. Yes it's a fantasy, but it involves STING and music and exercise, and tomorrow it could be, you know, Jon Bon Jovi or Andrea Bocelli for heavens sake. That isn't so bad, is it?