Thursday, April 9, 2009

Light and Great Expectations.

Few places really live up to our expectations. Paris exceeds mine.

I know, I know. In a literary sense, great expectations go more with London than Paris. Too bad. I've never been to London, but now I've been to Paris. It's better than I hoped for and probably slightly more than I deserve.

I can only write about what I know, reaching for the light with both hands.

Our first full day dawned late, gray and rainy; just the weather we expected from a late March day in Paris. It didn't matter. By 11:00 a.m. we set out for the sunlit spaces and dreamy days of impressionism at the Musee d'Orsay; into the world of late-nineteenth century Paris and the invention of French modern art.

Zipping pass the soggy ticket line as we waved our nifty Museum Passes, we entered this historic train station turned museum and pushed upward. First stop, the top rooms of Impressionists and Post Impressionists....Renoirs, Monets, Chagelles, Manets, Gauguins and Van Goghs. I've been in the great art museums of Germany, Netherlands, Scandinavia, Russia. But to go to the place where artists reinvented how light appeared on canvas.....

I made a point of going to the Musee d'Orsay as an artist and not a tourist. It is said that the Musee d'Orsay on a spring morning is a writer's church. They say that to pray as an do what it is you do. So I prayed by soaking up the light, writing a near perfect “prayer.” I chose to focus on the thousands of points of a Pissarro. I found the Renoir of which I dreamed, and tried to replicate quite unsuccessfully, as a girl in high school art class. It is said that “Those whose expectations are God’s, will never be disappointed.” He didn’t intend for me to be a painter.

I dwelt on the fabulous, light-drenched color of the Gauguins, painted in Tahiti. It is a place to which I have actually been. I can now honestly say that he captures the soul that is French in the spirit that is Tahitian. At last, I understood his mocking journals and took his words with, yes, a grain of salt. I discovered, (as Eric Maisel, the writer and writing coach notes) that Gauguin was a gentle soul who did not withstand well the criticism of the established art world.

The artist in me was sobered by the fact that Van Gogh never sold a single one of his paintings during his lifetime. Some of the best writers this world has ever known wrote in Paris, and never found an audience for their words. I remind myself that one does not stop praying just because the object of my faith cannot be definitively proved. So I pray my way.

So, focused on the light was I, that I have already forgotten where we ate that night. I intended to record it, but the romance of a pink-yellow sunset (indicating a better day tomorrow) and glimpses of that signature tower, took the name of the cafe out of my memory. It bothers me. I only remember the delicious bread, the tender lamb shank, the “Frenchness” of the ideal rose wine carafe, the perfect apple tartlet with soft cream.

It will have to be enough; more than enough for a day in Paris. My expectations are exceeded and I decide to be kind to myself.

©2009 Jan Johnson Wondra

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