Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Asleep in the Tuileries Gardens

This morning somewhere between asleep and awake I found myself walking in the Tuileries Gardens in Paris. I knew I was there because the trees marching along the path on either side of me were cropped in that special French shape; the elongated bobbed torpedo that signifies that the tree has been conformed in a civilized, most sophisticated way.

Leaves were beginning to unfold on those branches. The fountains had come to life again after a long winter's nap. The fine gravel beneath my shoes crunched and I realized I was strolling eastward toward the Louvre. The sunlight was breaking through the fog and the scent of early flowers was again in the air. I could see the glass pyramid and as I came to a flowering tree, I paused to pull the branch toward me to smell the blossoms. It snapped back. I woke up.

What difference does a year make?

This week last year, my family spent in Paris. Not Paris, Texas. Paris, France – the city of light. A good part of this very day, we spent at the Palace of Versailles – the historic seat of government – and as chance, or fate, would have it, where Louis, the last king of France and his queen, Marie Antoinette were arrested and carted off to the Bastille. If I close my eyes, I can still see the impressionist infinity of the grounds stretching into the distance, the Venice-style waterways crisscrossing thousands of acres of grounds connecting its formal spaces and wild places.

It was a wonderful day, marred only by the loss of my camera, sent flying from my hand by people rushing by us on the trail to an outlying palace. The rush was at odds with the pace of the place. After that I got no pictures other than those in my mind's eye. I don't have the best luck with cameras so perhaps it's best that my visual memory is what it is. Having lost my other fabulous camera by leaving it in a rental car in San Francisco following an adventure to Muir Woods and the Headlands above Sausalito, I should probably not be trusted with anything that costs more than $29.99.

A year is a blink of an eye...and an eternity. Even when one is trying desperately to savor the moments, to hold the memories, it disappears like the fog in my Tuileries Gardens dream. This year has added to my understanding that human life is precious – and time is very fleeting. As Emily, the young deceased wife in Thornton Wilder's Our Town, observed: “It all goes by so fast. We don't have time to look at one another...I didn't realize. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?”

From the distance of time, I can still say that that week in Paris was one of the best experiences of my life – a chance to blend my love of history, other cultures, and new experiences with precious time, before my family moved on to a new stage. Our children were on the cusp of momentous life events, and this was a chance to see them now as young adults, away from childhood roles. They may hate to hear me say that we raised a gentleman and a lady – but we have. They are wonderful human beings.

Today's perspective: chance, modified by fate, equals time. Memories make our time transcendent. In my mind, I am in Paris this week.

Now if I could just translate the memory of those melt-in-your mouth Parisian croissants into a real-life plateful right now!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Contemplating “was” and “is” and “will be”

Yesterday was a gorgeous blue-sky day.
Today it is snowing.
Spring will be here tomorrow.

In those three lines lie the essence of a seasonal cusp. For many of us, the equinox carries the emotional promise of hopes, dreams and new beginnings. As winter wraps up in the northern hemisphere, we literally and figuratively prepare to sweep out (and sometimes we have to shovel) the dirt and dust tracked in during the past, long months. We're ready to let in the light.

Yesterday, a blueberry sky lay over Colorado and temperatures were down-right tropical. My daughter and I headed to Red Rocks Park with the dog to hiked some trails. It made for a rare, few hours with my college student during her spring break. We left the phones in the car. It was just us, the dog, the earth around us and the blueberry hue overhead.

Then we wandered the soaring Red Rocks amphitheatre. Tourists...from Ontario, Japan, South America, China and Texas, New Hampshire, Florida.... milled about with us. We paused to watch the multitudes of folks who walk and trot for exercise, back and forth, row-by-row, up, up, up the seating area. Watching them, I was more tired than I had been hiking. It was a wonderful day.

Today, is very different. This last day of winter, a snow storm has wrapped itself around Denver. We are white and wet and somber. I-70 has closed and opened again. Road plows are in action. The tulips in my south flower beds are buried in white. I'm about to break from writing and go shovel the driveway.

Tomorrow Spring will arrive.

As long as the sun rises, the promise of “was” and “is” always evolve to “will be.” Have you ever thought about the import of language? I know; probably not. I love words and I love writing. Words contain time...distance...emotion.

I love how the exact words we choose portent significance and meaning to our days. When we use thoughtful words, we increase our access to the enormous potential of time, space and possibility that lies between our ears. Words help us show respect, dismay, disapproval, disappointment, joy, eagerness, love, happiness, sorrow, hope. Words can replace violence and words can reveal the future. “Use your words,” I used to say to my small son; when frustration and anger overwhelmed his small frame because he couldn't learn fast enough, when bullies, bullied him, when his eagerness drowned his manners.

We have become such a visual society that, as a people, we discount the impact and meaning of words. Often when writing for social media clients, I find my writing is mere “content” that (for them) simply fills visual space.

I didn't exactly know where this blog was going when I began it. Now I hear the whisper of these words. They are the whisper of light:

“Would it be better to discover meaning in what you write than to impose one? Nothing you write will lack meaning because that meaning is in you.” Flannery O'Connor

Yup. That's what I meant!