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!

1 comment:

Janice Lamotte Lavallee said...

I have come to your site via a mutual friend. She sent me your site while I was in the midst of a nasty bout of shingles that lasted for nine months. During that time I wrote a novel that I had been giving birth to for nearly fifteen years. My 96,000-word woman’s fiction is now complete waiting for me to find an agent/publisher, a daunting task, I am learning. Today I decided to read your blog and came across your writing of 31 March, Paris and Transcendent Time. I’m enamored with Paris and your reminiscences of your trip brought back many fond memories of times I have spent in “The City of Light.” (“La Ville-Lumiere”) But it was your quote that spoke to me. “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?” These thoughts are sobering. Personal circumstance has taught me life is fleeting, I don’t take life for granted but that being said, I still find myself letting the minutes slip through my fingers. Reading your blog today did not point out anything I am not already aware of but your words reminded me life is not a dress rehearsal. Regardless of my immediate needs, I must remain mindful of every minute. Thank you.