Giving Thanks

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~ John Fitzgerald Kennedy

A few days ago I left my office and found the sky awash in glorious shades of pinks, oranges, blues and purples — an unusually spectacular November sunset.  Desperate to capture the vision before it faded, I raced home.  Only a five minute drive yet endless.  In the house, I grabbed my Canon and rushed onto our deck.  In the short time since I’d walked out from work, the sky had already changed.  Still, I was able to snatch an image or two.

I love the sky, especially during the changing minutes of sunrise and sunset.  The  particularly beautiful images are a gift of nature.  I’m grateful that such brilliance still graces our world.

When I see such sights I think of early Impressionists — Manet, Renoir, Monet and others.  These brilliant men worked with their passion.  They brought nature’s light onto the painted canvas and created a whole new style of painting.

 

I believe that we’ve all been given a gift in life, some natural talent that carries with it a strong passion.  Some find that passion in art or in the written word.  Others find it in music or the study of science, in medicine or cooking, in animals, children, technology…the list is endless.

Pursuing our own passion lets us more fully develop our inborn talent, however humble or grand.  In that way we give back that which we have been given.

It is the ultimate gesture of gratitude. 

Paris, Day 4 – The Louvre & More

Early Saturday morning rain fell on Paris. We woke to the sounds of it on the roof.  A good day to keep inside, touring museums.   We fixed a quick breakfast in the apartment then walked five blocks toward the Louvre.  The gray clouds were swept away with a moderate wind and the temperature was around 47 F.

As we approached the vast museum, we saw a camera rig, filming a car driving.  Not sure if it was for a film, or a commercial.  One of the many trucks behind the Louvre said “En Location.”

Our Paris museum pass let us by-pass the growing long line to buy tickets and proceed fairly fast into the museum.  Like most spots we’ve visited, we had to go through a security check, including a bag scan.   Then down the escalator and under the tall glass pyramid.

I’ve been in many museums but never imagined the enormity of the Louvre, until we started walking toward the room that held the Mona Lisa.  Our guidebooks told us to stop there first since crowds increase as the day goes by.  The room was already half-filled.   The Mona Lisa is beautiful and serene, but her protective glass filters any real clear view.  Sad.  Still,  I’m glad I saw her.

We walked on through gallery after gallery of magnificent paintings, stopping mainly at favorite artists, or periods of art.   Periodically, we had to consult our maps to re-orient ourselves.   I enjoyed seeing artists studying the masterpieces, learning from them through sketching and painting the works.  Like a musician learns by playing, and a writer learns by reading others’ work.

After a late lunch at the Louvre Cafe, we walked outside and through the Jardin de Tulieres toward L’Orangerie, a museum that houses Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works.  In the vast gardens, we strolled by statues both classic and modern, and by beds of flowers still in bloom.   The air was crisp, breezy, and approaching cold.  Everywhere we heard the sounds of a multitude of languages.

In his last years, Claude Monet was losing his sight but he planned one final series of paintings from his gardens at Giverny.  Eight huge paintings are hung on curved panels in two rooms at L’Orangerie.   As we walked around the rooms, we found ourselves awed by the timeless beauty of these works.

Downstairs in this museum are other magnificent works by Monet’s contemporaries and friends — Manet, Degas, Cezanne, and Renoir.  Magnificent!

On a long stroll  “home” we window shopped at the fine shops along Rue Saint Honoré.  At some point we decided to eat in, to just relax and unwind in the apartment.  We stopped at a shop that sold deliciously prepared items and enjoyed a quiet evening.

Sunday brings a day trip to Versaille!

Paris, Day 3 – Filled with wonder

Friday morning started with a metro trip down to Cluny-Sorbonne. Before our first site, we felt the need for American coffee.  At a Starbucks we found Café Allonger or Café Americain.  We sipped our still strong brew and ate breakfast on the cafe’s second floor surrounded by university students studying, talking, debating, and laughing.

Outside other students were marching.  Not sure why.  Costumed in assorted dress, they seemed to be having a great time — singing, shouting, and laughing.  As we left Starbucks, two of the groups came together with shouts and hugs.

We strolled over toward the National Museum of the Middle Ages or Musée de Cluny.   We took a short walk around a park across the street then went inside the medieval building, checked our coats, walked through the gift shop and into a room filled with masterpieces.

Awesome is too tame a word to describe the wonder that is Cluny. Room after room of paintings, illuminated manuscripts,chalices, statues, and the ornamentation of medieval churches.  And then then there were the centuries old tapestries!  We stepped into the large, darkened room that held the Lady and Unicorn tapestries and once more were struck with breathless awe.  Literally.

Guidebooks say to allow one hour for Cluny.  We were there over three and could have stayed all day,  but other wonders called.

We headed north, walked along the Seine, then crossed over the bridge to Notre Dame.  In the courtyard outside the Cathedral, a string ensemble played classical music.  The lines moved quickly into the church.  There was a Mass in session but still visitors strolled around the perimeter of the inside of the massive, majestic Cathedral.

The Tower was closed Friday, but the man at the gate assured us it would be open throughout the weekend.

Due to the late hour, we skipped Sainte-Chappelle for the day and headed instead back toward our apartment.  We had wine and cheese to pick up.

In the early evening hours, our niece and her boyfriend showed up.  They are studying abroad — she’s in Vienna and he’s in Madrid.  They flew to Paris for a long weekend and arranged to meet with us.  (BTW – she’s blogging about her experiences in Vienna.) We had a great visit!  Something magical about meeting up with family while traveling overseas.   After a brief but wonderful visit, we walked with them to the Metro so they could meet up with friends for dinner.

We enjoyed our own late night meal in a cafe near our apartment.   Omelet, a hamburger, and salads — such simple fare but truly the best ever.  The French are masters at the art of cooking.

Saturday we’ve reserved for the Louvre, Sunday is Versailles, and Monday we’ll return to see Saint Chappelle and the Notre Dame tower, and a few other places.  The time is going too, too fast.

Art as Inspiration

Many years ago, when we lived in southern Indiana, I took my sons to a mall art show. As we walked by the displays of oils and watercolors, of pottery and woodcarvings, I happened upon a regional artist whose oil paintings called out and drew me in. We talked for a few minutes then I bought a small painting I found particularly pleasant. She had titled the meticulous oil At Pond’s Edge.

paintings-0042Time passed. The painting came with us to one new home, then another. Always the image of the tranquil pond with its wild grasses, bushes, and butterflies brought comfort. Then, at some point, my writer’s imagination took over. Something happened at that pond, but what? It niggles at my thoughts even now, after all these years. I know there is a story to tell. Someday, it will come to me and I will weave the scene into my book. Maybe not in this work, but surely in my next.

In recent years, I have come to wonder about the artist. I recall that she had many other lovely paintings on display at that long ago mall art show. Her name is Linda Jerina Buis. Is she still painting, still selling her fine work? Or has she gone on to other interests? Internet searches came to naught. Until recently.

Last month I discovered another oil painting by Linda Jerina Buis. It was for sale online. I emailed the friendly lady who had posted the ad. I learned that she had bought Down on the Farm from an estate sale near her home, somewhere outside Kansas City. After several quite interesting emails, we arranged the sale. From a writer’s retreat in Maine, I snail-mailed her a postal money order and she carefully packaged and shipped the painting to me cross county. I opened it with joy.

As I hung my new painting, a sense of wonder came over me. There is a story here too, I thought, in this painting of an old farm and the surrounding countryside. Someday soon, I will write it.