It's a warm October day so, why does this scene of Notre Dame evoke a memory of frozen fingers, pre-dawn mist, and hot coffee? One January dawn, 10 years ago, jet lagged and awake at 5am we sat just here – inside of course. It was one of those January days in Paris that numbed our noses and our fingers through our gloves on the short walk from our apartment to the first open café. We sat here looking out at Notre Dame in the pre-dawn dimness, our ghostly faces looking back at us, reflections in the café window. A sleepy waiter brought us coffee – no croissants yet – too early. Every time I walk past this spot I relive that moment, feel the cold, smell the coffee, remember the beauty of Notre Dame awakening in the growing morning light. I stand here for a long time not believing that so many years in Paris came before that morning and that as many have come after. I get the odd sensation that time has changed its nature, reversed its flow, trapped me in an eddy. That all that I am now is what actually created my past and yet it is the past – all those experiences and images in Paris that make me what I am today, a man in love with a city standing here in front of this café.
Saturday, December 25, 2010
Sunday, December 19, 2010
I'm drawn to this place, this center of Paris, this center of my universe. Here on these islands in the Seine is where Paris was born. This morning is cool and gray. I'm not ready to go anywhere just yet but neither am I content to sit in the apartment. I have a good book and a hot cup of coffee but a voice is prodding me … go out, go out now or you'll miss something. I get up and walk the few steps from my apartment to Pont St Louis and become an observer, waiting for something to happen. This morning what happens is beautiful beyond words. I am deep in thought and not paying much attention. And like a beautiful woman being ignored Paris begins to flirt with me. She creates a symmetry that can't be ignored, an alignment of her attractions that catches my eye and reminds me of the reasons I love her. She doesn't make it easy, there is only one spot along this quay where the lines come together in just this way, evoking images that spill into my mind from all that has happened here, to me, to the characters in the books I read, to the figures in history that may have stood here wondering if tomorrow would bring victory or defeat, or if tomorrow would even come. I am so lost in the experience that I almost miss making this image. I try to mark the spot so that I can come back. Halfway between the 5th and 6th lamp posts from the bridge. As I walk away I already know that Paris and I will not be the same and I can stand on this spot as often as I wish but the moment has been lived and is gone.
Saturday, December 11, 2010
Saturday, December 4, 2010
Paris fills a need to make the most of the moment I am in. She does this not only when I am present in her streets but later when the moment is a memory. She will do it again on some tomorrow, which is the future now but will someday be experienced as the present. I think of the past, the present, and the future as three receptacles. The past holds what I create, good or bad, and is like a bank account I can draw on to enrich the present. In the present I hold my worries and my desires and I create the future which is hope and will.
I make images of Paris to make the present memorable, to be aware of what kinds of things are rewarding to me, the kinds of things I want to put in the bank account of my past. Making images focuses my attention on the things that enrich time. These images and the memories of all those instants, once present, now past, drive the creation of a future in which I am here again in the streets of Paris, richer than last time, poorer, I hope, than next time if only I can make more images. These visits are not easy. Many years I should not have come. Issues at work, family problems, risk of loss have all blocked the path and yet, each time I came. Maybe this danger of loss has heightened my love for Paris, the chronic challenges to each trip, never refused, repeated cherishing and love remembered. Here is rue Mouffetard in the early morning sun. Sidewalk tables set for long lunches, a group of friends planning the day, an expression of what the day can be, and me, of but not in the scene, banking yet one more moment in a place I love.