Sometimes Paris is simply beautiful. This was one of those days. You know days like this. It is very bright. It may rain, it may not, but in the meanwhile there are dark clouds in the sky and light seems to come from below the clouds. It makes everything intense, full of expectation. It is not a warm day yet the sun on your face creates an inner warmth, more a feeling of well being than anything else. The breeze is fresh and cool, the clouds are moving fast. I come to this bridge between Île St Louis and Cité often. It has been closed to traffic for many years and it attracts street performers and tourists and in the mix are people who live on the island. It is a productive place for capturing images. The Seine is always beautiful here. Hôtel de Ville and Tour St Jacques on the left provide a sense of time and history and the barge in the river reminds one of the present and of the dual aspect of this city that has seen so much. For some of us it is a destination, either as tourists fulfilling a wish to see and feel the romance, for some it is a place to learn, about history and about oneself, and for some a place to make art or at least to try. On this day I am near the end of a visit and I have been standing here for quite some time not really thinking about anything, just letting the day unfold in front of me. The barge reminds me that some people live and work here and somehow, that thought gives me comfort. While I am away someone will be making sure that all this is here when I come back.
Friday, March 18, 2011
I'm comfortable here. You might say that this is my café, the place I come to to feel at home when not at home. I know all the waiters although I am never sure they know me. I've been coming here for twenty years and some of the waiters were here back then. It's easier this way. I come here to write, to think, to warm my fingers in the winter so I can change film, to quench my thirst on the warmer days after a long walk. I am by myself but not alone. I sit, always at the same table, inside. I want to separate myself from Paris for a moment, to reflect on what I have seen and felt, away from the street for a moment or maybe an hour. This sense of being separate strikes me as I look in the mirror in front of me. It occurs to me that I am two people in Paris. There is the person in love with the city, smitten by her charms, back again year after year to experience as if for the first time the sense of life and art and intelligence. As this person I am in Paris absorbing her, building layer after layer of experience and laying it away to remember, someday. And then I bring my camera to my eye and suddenly I am no longer in the city. I am an examiner. Suddenly judging. Is this an image worth capturing? Is my Paris showing off her beauty or her talent? I bring my camera to my eye and look in the mirror again. Who am I now, at this moment? I trip the shutter, capture an image of two eyes. One that loves and one that judges. I believe I need them both.
Friday, March 11, 2011
I want to grow old in a place like Paris. Paris seems kind to old people. It is full of neighborhoods that are more like little villages. I often see women in their 80's or even older walking back from the markets with food. The mother of a good friend lives in the 14th and manages well in the neighborhood in spite of her age. And so I think about getting old in a place like Paris. What could be better than to grow old here? At some point our travels must come to an end and one must settle in and begin to use the treasures and memories of an active life. The pleasures of the mind will become far more important than the sensual pleasures of youth. The mountain and the trail are still there but far beyond reach, so new objectives, new challenges must be found and they will be found in the mind. And so I picture myself skimming books in the stands looking for new ideas and pleasures suitable to whatever age I might attain. I have, in a sense, been coming to Paris all these years in preparation for this new challenge. The body may not be able to climb the mountain or run the race but the mind, the mind never wears out for when it does, all is over. And so, on this gray, wet morning, while on my way to the books stores on blvd St Michel I saw this gentleman browsing the book racks I also saw myself, many years from now still climbing mountains and running races, but in the mind. I continued on down the street past the Sorbonne and rubbed Michel Montaigne's shiny brass toe, a student tradition and I am a student after all. Are you?