When you return from a month living in Paris, France, everyone asks you how wonderfully it went. They want to hear their personal expectations matched and exceeded in your experience. But that's not what I can offer.
I can't say "oh yes! I did all of these beautiful things" or "oh yes, I went to all of those beautiful places."
People aren't interested in hearing about how it took me three weeks to feel comfortable in a simple grocery store line, or four weeks to stop glancing over my shoulder whenever I spoke, fearful of someone hearing me speak English. They want to hear of grand feasts, not simple hot-plate soups...of grand adventures, not step-out-the-door wanders in no particular direction.
I absolutely understand where they're coming from, and I am also proud of these struggles and simple pleasures.
They mean that I was engaged in the hard work of being still -- of stepping away from all of the yelling voices in my head demanding "action!" "striving!" and "results!" Sitting still certainly doesn't make the voices go silent, but if you remain still long enough, they fade to whispers and let you rest and wonder at the beauty of a fallow field...the small moments that drop into your lap unsought...the sweet joys of noticing a new little detail.
After all, isn't waiting the artist's hardest work? It's why we walk into museums and think "I could have done that" all the while sharply aware that we didn't and wouldn't...not because we couldn't, but because we didn't sit and wait for the piece to come.
This disincline doesn't make for beautiful photography or catchy social media posts, but that, dear friend, is entirely the point. Art and beauty must be sewn first and let to rest. It is only waiting and trusting in what we cannot see that brings the harvest.
Yes, we must work to set it gently into carefully tended soil and water it to encourage growth, but we ourselves do not create the seedlings or the plant...we can only tend, watch, and wait.
And that is what I am slowly slowly learning to do.
Their chins held high -- shoulder blades proud and body erect they stare down anyone who looks at them askance. Their bodies are worshiped by travelers the world over but no one dares to touch them. Their marble pedestals are too high.
They've watched over centuries, seen their generous hips and comfortable bellies slip in and out of vogue but their faces show that the only opinion they care about is their sculptor...a creator who spent days and weeks defining the padding of fat on the back of their arms, preserving the softness around their chin, the extra roll just below their hip bone. They know their beauty. They've had centuries of practice yet still they've always known.
As I walk the streets and see them keeping benevolent post -- so shockingly pinch-able next to their gaunt billboard counterparts -- I begin to melt into my own body...a give-a-damn lift, an inward settling, fitting into my own skin. The bones and body and belly I've had all along but which suddenly found its place in history -- as if I've been waiting for permission to enjoy them.
Biking at night has always been a particular favorite of mine.
The cold air, the hot breath, tall boots and a slim skirt, full of good food and warm conversation.
The glow of the restaurant is still wrapped up in my coat as the Moulin Rouge flashes by. A woman, already drunk, leans heavily on a railing. A tourist in Louboutins leans heavily on a tall man.
Dodging in and out of cars, between street lights, and away from carelessly tossed cigarettes, I pedal my way quickly down Boulevard de Clichy to Boulevard de Rochechouart. Storefronts start to look familiar and I dismount, clicking the bike into a station around the corner.
Settling back on the ground, I catch my breath and start the walk home, all the while dazed by where I find myself.
What's your favorite way to see a city? I'd love to hear. You can comment below or on the facebook page.
continued correspondence with my classroom at home while i travel abroad
Hello friends! It's so lovely hearing from you even when I'm so far away. Ichabod is excited to answer your questions so I'm turning it over to him first and then I'll say hey when he's done.
Here he is!
Hello hello! Ichabod again.
You all have such great questions so I'll dive in them right off. No, Miss Katie hasn't dropped me yet, but I imagine it would be a very exciting adventure to get lost out in the world somewhere. Perhaps I'd get to travel with someone else and who knows where I'd end up! Perhaps Italy...or Japan. I'd love to try eating octopus.
In the meantime, here's a picture of me with all of my favorite foods here! Oh...and chocolate. I haven't tried any macarons yet, those pretty little sandwich cookies in all different colors, but I wouldn't be surprised at all if Miss Katie just at them herself. Perhaps that's why she gave me the chocolate...as a distraction!
But look at me! Totally forgetting to tell you about London. It was awesome. It's amazing how close everything is here. If you were to get on a bus and go to Tacoma, it would take the same amount of time that it took us to get on a train and go to a whole new country! Here's me in Gare du Nord here in Paris, then on the train, then still on the train, and then in Saint Pancras, the big station in London! I know I've got a goofy grin on my face in that one but I was so excited!
Miss Katie was really nice and let me travel in her pocket this time so I could see everything and tell you about it.
We didn't get to see Queen Elizabeth like Miss Katie did last time she came here, but! I did get to see her fancy palace. Those are the gates right there in the picture below. And those towers are the tower of London! A lot of famous people were kept prisoner there, but now it's just a cool place to see a lot of history. We didn't go inside though. We wanted to go find a nice pub and eat some yummy pie.
Now, Miss Katie hasn't gotten me any jewelry per-say, but she did let me wear a ring she got as a crown of a little bit. I wanted to imagine what it would be like to be royalty in London. I think it would be quite nice, though I'd probably choose to be royalty today instead of two hundred years ago when everyone was fighting wars and things. I don't think I would like the stress.
Also, nowadays, you can ride the underground, which is like our Link train only there are hundreds of stations and trains going every direction under the whole city! Also there's a lot of cool street art and old churches. The one below used to have a roof but lost it in World War II. Now it's a garden inside where anyone can go, sit, and be quiet for a little bit. Very nice after a long day of being stuffed in someone's pocket.
Well, I'd better go and brush my ears. We'll be heading back out into Paris soon and I want to look my best. Everyone dresses quite nicely here and I want to look like a local. Cheerio and see you soon! -- Ichabod
Hello Friends. You wouldn't believe how long it takes Ichabod to brush his ears so I've got plenty of time to write to you before he starts getting antsy to head out.
You asked if I'd seen any gold over here. I haven't seen any on the streets, but some of the old cathedrals, like Notre Dame, have some in the paintings across their ceilings. I went to Mass there last Sunday and it's very beautiful inside. There is also a lot of gold jewelry in store windows all over. Paris is known for being an important place for the Fashion Industry and there are lots of shops filled with beautiful clothes and accessories.
You're also curious about whether I've seen any banks. Yes. There are LOTS of them. Most everyone uses cash on a regular basis instead of a credit or debit card. The banks have ATMs so you can get money off of your card and then use the cash at the grocery store or clothing shop. There are also some really beautiful old banks, like the one in London that's in Mary Poppins or a couple here that used to be some of the only banks in the city. They have big huge brass plates on their walls saying what they are and how old they are.
Hm...what is most different from Seattle...everyone speaking a different language is very difficult, though it wasn't a surprise. : ) Perhaps it's the level of detail here. Seattle is beautiful with its mountains and trees and waterways, but it's also a very young city. This city is old and filled with endless stories. Every corner has something special on it and there are still marks and scars from hundreds on hundreds of years. Some ancient streets were even built by the Romans! If you find a building that's 100 years in old in Seattle it feels special. Here that's just a baby building!
My favorite museum so far has been le Musée de l'Orangerie. It's in the Tuileries which was once a King's garden and is now a public park. The museum itself is built inside what used to be a building of orange trees. It acted as a huge greenhouse. Now it's filled with tall white walls and interesting passageways all filled with impressionist and post-impressionist art. The whole place just makes me want to pull out my paint box and start creating! Which is what Ichabod and I are off to do right now. He's tugging on my sleeve so I should dash.
Just eleven more days until I see you!