Published: December 5th 2006December 5th 2006
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
I thirst for her. Her image is far, her reality existing elsewhere other than mine. Closing the eyes, I can see her skin—green, brown, yellows and autumnal oranges. She is silent in the patterns of passing weather. I can feel the wildness within her.
Open again, after the quick flashes of rapid eyelids, I’m in my cell grasping aged iron bars within a grand structure of concrete, brick and stone. I’m in jail and all I can think of is her.
Days and weeks pass strolling my paved limits, but finally I escape, digging through the noise and business, opening the barred skies to reveal the freshness of her air and the morphing foliage of her skin. I escape the city of Paris and bask in the emollient parks and gardens of Nature. Her—Mother Earth—frees me and fills me with the energy I need to endure the bordered cells of city-life. A European Paris & My Distanced Origin F
our weeks within Paris. I live in the heart of the 20th arrondissement. The streets are loud. Tall apartment blocks one after the other scrape the sky. I take to the streets, walking the alleys in between
Views from the temple of Sibylle from Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
French classes and my Parisian mother’s home.
Five months in all, it is a dream to live in Paris, immersed within the city’s history, its ancient artistic expression and its districts of monuments. Paris is alive. It is the center of European culture: a life of pleasant day-to-day movement between business, the boulangerie
for a baguette, more business until a café au lait
with friends at a brasserie
before returning home under an armful of fresh groceries.
European lifestyle is fantastic: it is about family; it’s lived with friends. It is about working to enjoy the gifts one sows for one’s self and others near. It is sociable. It is captivating. Yet within the city, there is a true mixture of reality thumped by the degrees of democratic business for the first come first serve
here I originate opposes Paris, or any large city’s massive movement. I come from an island located seven miles west of Seattle in the United States. It is a locale within the state of Washington tucked up and away in its Pacific Northwest environs, surrounded by mountain and sea. Nature grows. She thrives under the summer’s sun and drinks within
the winter’s saturated thirst. Days are spent within the pines or out against the wind, breathing her worldly scents cast over the Pacific Ocean. To the craggy coast or trekked back in the valleys of moss, my home is a land of Nature, feeding my soul in a natural cathedral of worship. When I inhabit the Pacific Northwest, the land whispers its directions into my ears, and I respond.
Taking leave when the world turns, I travel, and now find myself within the City of Lights. Paris pulsates. I let go to move in my individual style, and it’s me; as is the man beside me, the police issuing illimitable parking tickets and the elderly woman with her plaid grocer’s trolley and a baguette upon her shoulder. But the origin of me
always returns, and I can’t help feel the sucking, the absorbing, the vibrating noises of unnatural disturbance. Paris soon crawls under my skin.
The ambiance becomes a dull, stale darkness found behind bars. Constantly, my vision drifts towards Mother Earth—Nature and her beauty of earth, air, fire and water. I’m jailed within the city, the Parisian perimeters closing in around me as I wander aimlessly—my
Picnic With Their Mother
Buttes-Chaumont and the days in the land
eyes closing, my ears seeking silence.
Suddenly, as clouds disperse overhead in the sky’s amphitheatre, a gate appears before me. I step inside. On the Street, Off the Street: Behind the Gate A
ny city gyrates with high-minded monstrosity. Many individuals are made for this; they thrive on the energetic movement. Within, everything moves. It runs and sprints, and then it walks and waits. Streets find gridlocks during the day, and at night, alleyways light up with neon signs flashing a disco ball. Next door, the mellow glow of an internal bar hums with live music, drinks and conversation.
Outside under the variety of plugged-in luminescence, homeless persons meander from their niches as police shuffle their scraps and scars of tents from one location to the next. The season grows colder, the wind a bit stronger, howling through the narrows’ architecture. Paris identifies with this description, but likewise, it draws toward the opposite scale, wherein an equal balance thus aspires.
From the four weeks habitation in one of the world’s most artistically influential cities, adding greatly to the production of art throughout human evolution and future inspiration, I sought these aesthetic sources. These individuals’
Changing routine, the Sunday transitions
work must have revolved from a grounded wellspring of stimulation. Their desire, their belief, their reassurance within the world and its natural movements must have found a place of connection linked back to its very own origin.
Each writer, painter, sculptor, philosophizer—each worldly artist dedicated to an act of creation—must have retreated to her skin, listening to the wildness in the silence of her whispers. Nature had to inhibit the means of their work. Nature must, at all costs. From the streets, I walked into the gated perimeters and suddenly discovered my source with the many others’. D
otted abound with plots of original land, inhaling an open sky free from man’s walls, Paris supplies the city-dweller with Nature in a network of parks and gardens. Its layout of Nature is the foundation of the metropolis: it keeps its citizens sane under the influence of light and beauty. From Monday to Friday they bury their heads in driven economic markets and social democracy. Friday’s evening arrives and offices depart with a “Bon week-end
” salutation. Soon, Saturday peers over the neoclassical structures as the young, the stuck-in-the-middle and the old descend upon the forests of Paris.
I left my
Summits in Paris
Reaching the heights of Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont where morning's Tai Chi awaits.
imaginary prison cell when I entered the garden. A ten-minute stroll along rue de Rigoles out of the 20th arrondissement, Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
undulated against the norm of Paris. Bald Mountains In Paris A
panoply of hills roll over the terrain. It breathes at the summits of the land. Trees spring from the soil. Bushes and brush cluster in familial cultivation. Hillsides of green grass unfold. People meet. The Parisian breathes and is thence freed.
Le Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the mountaineer’s destination of Paris. Likewise, it is my return to origin. Entering its gates, I step out of my naturalistic prison cell among the city-life and find the halls of my sanctuary. Buttes-Chaumont is a park steeped with hills, ascending and descending the land in such abnormality that it is unlike any other in Paris. Its name alone translates into “bald mountain” (mont
meaning mountain and chauves
coming to signify baldness), and with its nine acres of land and three miles of walkways, it is the flocking center of the 19th arrondissement and beyond.
Inaugurated during the 1857 World Fair, the enclosure was secured from future development and transformed by the wishes of
Le Pont Suicide
Nature and her bridge to origin
Napoleon III. As the last monarch to rule France, the emperor desired to provide the hard-working class a place of rest, relaxation and leisure activity among the weekend’s reflection. The French promenade designer of the vast Paris, Adolphe Alphand, was commissioned to head the project under the engineering muse of Darcel Belgrand, the architecture of Davioud and a landscape design imaged by Barillet-Deschamps. Together, they created the Alps of Paris. I
walked up the pathway and climbed the earthen stairs through a garden of sophora and chestnut trees. At the top, surrounded by grass with branches leading to the sky and the blue of day with its full sun emitting rays upon the life below, a group of Chinese performed the energetic movements of Tai Chi in silence. They were slow, graceful with the windmill-spins of the arms and the squat and steps of the legs. Birds dashed between their shelters; music to my ears where no city traffic, no horns and few sirens invaded. It was Nature, peaceful up and down the hills where the Parisian opened a basket to pull out the viands of picnicking. We breathed, and I moved on.
Outside the fenced perimeters,
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
I reemerged into my cell, but left the bars open. Traffic lights flickered neon, businesses wretched their stubborn metal grates open and closed, and debris became caught in the gutters. Men and women of all ages walked their dogs, few containing the decency to picked up after their pet’s disposal.
My eyes looked forward, navigating the stained sidewalks. I passed meat shops where a disagreeable odor pervaded the remembered air of Buttes-Chaumont. It stuck to the hairs of the nostrils like sticky deodorant, sinewy in a rotten combination of chemicals and decomposition. I held my breath out of habitation and relieved my senses from further torment. From the park, I had exited east, heading toward Le Canal Saint Martin
, where I cut south and directed my pace toward the center of Paris. West of the Pyramids T
he 20th, the 19th, down through the spiral of Paris’ quartiers
, I explored the pavement by foot. An hour surpassed on a timeless cycle and soon I came upon the familiarity known throughout all of Paris.
The Musée du Louvre
opens wide as a mouth thirsty for rain. It is a structure dominating the centrality of Paris. First
Oil & Water
Into the waters of Le Jardin du Luxembourg
began in 1190 by Philippe II Auguste, the western fortified palace soon underwent the relentless successions of reconstruction and addition up to the present day when French president François Mitterrand commissioned Chinese architect Ieoh Ming Pei to build the Pyramides du Louvre
in 1989. From fortress, to châteaux, to royal palace, to one of the world’s most important and prestigious museums, the Musée du Louvre draws all persons. I was enthralled further more, but as usual, not to the Louvre (for my visits were numerous), but to that outside.
Westward from Pei’s modern embellishments, Le Jardin de Tuileries
is a promenade designed to appear to stretch all the way to La Defense
at the very western end of Paris. The garden made its first appearance in the city in the 1560s when Catherine de Médicis sought a personal backyard to ruminate within. Eventually, under Louis XIV, it was opened to the public, sustaining a high-popularity of fashionability through the eighteenth century. Tuileries was the epitome of Parisian architecture, its landscaping crafted neatly with a symmetrical minimalism principally designed by Philip de l’Orme. Today, it seems to lack the wonder it once held by its strolling caretakers. After Buttes-Chaumont, I
We're staining the land as we leave the earth for our children...and it's our choice.
could concur, but nonetheless, Nature is Nature and the scents relished my conscience. A
dirt path of crumbly brown soil held the puddles from the previous day’s rain. A wind blew. Clouds overtook the sky since my earlier wooded saunter, and people were wrapped in scarves and warm hats above black woolen coats. Cigarettes were alight. The wind blew.
More silence, more laughter among the young as they chased one another. I could hear them, their youthfulness. They were rich, their voices heard instead of the exhausting motors, instead of being drowned out by the city’s movement outside these walls. Birds sat treetop; empty seats around the waters where children rented miniature wooden sailboats to cruise. Their wooden poles assisted the wearisome sails. Parents clustered and looked down upon their kin, smiling with the energy of rest, relaxation and reflection. Sunday was passing. A Mixture of the Many Ways O
ne day out of the many. The awakening to new parks and gardens healed my daily ritual of city-life. I returned to Buttes-Chaumont. Tuileries was always on route. Likewise, Le Jardin des Halles
and Le Jardin du Luxembourg
with its grand palace continued to free those bars,
The Opposite of Tension
At a moment of freedom, people fly with the birds as they always should.
leaving the door ever-open for a place of retreat. Whether a Saturday or Sunday, or at the break of class with my head full of French, energy would be cleansed and the wind would move through me.
Aside from the parks, the cemeteries of Père-Lachaises
(Paris’ largest preserved land) and Montparnasse
—each containing history’s contributors such as Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Jim Morrison, Philippe II, Charles Baudelaire, Eugène Ionesco and Camille Saint-Saëns—add relief as refuges amongst their silence. They are immersed within the ambiance of any cemetery, intensely reflective and devoid of disturbance. And further, just outside the city limits there lies the forests: Le Bois de Boulogne
to the west and Le Bois de Vincennes
to the east—grand parks, gardens and woods folded into one.
In all, Paris’ locales of greenery are essential for the inhabitant. They create space to be silent or hear one’s laughter among family and friends without the bombardment of traffic, tableside conversation or latenight music. They are the personification of green, respecting Mother Earth with their diversity and simplicity. B
ack upon the streets, walking home from another day’s retreat to origin, I step on a plot of feces left behind, undetermined from either
When darkness falls, Nature is further silenced by the sleep of man
dog or man. A nearby puddle aides the soggy removal, but it passes as nonchalance, for I know I am in the city and I have become habituated to what is expected. Likewise, I know these prison bars are always open; I may return home when the need arises. I may return to the center of origin where I originate. Mother Earth and her beauty is there within me and externally manifests in the many fenced walls where she is the only witness.
I breathe deeply as a wind combs my face. It’s cold. The leaves linger on the promenade’s branches. A rain begins to fall and immediately Nature frees me and fills me with the strength for another day.
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