I used to share photos here a lot more than I do now. Maybe that’s partly because I share photos mostly on Instagram these days. But I have been thinking of how best to capture the week we spent in Paris, which really was a week whose fabric was made of magic, and it feels like photos are the only way to even grasp at its hem. So, here we go.
The day we left, we went to the new Harvard Art Museums. What a fortuitous surprise to find one of Degas’s dancers there. See, when I was a child, growing up in Paris, I was absolutely obsessed with the Degas dancer at the Jeu du Pomme museum. I’d told Grace and Whit all about her. It was a happy surprise to see a dancer in our own back yard (and then to see another one at the Musee D’Orsay a few days later).
The first day we went for a long walk, battling jet lag and unseasonable cold. It was a gray day but still Notre Dame beckoned, beautiful, haunting, and we walked to Ile de la Cite and visited her.
It was cold and gray for much of our visit, but one morning we woke to a startling blue sky. This was the view from our apartment’s courtyard as Grace and I walked to the boulangerie down the street to buy pain au chocolat and baguette for breakfast.
One of Whit’s favorite things was visiting the Musee Des Arts et Metiers, which we call the Machine Museum. It was a bit like visiting the Science Museum. It had the advantage of being empty compared to the Louvre, and also of providing me with many moments like this one, where I watched my father and my son in joint, rapt contemplation of a feat of elegant engineering.
I adored the Musee D’Orsay. Whit decided that Van Gogh’s self-portrait of the artist is his favorite piece of art ever. Grace liked the pointillists. When we walked past Courbet’s graphic and once-scandalous L’Origine du Monde an entire college lecture came back to me in a flood and I recited it, surprising Matt with my passion.
It felt like every street had a beautiful florists, with blooms spilling out onto the street. Ranunculus are right up there with peonies as my favorite flower, and these ones stopped me in my tracks.
Wednesday morning we climbed to the top of Notre Dame. While were up by the turrets, admiring the gargoyles and the views, the church bells began to ring. It gave me goosebumps, the echoing, deep bells and the awareness that they had been tolling their song, both solemn and celebratory, for many centuries.
In the garden at Versailles I watched my mother and my daughter sitting together, just one of so many moments (like in the Machine Museum) when the generations folded and I felt tremendous, almost-overwhelming gratitude for this life, these generations that flank me, for history and time and family and loyalty and love.
In Montmartre, beside the I Love You wall, Grace and Whit snuck onto the playground. They were much too big for the seesaw, but I loved that they wanted to play on it. And I feel like her face captures “I love you” just as well as does the large wall that says the words in 250 languages.
Can you see the fabric of the week, fluttering in the wind, shot through with glittering strands of memory and time and magic and love? I can.