My Love Letter To Paris | Une lettre d’amour à Paris

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Dear Paris,

I dreamed of falling in love in your arms, among your rues and cafés.

In your cotton-candy sunsets the sky above The Seine blazed. A violet-blue blanket descended and your famous lights filled my soul––the flickering Eiffel Tower, Moulin Rouge’s flirty reds and the sacred aura of Sacre Coeur. But your lesser-known twinkles captivated me most.

Smiles of café owners and complete strangers who helped me find my way home very late one night. The kind words of Jacqué, the patisserie owner, who taught me new words in French every day––names of his delicacies. Electric blue eyes of Elisabeth, the sculptress, who encouraged my art and the idea of “why not,” bringing to life the trickiest form of sculpture––a woman, walking. And the soft surprise in a lady’s eyes when I took the time to ask her name. “Wisdom,” she said, before letting me know with a smile that it would be impossible to have my laundry done before the following week on Tuesday. I’d never met a woman named Wisdom before and instantly wondered why. Wisdom is always referred to as a woman in the Bible.

Up until living in the 18th Arrondissement, I had always imagined life among your great backdrop. I will never forget the day of your magnetic, electric, mysterious call. You had something to say. Something to show me. A point of view to share.

I came with a thirst to absorb your great art. I thought I’d understood you to say that you’d wanted me to write about it. But like all great loves you wished so much more for me than I could possibly understand. I began to open up to you completely.

I was vulnerable to being at home with you. And so you gave me one, then arranged for family and friends to visit. You showed me things I’d never seen before. You had patience with me, because you love me.

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“I am lying on the sofa after a simple dinner––some honey and oranges and wine and this feels incredible.”

This little piece I knew of you was the closest I’d had to home in a long time. I brought you flowers and put them in the window box. Instead of tossing the mostly dead geranium, I plucked her dead leaves and fed her water from my Finsterra shot glass. This made me incredibly happy.

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The flowers in the window box reminded me of the great works of art I’d seen at Museé de Orsay, works of Renoir and Jan Van Huysum. In the strokes of their petals I learned that every great artist has had doubts but great tenacity, vision, and ceaseless work always overcame them. Their passion-fueled spirt has given me courage.

Your spirit whispered to me that my readers want to discover and follow their dreams. You’ve embraced my failings and filled me with the desire to inspire and bring joy and hope to a world in pain. You encouraged me to learn to sculpt words and paint stories.

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You wrapped me in the love of my daughter. We filled the city with laughter. She called my journey ‘a great adventure.’ Your gentle reminder of what life is. My love, how many times will it take for me to truly believe? Forgive me.

“I lay in the home you made for me–so incredibly tired and overwhelmed. Tears roll. Doubts scream and all the while you tender-heartedly let them come and whisper, ‘onward, upward.’ I tell you I want to go home and you gently say I already am. There suddenly is an urgency to all that I want to create.”

Thank you for the holy dinner my daughter and I shared and our visit to crepe alley. For the sweet embrace you gave us both as we grieved together. Just when the overwhelm is too great you remind me to go big.

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On a Tuesday afternoon going big means walking into Elizabeth’s studio and saying “oui” when she asked if I’d like to start sculpting that day.

Trusting that I knew what to create in the clay, you opened a world I’d never known before. Showed me I could do with my hands what I hoped to do with my words. In Elisabeth’s studio, to the songs on French Radio we became lost in the pleasure of the clay––its coolness and smoothness. Knowing and not knowing what would materialize or how to massage emotion into the clay. Molding, forming and stretching, we transformed.

Did I ask too much of you, my love?

Some loves are magic. Their face lights up and their voice wraps a big bow around me and I am more in the world than I was before knowing them. You wrapped a bow around me. A cordon rouge. Thank you for teaching me what love is and what it should never be.

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When they visited from Begium, my host daughter’s boyfriend said he needed to descend the stairs of The Arc de Triumph ahead of us. Christophe wanted to break our fall if needs be.

My love, thank you for breaking my fall.

For showing me that in my favorite drink, Champagne, joy overcame pain. Champagne’s soil has absorbed countless bodies of slain warriors. Its geography required its people to battle every hoarding brood. Yet a solitary monk named Dom Perignon rose to create the most celebratory drink in the world. How is it that a region that has known so much pain is known all over the world for the joy it brings?

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I learn the heartbreaking history of Champagne in Reims, the home of the church of the smiling angel. Why are sculpted smiling angels so rare?

My love you connected me to myself and to a world that didn’t end. A world I had to find for myself. Where I learned to love in another language. You have taken the time to see me. Perhaps the only one in the world who really has. And for that I have fallen for you. My love, your pain is my pain and your joy is my joy.

I will always be here for you.

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World : Killing my own spiders

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wild ginger flower

March 2, 2014

Seloliman Nature Reserve, Java

The jungle hikes at Seloliman will stay in my imagination forever. So much to inspire. The great variety of life…the beauty of the wild. I thank God for waist-deep hikes in this jungle. Swallowed in nature, I’m blessed to experience the aliveness of an exotic world. A world my dad called home.

a jungle creature
a jungle creature

“It’s loud in the jungle, just like Dad said. Full of hums and chirps, calls and caws, crescendos and croaks and howls. There’s a million creatures out there and my mind’s alive with the intoxication of sound! One of the best experiences of my life—sitting here on the bed, under the mosquito netting, journaling to the jungle’s symphony.” 

March 4, 2014

Kilabaru, Java

“I just killed a spider for Hannah, she’s adorable. A total sweetheart, she’s extremely adventurous, but really upset by insects. At our last place in Seloliman Nature Preserve, our bathrooms were outside and she had a wasp nest under her sink. She was staying all alone that night (it was her night to have a room all to herself, we all take turns). When she screamed and I was the one to kill the spider, I realized that I’d be killing my own spiders from now on. Once upon a time, he took care of that. So many things shared, so many things lost.”

holy water at the temple at Seloliman
holy water at the temple at Seloliman

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March 5, 2014

Kilabaru, Java

“One of the most amazing memories of the trip so far was when I swam at the Hindu temple in Seloliman. It was completely spontaneous. We’d just hiked to the temple, and before I knew it I was swimming in the temple’s holy water. I loved it. Every second of it. There’s such power in following my instincts, even though I have no idea where they might take me. All I know is that I’m more me when I pay attention to them. 

I was deeply sad at the temple (I think it had something to do with the fact that I would be killing all my own spiders from now on) and I wanted to wash the sadness away. After I went for a swim, my friend David came up to me and tapped me on the shoulder. He asked how I was. The gesture so very unexpected and so very nice. It was the kind of tenderness I wasn’t used to.

Thunder’s booming in the distance and is a comfort. I like the rhythm of the storms. We have no water in our room right now. Last night I blew a fuse when I plugged in my phone for a charge. In the last hotel the electrical didn’t work at all. There’s a peace to life in the darkness I never knew before. I’ve made friends with it.”

To be continued…

90 Spontaneous Days Around The World : How to discover your passions in the face of catastrophe

“the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong,
it was as big as the promise of the coming day…”

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I made an offering to the volcano to end my pain. I asked God to turn the flowers I tossed into the cauldron of the volcano at Mt. Bromo into happiness.

My roommate Hannah and I sleepwalked into our clothes. Together with our traveling companions, we piled in five jeeps to take the dizzying, nighttime drive to summit Mt. Bromo. I sat in the far back seat of one of the jeeps. Every twist and turn sent mystery metal digging into my hip or thigh. My friends and I had braved many adventures on our tour together. This one was the earliest. After a short hike to the summit we waited, having no idea what beauty we’d witness. What wonders sat in the darkness below.

I saw The Southern Cross for the first time. My friends and I sung the Crosby, Stills and Nash song of the same name. As I sang, I understood why I came to Java— the truth I ‘d been running from was so strong, it was as big as the promise of the coming day.

March 4, 2014

“In the pink and purple smoke of many shrouded volcano peaks, at the summit of Mt. Bromo, the sun rose. Illuminating beauty out of the darkness. It was my sunrise. All mine. A new beginning. An invitation to do the very same thing within my own life. To illuminate the darkness. I am the sunrise. In that moment, I decided I’d always GO BIG. This big trip, this big sunrise called me to trust my big dreams. I’d no longer need to doubt or be frightened by them any longer. I’ll bravely keep on dreaming. Keep on living, to discover myself and my passions in the face of catastrophe.”

More thankful this Thanksgiving than any other

Borobudur February 2014
Borobudur February 2014

 

I sit at the fire pit where I first met him. The magic that night undeniable. There is no such magic tonight. I give a big smile to the flames and the memory and wonder why love disappears.

The asking takes me back to Bali. Why is not a spiritual question Laura, my healer reminds me.

For certain.

Flames reflect in the empty glasses friends drank from while chatting and flirting. Empty Glass the name of one of his favorite albums.

The man I thought he was would never hurt me in this way. I try to shrug off memories of what never was by admiring beautiful, wide-eyed young couples and say a silent prayer. Lord, watch over them so they never wake up wondering where a lifetime of their love went. As well as their youth.

What to do with the truth?

Perhaps it would have been better to sit at the edge of the Grand Canyon with a paper bag over my head. Denial has its place.

But, no. I was given life to live it. To risk, to love fully, to experience pleasure and pain and live authentically. In the firelight I find I’ve not only survived, I’ve thrived and discover I’m more thankful this Thanksgiving than any other.

In deep gratitude I give thanks for my strong, beautiful daughters, friends, a family which expanded this year to include people all over the world, the grace of God, my trust in the unknown, faith over fear, and wisdom which has given me peace.

A woman joins me at the fire pit. Asks where everyone went. Wonders if I’m alone.

I know now that I’m never alone, even when I appear to be.

She says she lost a diamond ring but “it’s no big deal.” With a laugh she says she’s also lost her husband.

I smile and mention that’s a bigger problem.

She says she isn’t worried.

She fans the fingers of her left hand and points to her ring finger to what she says is a four-carat diamond ring and adds of the two it’s “the ring that really matters.”

We search the sand beside the fire pit for her “no big deal” missing diamond ring. His words still so clear in my memory, I always took my ring off when I was with other women.

She gives up on the search and we say our goodbyes. And there’s this part of me that wants to find the ring she so easily gave up on.

True love

I love you,’ Buttercup said. ‘I know this must come as something of a surprise to you, since all I’ve ever done is scorn you and degrade you and taunt you, but I have loved you for several hours now, and every second, more. I thought an hour ago that I loved you more than any woman has ever loved a man, but a half hour after that I knew that what I felt before was nothing compared to what I felt then. But ten minutes after that, I understood that my previous love was a puddle compared to the high seas before a storm. Your eyes are like that, did you know? Well they are. How many minutes ago was I? Twenty? Had I brought my feelings up to then? It doesn’t matter.’ Buttercup still could not look at him. The sun was rising behind her now; she could feel the heat on her back, and it gave her courage. ‘I love you so much more now than twenty minutes ago that there cannot be comparison. I love you so much more now then when you opened your hovel door, there cannot be comparison. There is no room in my body for anything but you. My arms love you, my ears adore you, my knees shake with blind affection. My mind begs you to ask it something so it can obey. Do you want me to follow you for the rest of your days? I will do that. Do you want me to crawl? I will crawl. I will be quiet for you or sing for you, or if you are hungry, let me bring you food, or if you have thirst and nothing will quench it but Arabian wine, I will go to Araby, even though it is across the world, and bring a bottle back for your lunch. Anything there is that I can do for you, I will do for you; anything there is that I cannot do, I will learn to do. I know I cannot compete with the Countess in skills or wisdom or appeal, and I saw the way she looked at you. And I saw the way you looked at her. But remember, please, that she is old and has other interests, while I am seventeen and for me there is only you. Dearest Westley–I’ve never called you that before, have I?–Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley, Westley,–darling Westley, adored Westley, sweet perfect Westley, whisper that I have a chance to win your love.’ And with that, she dared the bravest thing she’d ever done; she looked right into his eyes.

-William Goldman, The Princess Bride

Malibu & 27 Years : The Sculpture Anniversary

Yesterday was our 27th anniversary. I found out that in the modern gift list, this is our Sculpture Anniversary. (Last year being original pictures? -Really?) I’m not sure if I’m into the modern list (especially since #44 is groceries 🙂 ) but it’s kind of fun to check them out. Ours was a year of many challenges (Mom’s cancer and life on the road among them). I turned to the Lord many times this year and found several verses that helped me in my time of need. One was Matthew 5:41 “And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.” And of course, 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. “Love bears all things.” Not just the things it wants to. Romance is wonderful. Love is eternal. And when life tries to come in between you and the one you love, love can be a battle. But I’ve found, that when true love can overcome what the world has thrown at it, the bond is more beautiful than ever. As we head out to the beach today to renew our vows and to celebrate what we’ve overcome this year, I thought I’d share a few photos. Continue reading Malibu & 27 Years : The Sculpture Anniversary

A Valentine’s Day Story

Source: my.hsj.org via Amy on Pinterest

 

Valentine’s Day is full of happy memories for me. Once upon a time, I got married on Valentine’s Day and had a beautiful snowy Chicago wedding. And once upon a longer time, Valentine’s Day was the very first holiday that a boy did something so over-the-top amazing, it was the first time a boy made me feel special. And, isn’t that how every girl/woman wants to feel every day, but especially on Valentine’s Day? I was a junior in high school and home hanging with my family when the doorbell rang. I think Mom beat me to the door so I settled back to my spot at the kitchen counter talking with one of my brothers when Mom calls, “Laur, it’s for you!” Continue reading A Valentine’s Day Story