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.

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.