30 June 2011

The Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Gardens in Paris proved delightful on one of my days in Paris. It's the second largest park in Paris and, on a sunny summer day, it was crowded with people of all ages luxuriating in this gorgeous outdoor space. I thought I would take a walk in a nice park but ended up spending all day in this unique and wonderful place.

The original palace is still there setting the stage. It now houses the French Senate and this is their garden that they generously share with the public.

The pond and fountain in front.

Flowers are everywhere, every color imaginable and bordering all the lawns.

One of the things that impressed me were the amazing statues and sculptures in lovely settings all through the gardens. Benches and chairs were plentiful providing comfortable seats to rest and enjoy.

The close up on this one shows the natural surroundings that enhance all the statues.

This one, embedded in the rocks and plantings, looks so real, like a man being born.

This one is of a couple enjoying their baby in a tender family moment.

These children and their mother are also caught in that spontaneous moment of joy. I love the various pinks in the flowers.

A tribute to Chopin tucked in a wooded grove.

I couldn't find who this was but it looked like Bacchus reveling.

I noticed young children stopping and looking at the many sculptures in between playing their games on the lawns. It's all part of their environment- historical buildings, amazing art, natural beauty, open spaces carefully tended that incorporate it all and is available to them. It's a lovely legacy.

27 June 2011

Cemetery of Montparnasse

One day in Paris while strolling near my hotel, I unexpectedly came across the Montparnasse Cemetery with its many famous residents- writers, sculptors, architects, painters, composers, doctors, historians, comedians, musicians and more.

Jean Paul Sartre, the philosopher, and Simone de Beauvoir, the writer and Sartre's lover, buried together, for instance. Their grave is visited by young couples who kiss the tombstone at the same time for luck in love. Look closely and you'll see the lipstick imprints near their names as well as little mementos left by visitors.


Samuel Beckett, the writer, also receives tiny mementos, even notes. One read: "Still waiting?" and another: "I was here. Godot".

Charles Beaudelaire, the poet, is there as is Porfirio Diaz, a past president of Mexico.

There are so many untold stories in any cemetery and this one was no exception. The stories are hinted at   in word or sculpture, by fresh flowers or signs of obvious care.  One little girl's grave, with a child dropping a flower onto the grave, had a verse carved into it that ends: "The flower of your memory". My French isn't good enough to translate the rest. Even the juxtaposition of this young one frozen in time in 1817 now silhouetted by a modern skyscraper speaks to the finality of death.

Another grave documented a family killed in Auschwitz-Birkenau with only the mother surviving for another 14 years and the daughter or son who memorialized them all.

With the number of sculptors buried here, their various depictions of grief were remarkable and conveyed their powerful, poignant message.

Or some of the other headstone sculptures that told their own stories.

The couple separated and searching for one another.

The grandchild clambering for his grandfather.

Or this striking portrayal of palpable sadness.

This statue stands in the center of the cemetery with the word "souvenir" on it exhorting us
"to remember".

I spent a long time in this lovely place meditating on my ultimately short journey on planet earth and struck by the stories shared by my fellow travelers.

What's on your mind as the week starts?

22 June 2011

Wordless Wednesday in Paris

Sights on day one:

Traveling around Europe with my Honey is one of the things I like best about retirement. 
What's delighting you?

17 June 2011

From: Body Intelligence (by Rumi)

There are guides
who can show you the way.
Use them.

But they will not satisfy your longing.
Keep wanting the connection with presence
with all your pulsing energy.

The throbbing vein
will take you further
than any thinking.

Muhammed said, Do not theorize
about essence. All speculations
are just more layers of covering.
Human beings love coverings.

They think the designs on the curtains
are what is being concealed.

Observe the wonders as they occur around you.
Do not claim them. Feel the artistry
moving through, and be silent.


15 June 2011

What's Happening

The begonias are pert and sassy strutting their beauty along my balcony railing.

The hot peppers are flourishing as well growing long, full and spicy. Yet they hide. 
How many can you find?

I'm eating olives every day from my province of Abruzzo. I never knew olives could taste so fresh. They still carry stories of their tree life and they feed them to me.

The doors are always open now. The colors of new couch cushions' flowers make me smile. Six different coleus plants sit on every available surface with changing colors 
to surprise me and keep me alert.
I sleep on summer bright sheets that even brighten my dreams 
while the pillow from Antigua makes them hotter.

The days are fine enough to melt mountain snow that tries to hold on. A message?

What's happening in your little corner of the world?

13 June 2011

Writers' Week in Ireland

Here's what I like about the Irish: they're in a full blown economic meltdown and they throw a writers' festival and then flock to it. A whole week to celebrate good writers, good books, good poetry. And this is just one of many across Ireland. I love it. I stumbled on this literary happening on the first day I arrived in County Clare. I was graciously picked up at the airport and on our way to the house, we passed through Listowel towards the end of Writers' Week.

This is the Country of such great writers as James Joyce, Thomas Moore, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, G.B. Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Bram Stoker and Samuel Beckett, just to name a few. Ireland boasts four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature: Yeats, Shaw, Beckett and Heaney. During Writers' Week, the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award is given. There were five short- listed novels for this prize featured in the bookstore with readings and workshops by the authors.

As you can see from the sign, they also have a Seanchai Centre (pronounced shawnakee),  named after the traditional Irish lore keepers and tale spinners. It's an ancient form of story telling and passing on lore that was never written down from generation to generation by these custodians of Irish oral tradition. The seanchai were respected, even revered, practitioners who kept track of important information and wisdom then shared it in such a way that it was remembered and cherished down the ages.

I understand why the Irish came to love words and eventually writing those words to tell stories in whole new ways. I understand why welcome signs (fáilte in Irish) are flown for those who want to partake in this tradition. I understand why so many do; to feel this respect, this reverence, this love for the words that help us communicate with one another in ways that touch hearts and change minds. It's a worthy endeavor to improve such a craft. It deserves festivals galore no matter what the economic realities are. Economics will change, our efforts to reach each other remains.

The Kerry Literary and Cultural Centre is named after these fore bearers.

One of the sign posts pointed me to the statue of Bryan McMahon, a favorite son of this town, a writer and a poet who also ran a local bookshop. I picked up his book: The Master and read it while in Ireland. I highly recommend it for the glimpse it gives of Irish country life through the eyes of the school principal who taught the children of the town for 30 years. He instilled in them a love for reading and writing and helped inspire an amazing number of authors and poets in this Kerry area. His views on teaching and awakening the gifts in each child are remarkable given how long ago he taught. I found it to be a treasure.

It was a rare, sunny, warm day in Ireland and I strolled the river walk suggested above. People were stretched out reading, writing, chatting with one another. Made me proud to be part of this grand tradition. These are my people. Writers are my tribe.