it’s also raining you marvelous encounters of my life O droplets/and these rearing clouds start neighing an entire world of auricular towns/ listen to the rain while regret and disdain weep an ancient music…~~Guillame Apollinaire
A rainy Sunday afternoon in Paris. The gray like a persistent beat coming through the walls, almost quiet enough to ignore. But not quite…Hmm, how to escape it? The cafés, thrumming with animated conversation, might feel a bit oppressive to this solo traveler with her journal & bilingual edition of Apollinaire.
i opt for The Darkest Hour—Les Heures Sombres—in English with French subtitles & make my way damply to the cinema at Les Halles, where those who are not sitting in cafés are shopping…& those who are not shopping are at the cinema… By the time i’m nearly to the front of the line, the showing is “complète”—soldout.
Not much for shopping at glitzy stores i decide to find a café after all. Exiting the marketplace i’m faced with St. Eustache, a 14th century church.
Perhaps my soul needs the kind of succor a somber gothic église affords.
The stonework is stunning, the stained-glass windows are stunning, the woodwork, yes, is stunning–meaning intricately carved, pieced, joined, considered. (Later i will discover wonderful words like tracery, tympanum & voussoir to name the features.)
Of course i feel small here, i’m supposed to feel small while something called god fills the spaces around & above me. Rain on the faraway roof sounds like someone breathing in the next room, or the next.
What i feel most is my mother’s presence. Who was, as mothers are, a kind of god to me. She who came of age during WWII. She who later taught me to read before i entered school & who set the family clock—who was the clock, time herself who kept us all in check…
My flesh & blood mother was either more or less complicated than that. She traveled neither much nor far. Someone who thrived on routine & predictability, she probably couldn’t embrace the unknowns that travel of any kind imposes. She loved the Style section of the NY Times & appreciated both the fine & decorative arts—Paris, & so many other cities, would have suited her.
All my adult life there was an unbreachable distance between us, though we never talked about it. Me in Oregon, her in the Midwest. My kids little, my kids grown, my seemingly constant overwhelm, the end of my marriage, all the things you need a mother for…
i step into the Lady Chapel, recalling how she prayed daily to the Virgin Mother until her mind wouldn’t let her remember to pray, or to finish her prayers once begun. Her ancestry included a fraction of French, about 1/8th, from her father’s mother.
The coral-orange & sea-green painted onto the vaulting & statues speak both of hesitancy & breaking through…
Travel, it seems, is not what one does to get away from one’s personal past–because the past slips in, eh bien, where & as it will. My hope is that time doesn’t overly varnish it, either with nostaligia or with regret.
Today i light a candle & sit for some minutes, thinking of all these things, & more. In my dream last night Mother tells me we’ve moved the house. i step inside. It’s high in the air with windows looking into trees with huge leaves & enormous mauve peony-like flowers…