Never force anything but learn to let the painting say what it wants to say ~~ Pablo Picasso
Picasso may as well have been talking about life. Never force anything…Being alone in Paris gives me little lessons in this practice, well, just about every day.
Unlike Lucy Honeychurch in Forster’s Room with a View, i left my Baedecker, & every other guidebook, at home. But in my apartment there’s a guidebook i consult from time to time, a guidebook which assures me that the fabulous outdoor market Marché d’Aligré is not to be missed—the produce! the flowers! the cheeses! the wine you can buy by the cup & sip on your stroll amongst the stalls! the adjoining flea market or marché aux puces!
On a day i’m feeling confident enough in my French to brave the fruit & vegetable sellers i leave the apartment with a sack under my arm, expecting both a festival atmosphere & to come home with the orangest of mandarins, the frilliest lettuces, the longest, silkiest of leeks.
Even with Google maps, i take some wrong turns on my way—because when i’m looking up & around in wonder, awe & amazement i can’t possibly look as well at my phone.
But the sun is out after a morning of rain, there’s a fresh riverine scent & late-January’s late afternoon light, violet-gold, in the air. Having skipped lunch, i can taste the Spanish mandarin…
Finally i reach the Place d’Aligré, & after walking around & around the large building there, i realize there is no outdoor market today, probably because—well, duh—it’s winter. Its damp & chilly & rains part of every day. What fruit, vegetable or anitques seller in his or her right mind would want to be out in that?
The large building does house an indoor market, through which i take a quick stroll, so disappointed i can’t bring myself to purchase the overpriced mandarins, not even one.
Dusk coming on, la tombée de la nuit—literally the fall of the night—i’m sort of beginning to feel as if i’m fading, falling myself, disappearing into the wrong kind of blue.
After that sky-blue I blend in with the horizon until night/falls and it’s a very sweet pleasure/To say no more about anything I do it’s an invisible being doing it/And buttoned up and all blue now blended into the sky I/disappear, wrote Apollinaire in his poem “4 O’Clock.”
The sky over Paris is canal blue, the blue of circling gulls, the blue they weave with their lazy flurries, the blue of the poem Apollinaire wrote while in the trenches of WWI, after receiving the gift, the miracle, of soap from his fiancée Madeleine. Elsewhere he wrote: “Nine days without washing, sleeping on the ground without straw, ground infested with vermin…One of the parapets of my trench is made of corpses…No writer will ever be able to tell the simple horror of the trenches…” It’s something to imagine him receiving a bar of soap & then making a poem to express the wonder of it amidst so much grief.
Along the Seine where i’ve somehow arrived, i come across a sculpture garden. The abstract pieces aren’t animated, exactly, but they do, in this light, breathe differently than such things do by day. They don’t so much occupy space as let space fall or drape or tuck around them as it will. The calm has a taste like pears, organic ones, grown in orchards in the Dordogne.
When Lucy Honeychurch finally forsakes her Baedecker, she comes alive…
The winter river is spilling over the quays. Its color deepens from chalky brown to dusky olive to another color that means Listen, Écoutez!! Somewhere bells are ringing. You can just make them out through the unceasing wave of traffic. But the long boats, with the water so high, even if you live there, are unreachable…