Sixty six hours since we touched down at Sky Harbor on our return to the states. Sixty six hours and I finally feel capable of doing something other than sitting around and napping with periodic bursts of energy to do laundry, buy food and go through the junk mail. I even tackled the ton of cat hair the cat had so kindly shed the past twelve days.
Yesterday I read my travel journal and Googled the places my son and I just visited in London and Paris. I watched a video of Paris at night and longed for my room which looked straight down on the Seine, Tour Eiffel and the Arch de Triomphe, all glowing in soft gold that lit up the city. Each hour between 9 pm and 1am the tower begins a spectacular light display like thousands of July 4th sparklers going off at once.
I watched the video and ached to be there again – just one more week I had told my son over dinner our last night. No, make that a year I corrected. A year’s a long time, he told me, how about three months? A great compromise. I nodded. But here I sat on Sunday in Gilbert, Arizona, USA. waking from a dream into reality, as we do each and every morning.
I’ve been to Italy three times, and London was fabulous this trip. Kensington Gardens and Nottinghill were steps from our hotel. Trafalgar Square, Harrods, Westminster Abbey, Hampton Court, Sir Albert’s memorial –we saw them all. I even enjoyed revisiting my knowledge of British History – entranced by stark yet opulent castles and fortresses. I watched as Big Ben chimed loudly in the square, watched as the strange looking London Eye moved hundreds of people toward the heavens. I visited Hatchard’s, the oldest book store in London opened in 1797 and bought a small gold-leaf edged copy of “Romeo and Juliet” for good old Will.
But Paris stole my heart. I wasn’t expecting that. Sure, I’ve watched the romantic scenes on some of its loveliest ponts (bridges). I’d seen the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre Dame as recently as “The da Vinci Code”. But I had not experienced the magic of night-time in Paris.
You feel so small in Paris, so inconsequential which perhaps is part of its charm. Its history hits you in the face without having to search for it. It is immense, opulent, a blend of Gothic and Renaissance.You feel King Henry’s presence in Versailles.The gardens are luscious and beautiful; each room over- powers the next with velvet, silk, and gold leaf. The amount of marble hauled to the site during construction had to have taken more than a few lives. Inside you can feel the ghosts and hear the crowds of the Revolution outside its doors; you sense a spirit on every staircase.
Notre Dame was the same. People hush as they enter the cathedral and the quiet follows you into the nave and down the narrow single aisle leading to the Rose Window and at the far end, beyond the choir stations, the marble Pieta cries to be seen. I didn’t ask anyone if they were Catholic, Christian or even religious, but I can’t imagine anyone not feeling the presence of God, an intense presence of something far greater. My son and I later sat across the street and ate Nutella- filled crepes with strong coffee and I sat in awe of it all. Not just the history, the religion, the artists, philosophers and authors who have lived there over the centuries, but the fact that I was there at all. As a small girl in Enid, OK we had a visiting parent once every two weeks who gave each of us a small 1 ½ by 2 inch card with a copy of a famous painting or sculpture as she taught us about the artist and the piece.
As I stood in front of the Mona Lisa I felt moved but it was later, around the corner in front of Renoir and later, Ver Meer that it struck me! Fifty some years later that tiny little girl from a blue collar family in OK was standing with her 33 year old son looking at the original! It was a humbling experience that brought great gratitude and thankfulness. How very blessed and fortunate I have been.
It won’t last. I’ll go back to my complaining as soon as the first 100 degree day hits in a few weeks. I’ll start cursing on the freeway as it comes to a sudden crawl at 4:00pm.
But today, I’ll feel it for as long as I can, and I go back to Notre Dame in my mind and I pray a prayer of Thanksgiving. And I sit here over coffee and let the feeling of peace and calm nestle inside me one more day.