If I could take a snap shot of Paris, I would not be able to capture just one image. And by snap shot, I mean an image that would describe the Paris that I see through my eyes, the city of light, of love, the place that never fails to inspire me each day that I am here. Paris is life, Paris is love. I do not exaggerate. There is never a day that finishes, where I do not feel that illuminated joy in the bottom of my soul that says, "I'm glad I am here." And at the start of each new morning, as the coffee brews in it's tiny-espresso cup form in the kitchen by my room, I smile and say to myself, "hmm, I wonder where I'll go today...."
I have begun, so I think, a sort of love affair with the city. I have left it three times while I've been here to go on trips to foreign cities or neighboring towns. And each day when my bus or train pulls me back through the royal gates, I think, "how I am happy to be home".
The realization that I love Paris set upon me last night as I listened for the hundreth time to the rumble of the metro four floors and some odd feet beneath the ground. And I mused upon the events of the evening. I thought of dressing in my Parisien-friendly heels to go meet our school's President for tea. I thought of the classiness of our afternoon-meeting with her and the fact that we were following a Smith-tradition by having tea, but tea in Paris with the President is different than tea in Northampton on a Friday. There were platters of the oh-so-good madeleines and dew-drop fruit candies served in wrappers. There was tea seeped through a strain and the ambiance of the Parisien dusk. The air was not too cold and the wind outside was friendly. And we chatted and mused on the wonders of our Parisien lives here and we came together as a group in Paris with such ease that an outsider would have thought we had been here for longer than three months. That is because so long as we have been is Paris, it has become a part of us just as we have become a part of it.
I love Alex's reflections on what it means to truly be here, not as a tourist, but as a habitant, an intellecutual muse, a young woman with the world at her fingertips. I agree that it is the small things that count, the things that are mundane, even. I love taking my metro line 5 to my metro line 7 to Reid Hall and watching the passengers as they talk and read, and listening to the children who talk excitedly with their parents about things they have done and places they'll go. I have begun to become a Parisien because I love to people-watch. And I love to every Tuesday and Thursday go to my favorite Boulangerie Eric Kaiser a block from Reid Hall and recieve my demi-monge baguette, warm in the inside and crispy around the edges, and think, I love to eat this bread and be in Paris doing it. And on the way back to Reid Hall between my classes, I love to dodge the path of several pigeons whilst a small dog takes its Madame for a walk on her way to tea with a copine. And these small peices of Paris, the pigeons, the dogs and their pea-coat wearing owners, all these things bring me joy.
Pars, je t'aime. I've said it once and I'll say it again and I won't stop saying it, not even after I leave. I love the way I can lift my head from my reading and follow the last strains of light out of my apartment down the worn rues to work my way towards the sound of the five-o'clock bells that ring from the towers of Notre Dame just ten minutes outside of my appartement. And once I get there, I won't go into the majestic Cathedrale, but I'll stand outside and marvel at the beauty of this place, and by this place I don't mean just the cathedral, cloaked in shadows and light in some spots, but the trees around it that stand above the rues and next to the winding Seine. I mean the petit Cafés with their crèpe stations and nutella bars, next to the boutiques with their antiques and patterned cards, past the musiciens who smile even when they haven't earned a sou. There are simply so many images I could use to describe Paris, Paris at 5 o'clock, Paris at night, Paris at dawn, Paris at mid-day, Paris whenever. I have found myself by degree more and more attiré by these images which describe Paris and these images that are like the brushstrokes of a Manet painting: not one of them can stand alone, but each of them are necessary to create the whole image of a portrait so wonderful, and so original, the world open's its eyes to observe.
But by bit, I am beginning to find myself here, and I am beginning to paint a portrait of my life as I would have never imagined it, were I not here. And more than anything, I have the people to thank for bringing me to this realization because it is them, with their openness and their charm, with their social grace, their reverence for antiquity and their hope for the future, who have led me to this spot of recognition with myself. I thank the people and their monuments and the work they have done to welcome Americans like myself by leaving the doors to their city open for the curious and leaving their wet-paint brushes out for the artists who are ready to paint.
This is what I have to say on a Monday afternoon as the last light of day fades and those Cathedrale bells begin to ring once more.
May each and every one of us who are here excite in the ringing of the bells! And may each of use never fail to paint our own portraits out of some or of all that this glorious city has to offer!
What is your Portrait of Paris?