Day Seven Return to Paris, The Musee d’Orsay, Degas “Little Dancer” Ballerina
Day Three PARIS, Notre Dame, 2017
The iconic Clock from the Musee d’Orsay in Paris – the Museum was formerly a train station, so clocks are everywhere, and my message for you is time-oriented…
Here I am again, inside the chaotic and dangerous inner sanctum of the pandemic, except I have finished another trip around the sun. I had a birthday, in spite of covid. My heart goes out to all those people whose life journey has ended much too soon. I grieve for you and your families every day. It is like Russian Roulette, this disease. Chances are that you might get it in some random, thoughtless nanosecond when your guard is down. I hope not. Never lose your focus and your awareness of what you are doing, where you are doing it, what your hands are touching and the quality of the air you are breathing. We are all stuck together here in this moment in time, and I care about you.
They say you should write about what you know, and I know all of this. Later birthdays are difficult under even normal circumstances, but when you get up into numbers that are in the clouds birthdays can be stunning and sobering. It seems the older you get the more you think about the past. I try, teeth gritted, not to do that. I make it almost my mantra to live in the now.
The nights are the most daunting. Oh I can fall asleep just fine, but waking up at 3:42 am every morning is predictably infuriating. I know I am not alone.
For weeks, months, even years our “getting older” minds are awakened in the pitch blackness to worry about THINGS. We waste the wee hours on trivial pursuits – what was my dog’s name when I was 6 years old? How come I never liked that one curly-headed kid in my biology class? Isn’t he famous or something now? Why did I have to learn about where babies come from in an idiotic, intellectually insulting book that my mom handed me much too late? But more often the worst case scenarios dominate our thoughts. The hot water heater is on its last legs. It will probably quit when I can least afford to replace it. Probably Christmas Eve. That pain in my leg is probably something really bad. I don’t feel comfortable going to see my doctor during a pandemic. I will just wait it out and worry about it again tomorrow night. Are blue whales really making a comeback?
The things you wake up to worry about are often suddenly replaced, in your waking life, by a different big worry thing, worse than all the other things that you ever anticipated, that surprises the heck out of you. Oh my god I never even thought of that! The entire furnace goes out plus the hot water heater! You find out that pain in your own leg is just unimportant arthritis but someone else you dearly love has a far more dire health issue. How silly of you to have been worried about your mere leg, you say. Those stakes were not high-value worrying at all. Just your leg. What a waste of time.
Once in a while the thing you were so worried about never ever happens and you are shocked by a wonderful something that distracts you completely from worrying and renews your joy and optimism. That can happen. One year my daughter amazed me with the news that I was going to Paris! For my birthday! Well that surprise shot right up past everything on the worry list to top notch #1 most wonderful of things. A whole different list! Both my kids are always telling me I am going to live to be a hundred. (But is that supposed to be a good thing? Do I really want to?) They seem to have gotten a call from somewhere, from someone who knows, because they are so sure. But usually when my birthday comes, every single year, I can’t help but wonder how many of them I have left. My sweet daughter says, enthusiastically, “Mom you are not done yet! You still have things to do! Things to see! Start thinking about what you would like to do on your eightieth!” So I wonder if someday when I am 97 or a hundred, the two of them will quietly slide over to me and tell me, in a kind quiet voice, in my totally deaf ear, “Mom it is time now. Get your stuff together. You are done. “
With this blog post I am beginning a new-ish direction with my blog posts – I realize I will be losing a chunk of younger followers with this move but that is ok. I feel the urgent need to write what I know for sure about being older, starting out now, in the time of “cholera”, and continuing on into any time and place I want to go, for that matter. The experience will be bittersweet. Funny as hell one moment and tragic comedy in the next, but forever real. I hope to touch upon all subjects that we seniors are dealing with. Health, spirituality, love, romance, hobbies, self-worth, travel, inspiration and basic everyday living. I invite you to come along, no matter what your numerical age or your mental age, because I believe you all will find something of relevance here.
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The ancient marble steps leading through the doors to French Gothic Notre Dame are slightly grooved from centuries of weekly worshipers. You can feel it under your feet as a reminder that you are merely one of millions who have gone before you – people on pilgrimages, wandering vagabonds, visiting kings and queens, street people, modern day gypsies, students of ancient art and architecture and folks just like you and me who are in awe of the grandeur and the sacred space. As we arrived the bells for Sunday mass were tolling and a long line was forming for entrance; a huge Christmas tree decorated in blue bulbs stood in the entrance courtyard and it was brutally cold and windy. I was almost hyper-ventilating from reverence and excitement.
The cathedral is gargantuan; the air I was breathing was rarefied, the enormity of the experience was profound. There are few words worthy of the time I spent there…
I lit candles and said some silent prayers; I tried to catch my breath as I wandered through. I knew I had to come back again the next day when there might be an empty pew where I could sit and spend more time. My photographs do not begin to reveal the size and scope I was seeing. The proportions in the nave are astounding. There was not an empty seat in the place.
And I returned the next day, every bit as anxious as I had been the first time, on Monday, my final day in Paris. After wandering for an hour or more, taking more pictures, I found the gift shop and purchased some little six inch Notre Dame Christmas angels crafted from what looked like humble material and a few gold charms for necklaces. Treasures that will become family heirlooms…for some treasured people in my life.
I cannot help but wonder how many people down through the ages, no matter their beliefs about a higher power, have journeyed to this magnificent place of worship, praying for peace on earth. For me, Notre Dame is a symbol of hope, an ancient wonder of a place, begun in 1163 and mostly completed by the 14th century. The famous flying buttresses support its walls and roof, heavily damaged during the French Revolution. In the South Tower hangs the cathedral’s original bell, 13 tons, named Emmanuel ( all the bells are named) which announced the liberation of France from the Nazies in 1944. Emmanuel is extremely important to French history. The bell was recast in 1631 from copper and bronze, and Parisian women threw into the pot their precious gems and jewels, thus incorporating them into the bell. In 2013 as part of Notre Dame’s 850th anniversary since construction began, nine new bells were installed replicating the original chimes.
Notre Dame is very much the center, the heart and soul of Paris, in both location and adoration. You must go visit her. She is a beauty.
Additional photos of Notre Dame and my entire Paris trip can be found on my Instagram pages at The Creative Epiphany and on FB under Jo Ann (Rossiter) Brown-Scott.
Jo Ann Brown-Scott, author and artist – www.acanaryfliestheycanyon.com
The Splendor of Musee d’Orsay
On Friday of our astounding week in Paris we visited the Musee d’Orsay, an enormous destination that is now dear to my heart. The famous clock, that spot-on perfect icon that defines this museum in the minds of folks who are passionate about art history was clearly visible and unmistakable as we approached from a bridge on the right bank crossing over the Seine to the left, an easy walk from our hotel in St Germaine. What better symbol, what better icon, to identify such a priceless location commemorating the very passage of time and the treasures therein? What time has given us is personified in Paris and its museums. All that is right in the world of art, antiques, fashion, food, design, music, literature, treasures small and large and tradition I found in abundance during our week of wandering this gorgeous city. A city that remains easy to explore, welcoming, comfortable and always extraordinary in its offerings.
The gigantic rotunda of this museum might reveal that it was once a railway station built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle but by 1939 rail travel ceased at this building. Later from 1848 to 1914 the government set about transforming it it to what became the country’s premier showcase for art. It is grand and glorious but not uncomfortably so, with comfy beanbag chairs accessible for relaxing in the upstairs space where you see the interior photo of the window clock, which reveals an amazing panorama of the city’s Montmartre area including the Sacre-Coeur. It was nearly shrouded by fog the day we were there….
As with the Louvre and its Mona Lisa, I had one primary goal in the Musee d’Orsay and that was Degas’s ballerina sculpture titled Little Dancer. Once again, blotting tears streaming down my cheeks, I walked around and around her as I remembered my own tiny dancer daughter when she was in the Nutcracker at Denver’s Christmas season years ago. I have always been a fan of Degas, and this sculpture is tres magnifique and especially realistic with its unusual addition of a pale peach-colored gauzy tutu and a wide satin hair-ribbon to match that have remained almost unscathed since it was incorporated into the 1880 sculpture. The young girl depicted in the sculpture is a fourteen year old Belgian, a student at the Paris Opera Ballet School of that time named Marie van Goethem. Little did she know that she would live forever in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris and become a worldwide symbol of the ballet. Degas’s huge body of work portrays many ballet scenes; this one is by far his claim to fame.
I also viewed more Van Gogh’s than I had ever seen in one space that day in the Musee d’Orsay, as well as Manet, Monet, Renoir, Gauguin and many others who were made real to me through my viewing of their Impressionistic art.
To be so fortunate, so blessed and so enlightened on one day in Paris, just one day out of seven, was rare and immensely joyful for me. I am forever changed by it and thankful that my daughter sent me there for my birthday. If you read my own grown-up ballerina’s travel blog here on WordPress at http://www.compassandcamera.wordpress you will be reminded that she wrote about my mother’s (and her grandmother’s) trip to Europe of many years ago including a trip to Paris, based upon the postcards she sent home. Of course my daughter has also been to Paris, included with many other countrys on her travel resume.
Hhmm…. this Paris thing is a golden heirloom thread running through our family now and it is no accident believe me. We women know where to go and what to see that will enrich our lives and add to our appreciation for the life we have been given and the very brief time we have here on earth in which to live it….. I wish for all of you a trip to Paris.
For additional photos of Paris please follow me on Instagram at “the creative epiphany” Jo Ann Brown-Scott
Sometimes when you have your mind set on one thing (Notre Dame) you are surprised and moved by a different thing discovered along the way…..maybe not as grand or as monumental as the thing you were seeking, not as polished and elegant, a little bit more weathered and worn around the edges, but certainly worthy of a visit. So you walk in. It is then that you understand the value of never passing up the chance to investigate and perhaps be rewarded for your effort with an unforgettable experience.
Just a short block or so up in the square, a five minute walk, from our Hotel des Continents located at 25, Rue Jacob in the Saint Germain district of Paris we found the well worn little lady of a church named Saint-Germain-des-Pres – astoundingly the oldest church in Paris! Construction on its Bell Tower was begun in 990 making it the oldest one in Paris plus a belfry dating from the 12th century. It is considered quite a prestigious site for the Romanesque style of art and architecture and people have been attending services there for fifteen centuries. It was a Benedictine Abbey with a major intellectual influence over the course of all that time. From the outside it is rather unimpressive, but the gorgeously colorful interior takes your breath away. Reds! Blues! Patterned columns carved with Romanesque capitals that are among the very first of the Romanesque period line the passageways on the sides of the church. There is some much needed renovation going on. Paint is peeling off and colors are fading but it is all being restored to its rightful splendor as we speak.
I was astounded at the beauty of this church and visited again several times while in Paris for several reasons – it seemed to be the center of our familiar little neighborhood with wonderful shops down every street from the church. Also one of our favorite cafes, Les Deux Magots was just across the street from the church and we ate there several times and did some serious people watching. The Saint Germain district is a perfectly positioned area in which to stay, on the Left Bank and just a couple blocks from the Seine. Everything we wanted to see was easily accessible by walking or cab if it was raining. A pastry tray was offered to me at Les Deux Magots that raised the French pastry bar by several notches. I limited myself to just one since they were all the size of melons.
We could hear the church bells ringing from that centuries old Bell Tower from our hotel room and the church had an outdoor Christmas bazaar happening every evening with rows of cute little wooden houses with red trim that we loved to frequent for food and gifts. Last but not least I loved this church because I am just a total fool for cathedrals and churches. They indicate so much about the people who lived centuries ago and that has everything to do with my art history courses at CU in Boulder, my own artistic gift and the ways I like to be inspired to paint and create, and then of course my sentimental longing to pay my respects to places of worship that have been so significant in the history of humankind. One of the rainy days when I visited the church a man was taking refuge there.
On a freezing cold night with strong wind stinging any exposed skin, we bundled up and braved the situation to have our dinner standing up outside at a counter at one of the Christmas booths at the church – Raclette at its finest! Gooey melted cheese, scraped dripping, bubbling and hot off a huge cheese wheel then combined with thin sausage slices, slathered onto a French baguette cut lengthwise. Oh! And with a side dish of the best scalloped potatoes I have EVER had being constantly stirred in an enormous wok-like pan on a burner. I asked her what the recipe was for those potatoes and she told me in English with a lovely French accent – of course heavy cream played the biggest role in that yummy concoction. It was honestly one of the best meals we had in Paris and it was well under 15 Euros, and we had to brace ourselves against the wind as we wolfed it down.
One night it actually snowed which is a rare and wonderful freak of nature in Paris and we also happened to be in the square next to the church. Well, absolute crazy chaos ensued at the sight of snow coming down in flakes the size of cottonballs! Car horns honking! Sophisticated French folks yelling and laughing and catching snowflakes in their mouths! I wanted to invite them all to visit me in Colorado. (see photo of the church in snow above) We can show you some snow!
Days before I ever saw Notre Dame in Paris, which left me breathless and teary, I found this sweet little church of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and I am forever grateful for that. It reminded me of a lesson I already knew – beauty comes from within and is undiminished by age.
Please stay tuned for Part Two of My Birthday in Paris! Your response to this series has been quite amazing and much appreciated. I am also posting photos on Instagram under Jo Ann Brown-Scott, The Creative Epiphany
Photos by Jo Ann Brown-Scott, late November 2017 – The Christmas tree is directly in front of Notre Dame. The weather was quite cold, rainy and it snowed one night, but it made the scenery look like fine etches in dark contrast .
Please read my previous blog titled Simple Things That Stir My Soul in order to have the foundation and perspective for this new blog. Paris is by no means a simple thing….you need to read the back story to understand how it happened that I spent my birthday there. Paris is monumentally impressive and a life-changing experience. The people could not have been more kind, cooperative, polite, funny and charming. Parisiennes are quite eager to be of help and often eager to know who you are, exactly where you are from and anxious to have brief conversations with you if possible. Tres magnifique!
I ate onion soup almost every day for lunch, with a variety of cheeses and salads, in some little cafe or another but of all the places where my traveling companion extraordinaire and I decided to stop, this photo was taken at the Frenchiest of French cafes serving the very Frenchiest French onion soup I ever ate in my life. One just cannot have enough onion soup, sinfully sweet flaky whip creamy pastry, fat puffy croissants and creme brulee to die for while in Paris. AND if it is also the assignment from your daughter then you must do it. After all, she is the bottom line reason I was there in the first place! (again, refer to previous blog)
My friend Susie Angeline, who also writes a WordPress blog titled The Sunday Traveler and is posting some of the exact same views that I am in her blog (we each see the same things a teensy bit differently ) and I put in a week’s worth of epic, happily exhausting days. We packed a lot in those 7 days – we jam-packed them with major monuments, art museums, cathedrals, elegant shops, a 2 hour day tour of the Latin Quarter, restaurants, and dozens upon dozens of smaller priceless discoveries that warmed our hearts and fed the voracious appetites of our phone cameras and our digital cameras. When you go to Paris you must take both kinds of cameras – phone camera for ease and spontaneity and digital for clarity when photographing stained glass, rainy shots and distance. Yes it does become a juggling act since a new photo opportunity crops up about every 5 feet.
We hit the ground running about 10:30 am or so from the hotel (after checking in immediately from the airport) and ignored our jet lag to race off on foot to the Eiffel since it is the ultimate icon of Paris and we did not want to be inside a cab as the scenes blurred past us. We approached it from the back side (excuse my French) and found the neighborhood around it to be charming and exceedingly photogenic. We wanted to rent a flat there. We already started planning…we wanted to chuck our lives in the USA and live in Paris for a while. She would become a writer and travel photographer, I would paint and write my fourth book. We would dress the way French women dress. We knew we could do it. We discussed it over pastries, in lieu of birthday cake since it was the actual day of my birth when we landed in Paris. Too large a birthday to mention any numbers here. Don’t even guess please. Just leave it alone. I had 2 huge pastries and a hot chocolate with whipped cream. Combined with jet lag.
I was stunned to finally be in Paris – I thought my chances of getting there anytime soon would be like …… pigs flying. I remained in a constant state of awe for all the next 7 days, 24/7, to such a degree that I had to repeatedly pinch myself. Paris is a state of mind, I learned. Much more than a mere city. It is now in my DNA and I must go back.
Please stay tuned for Part Two of My Birthday in Paris!
Please visit these two extraordinary Blog sites for beautiful, enlightening travel posts by my daughter Kelly K. Heapy at CompassandCamera.wordpress.com and my traveling companion Angeline Susie Munoz at TheSundayTraveler.wordpress.com
Photo Courtesy of Pinterest
From This to That…..Read to the end please.
This time of year brings a powerful emotional rush for me, with blessings in such abundance that the ride from Thanksgiving until New Years Eve feels like one long continuous smile through teary eyes of gratefulness. I am a simple girl at heart, not very high maintenance I have been told. It is because I am an artist – it is ALL wondrous to me, the small is way more intricate than the big. Every day brings joy and wonder at all the goodness still in evidence in this tumultuous, troubled, wounded world. Every tiny thing stirs my soul. Every song, every kind word, every demonstration of love and giving melts me right down to a tender mess. During the holiday season, the common becomes the extraordinary; all that is good and true becomes magnified and more important in my eyes. Every moment is a reminder of how fortunate we all are to be where we are and who we are in a country of opportunity and bounty; we are all well aware of the alternatives.
I will always and forever be moved by the stark imagery of a red barn in the snow. It travels me back in time to my youth spent on eight magical acres in the country, when we lived in a huge enfolding mother of a home and Santa’s sleigh landed on the roof.
I am brought full speed to happiness by the giggles of little children waiting for Santa, opening gifts, bundled up against the snow, eating holiday cookies and finally snuggling in for bed on Christmas Eve.
I can tear up making mashed potatoes when I am suddenly aware of how many Christmases I have been fortunate enough to make them for a mob of partying people arriving through my door. I am so grateful to have survived all this time. I am so grateful for people who enjoy coming to my home.
I am amazed when the simple glass globe that changes colors and acts as a nightlite for my laundry room (it really deserves a better location) becomes the single most fascinating object in my home, (amid piles of new markers, crayons, coloring books) for my three precious nieces. I wish I had gotten a picture of them clustered around it, oooing and ahhhing….it was priceless.
I am struck by the panorama of the Rocky Mountain range spread out before me in snow-covered majesty against a deep blue sky, clear as a bell and sparkling in the late November sun. It is a scene I am treated to every time I drive through the entrance of the community I call home, and it makes my return from the most mundane errands a constantly changing artistic delight. That view is my barometer of weather rolling in and many times a barometer of the mood I am in. How can one not be inspired and humbled by that enormous landscape? It puts you right in your place if you are feeling the slightest bit grumpy. It straightens you up and makes you fly right as my mother would say.
I am ever-awed by the surprises that come my way, both great and small, during this giving season. I also happen to have a late November birthday, lumped in with Thanksgiving and Christmas and so I am also facing the fact that I am in the late fall of my life both literally and metaphorically. No need to remind me – I am well aware of the years, thank you very much. Winter is just around the corner. I can already hear the wind howling as it gets closer and closer. Anyone who is fortunate to have reached this point relatively unscathed asks herself or himself a lot of questions. I mean a LOT of questions….you become rather introspective. And quite philosophical. Wondering…how many Christmases are left…wondering how many of all the “this and thats” you might have left. What is to come? It is not always pretty up there in your mind’s eye. You welcome diversions.
I am fortunate to be blessed with an old-soul daughter, a rare and wise and fun daughter who is beautiful both inside and out, in my life who takes great pleasure in stunning me – shocking me – rendering me speechless and babbling like a goofball with monumental surprises beyond my wildest dreams! The most recent surprise (in a long list of events and occasions that scroll through the attic of my mind) first unfolded with a request to play a silly little game of rhymes, followed by the big realization when the answer was revealed, then chaos in my mind and dumbfounded confusion about how it had all been planned so carefully behind my back, complete with a Fed Ex delivery to my door with mysterious envelopes to open over a week’s time…….a plane ticket and more! It finally sunk in that I am being sent away to Paris for a week, accompanied by a dear friend (in on the planning) since my daughter was busy meeting deadlines with her job and could not get away. This is a wild dream that had been eliminated from any dreams (for one reason or another) I had for this particular year of my life! It is a rather large birthday I am facing. It makes me gulp. This surprise is large enough to match the numbers and now my gulps will be of wine. For an art major and fanatical fan of Da Vinci, Notre Dame, the Eiffel and all that is France, this will be heaven. I am crazy with anticipation.
I have learned more from this darling daughter of mine than I could ever have taught her myself. She was born Yoda-wise. I saw it in her baby eyes when she was born.
She believes deeply in the giving of experiences. She knows that there is great value in giving memories, because those will entertain and warm you in the long winter of life to come when your ability to find adventure and action packed days is no longer a possibility. She finds ways to fill my bucket list and stoke my fire of a life well lived, so the embers will burn for a very long time. It must also be mentioned that her old-soul Renaissance Man husband is very much a part of this picture, also loving the fine art of the surprise! Thanks so much for this birthday gift! I will do it up right I promise!