Friday, July 27, 2012

Feel Beauty in Monet's Garden

I couldn't leave NYC for a month in Arkansas without visiting Monet's Garden, or as close to Giverny as possible - a one hour subway ride to the Bronx.  I knew that the exhibit would still be at the Botanical Gardens when I returned, but the water lilies were blooming -- the water lilies!

The subjects of Monet's 2000+ paintings may have ranged from haystacks to parasoled women, but it's the pasteled blues, greens, pinks, purples of the water lily pond that I immediately associate
 with his name.

Five years ago, I stood in the center of the Musée de l'Orangerie's oval-shaped room, surrounded by Monet's water lilies. . . panel after six-foot panel of lilies on water wrapped around me, flowed through me.  Like a peaceful dream.

I tried to imagine the man who spent the last 30 years of his life painting them.  What was so compelling about this flower, its kinship to water, the way it changes from sunrise to dusk? "These landscapes of water and reflection have become an obsession for me," he wrote to a friend in 1909. "It's beyond my strength as an old man, and yet I want to render what I feel."

When I walked into the Conservatory Courtyard Pools at the Botanical Gardens, I understood.

"I want to render what I feel," Monet had said.

For a few minutes, I put my camera aside and sat on a bench, searching for words to describe what I saw, but stopped.  It was simply enough to feel the beauty.  

A picture of Monet, taken in his later years, hangs in the Conservatory, amid a stunning simulation of his Giverny gardens.  His quotes are tucked in among dahlia, foxglove, daisy, and rose.


  Whether it be the flowers of Giverny, the waterlilies floating on the pond, or the oak trees outside my window here in Arkansas, Monet reminds me to feel the beauty of Nature's moment.  To feel it, be inspired by it and experience its peace. 


Monday, July 9, 2012

The Difference a Day Can Make

Yesterday Drew and I were in Juneau, Alaska. This morning we're back in New York City.  Two days from now, I'll fly to our home in Arkansas.  Three places so different that my brain just can't keep up  with images bombarding the senses. . . glaciers, skyscrapers, cows. 
If you followed my Arkansas/Russian Reflections blog, you'll know that I often wrote about transitions. As we left Moscow last summer headed for our new life in New York City, I wrote . . . 
"Sometimes I think it’s the speed with which the change occurs that makes me feel like E.T., who was suddenly uprooted when his space ship lifted off without him, leaving him lost, confused and living off Reese’s Pieces, looking for anything that reminded him of Home.  Maybe in the day of long ocean crossings, when there were endless hours of gazing at the horizon, lounging on deck chairs, letting go of one life and preparing for another, transitions were more manageable, more humane." 
I wasn't ready to leave Juneau as we boarded the Alaska Airlines plane.  We had spent a week there as vacationers, re-connecting to a community which had been our home 15 years before.  In many ways, it was as if we had never left.  Many friends remain -- friends with whom we worked, raised children, hiked trails, and endured endless days of Southeast Alaska rain.  Friends with whom we could pick up conversations, like we had started them yesterday. 
Juneau's natural beauty enveloped me.

Berner's Bay                                                                                                                                                                                  
                                                                           Wild Sitka Roses

                                                    Humpback diving

The community of people and nature came alive to me in a way I had not experienced when I lived among them.  Had I been too busy with job, family, too daunted by the rain, too closed in by the clouds?

On our last day in Juneau, my friend, Margie, gave me a beautiful original watercolor.  On the back she had copied a poem. . .


Sometimes the mountain
is hidden from me in veils
of cloud, sometimes
I am hidden from the mountain
in veils of inattention, apathy, fatigue,
when I forget or refuse to go
down to the shore or a few yards
up the road, on a clear day, 
to confirm
that witnessing presence. 

                                                             Wetlands Trail

May I remember to be present, whether in transition, or today in our New York City apartment, watching the interplay of blue sky and clouds outside the window.

It's time to take a walk. . . to go "a few yards up the road."        
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