Posts Tagged ‘Mona Lisa’

For some time now, I’ve known I’ve gotten every penny’s worth out of my $5 special plain, brown purse I purchased at K-Mart. And I’ve been casusally looking for a replacement but not exactly on a mission, even as the straps unraveled and fell apart as I carried it.

But vacation time was upon us and that was really my internal deadline for a new purse. So after shopping for the last vacation items the night before leaving, I “captured” my new purse.

Rather, it really captured me with it’s vibrant colors and pronounced turquoise (always a winner) running throughout the purse with a leather type texture.  The scenes of Paris cinched the deal. It was on special but I had to put out a few extra bucks to get it. I didn’t care. The purse just felt FUN to me. It had all the compartments I required for my purse organization AND it definitely reminded me of my time with Tom in Paris in 2000.

Christine Whitehall, in her binji yoga blog, has been sharing her walks around Paris and the surrounding countryside so my thoughts have floated back to my own Paris memories —  tranquil, enchanted and exciting ones.

So do you know anyone who just goes through Paris on the way to someplace else? That’s what we were doing when we arrived at the Paris airport. We were non-French speaking tourists with no money exchanged in the United States to make our way from the airport to the train station for our concluding trip to Chartres France. We were  on our way to a week-long retreat on the labyrinth with Rev. Dr. Lauren Artress, Episcopal priest. 

This was in May 2000, the month dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. I had previously studied with Rev. Artress at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco to become a labyrinth facilitator, but I had no idea of going to France at the time. Things just turned out that way. Like getting onto the labyrinth. You walk to the center and back out again bringing your gift from this quiet walk into the world with you. One of my gifts became a decision made in the future to make the big pilgrimage to Chartres, where this adventure had all began for Rev. Artress.

(Mary, Mother of Christ Child – Chartres Cathedral)

In the mid-nineties, I had picked up her book, “Walking a Sacred Path” at Weber Retreat Center in Adrian Michigan when I was on a weekend retreat on Centering Prayer.  I got interested in both the labyrinth and mandala during that time.  Rev. Artress explains in her book that when she made her pilgrimage trip to Chartres, she felt an overwhelming mission was given to her to make this sacred symbol more known in the United States and in addition to that, to have them created at retreat centers, hospitals, public parks, and cemetaries throughout the land by the year 2000. She succeeded in doing that through her Veritditas Organization.

Grace Cathedral came to have an indoor Cathedral labyrinth and an outdoor plaza labyrinth where on special holy days and New Year’s Day, high on the hill you see tai chi being gracefully performed and serene walkers and graced dance movements following the holy path of the labyrinth.

The labyrinth was not a major part of my spiritual practice, but it was always around throughout the next several years with a pull toward it I could not deny. I assisted with it at my health center and a spiritual center near me. I met a wondrous spiritual director through our mutual interest in the labyrinth and she helped me through a particularly traumatic professional challenge. I traveled to a Sinsinuwa Wisconsin Dominican retreat center focused on hospitality, the creative arts and the labyrinth once again to be with Lauren.

I also gave writing retreats entwined with the labyrinth experience. I got to professionally write and report on the garden labyrinth made on the grounds of the Grand Hotel on our famous vacation island in Michigan, Mackinac Island.

So where does Paris, France come into all of this? The New Millenium year of 2000 had several spiritual energies going for me that just told me this was the time to explore roots.  In January, during the Catholic celebration of Jubilee, we went on the Jubilee diocesan pilgrimage to Rome, Assisi and Florence, Italy.

Our sacred paths included walking the halls of the basilicas of Rome, the dusty floors of the catecombs, the artistic halls of Forence Art museums, holding Michealangelo’s David, and the streets and Cathedral of Assisi, where religious history is recorded in Gioto’s world-fames frescos.  History, culture, art, and human revelations of spirituality across time surrounded and absorbed our group of twenty plus pilgrims. Again, I had the task and blessing to record this in writing and in professional video newsletter form.

And I’m still not in Paris! Tom’s and my second pilgrimage across the sea came in May of that year to Chartres, as I mentioned above. So you fly into Paris to get to Chartres. My thought was, we can’t say we went in and “out” of Paris without really being IN Paris. We began to make arrangements to be able to stay in Paris for a few days after the retreat.

With that came more good fortune because Tom’s sister had a good friend who was an American actor, moved to France where he married a writer of romantic novels, and they now lived in Paris just off the Champs – Elysees (Avenue of Champions). When we contacted them about hotel recommendations, they insisted we stay in their large apartment.  We would be able to get anywhere we wanted with ease from their location they advised.

So we did that. Their apartment was like staying in an art museum. Their son was an artist and they were working out scripts for a TV series from their apartment.

We window-shopped the avenues, people watching as much as window gazing. We went to the very top of the Eiffel tower, back-patting ourselves for our bravery as we passed the mid-level viewing platform. Our walks along the Seine were exceptionally pleasing to me, as were the lighted bridges spanning the famous river. We took a Sunday morning boat ride upon the river also, and there was a great soothing energy all up and down the Seine.

We visited the famous Cathedral of Notre Dame. Stopped and prayed a bit.  Not a regular partaker of the sacrament of Penance, I made a split-second decision to go to confession while I was there. The French priest gave me the penance of lightening up on myself and the advice to play more than I was playing! If I ever get back to France, I may go to confession again.

We also visited the Cathedral of Sacre Cour, one of the mainstay sites for tourist visits, with many, many steps up to the church, itself, and a very panoramic view of Paris at the top. Other places we got this type of view was on the tall ferris wheel, the Victory Monument on the Avenue of Champs, and of course, the Eiffel Tower.

Our adventure of the day was almost getting separated at the underground train, as we tried to decide which train to take. Before the day of cell phones, Tom climbed aboard one just as they were clearing the tracks with me still on the platform. I quickly lunged forward to be with him, only to discover by looking at the train wall map, and the motions of the French-speaking riders, that we were going away from our desired destination rather than toward it. The up side? At least we were going away from it together!

We made a very short visit to the Louvre — appreciated the Mona Lisa, and I was especially entranced by the sculpture throughout the museum. They, too, had a magnetic pull. You could not just walk by them. They commanded an appreciation and an acknowledgment. They hold a very special place in art and history and their residence in the Louvre bears witness to it.

Paris was magical. It felt like being in a movie just to be there. Our short time there flew extra fast, it seemed. And a longing remains. One I don’t think will ever disappear. It is to return again for a longer and slower time. The aging process will take care of slower. To be there a little longer, just once again, would be a blessing.

I will think of this the next time I walk a labyrinth. I will live Paris vicariously each time I tote my purse along for the ride.

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