Sorry in advance for the spelling grammar mistakes – I am typing this much faster than I normally do.
I spent Easter weekend in Paris with my dear sister in law Leah. Despite the freezing temperatures we saw a good amount of the city. We ate in cafes…We went to museums…browsed through boutiques…meandered through (still winterized) parks…had Good Friday service at Notre Dame…strolled the Champs Elysees…and took in most of the highlights. But I finally admitted something to myself on this trip. I love art but find the big museums difficult.
There are so many people and so many pieces it is difficult to fully appreciate them. You wind up moving through it so quickly because there are too many things to see. We went to the Musee d’Orsay and it was amazing and beautiful but, honestly, I will remember the lunch in their unbelievable restaurant more than the art I saw. I am more naturally drawn to local artisans and boutiques…I prefer to meet the people that are still creating the art and hear the stories behind their creations. I will remember the pieces I saw by the famous painters (actually Degas is my new favorite) but I will also remember the old lady in the outdoor market who makes her own hats…they were beautiful…I bought one.
So keeping this in mind I gave myself permission to skip the Louvre. I looked at the line and it was daunting and the whole experience seemed claustrophobic. I know it is probably amazing and there is a reason everyone goes but it wasn’t the right experience for me. I was honest with myself and decided the big reason I would go is because I should…every one does. But that wasn’t a good enough reason for me and because I gave myself the freedom to do what I wanted I stumbled into the most moving art experience of my life.
Our hotel was in the Latin quarter perfectly situated to walk to all the main highlights. Every time we walked towards Notre Dame we would pass this much less impressive Gothic Cathedral – St. Severin – sometimes several times a day. It was stuck between some modern buildings and much easier to miss. But with my free day I was on my way to explore another neighborhood and decided to duck into this church on the way. It had the same vaulted ceilings as Notre Dame on a much smaller scale. A beautiful organ in the background. But when I turned the corner and saw the stained glass windows…my heart stopped for a moment. These windows were more abstract colors rather than the clean biblical scenes you can often find….and there was one that spoke directly to my soul. Please forgive my iphone photos…it doesn’t ever do them justice. I can’t explain why this was so significant but it seemed to capture the current state of my soul. This stained glass draws my eyes from the bottom to the top. It feels chaotic…a bit like my emotions right now. There are more red, yellows (hopeful colors) and then you move to a section with very deep tumultuous blues. There are a few splotches of bright colors inter mixed but the majority of the middle feels heavy. The small hopeful moments are there but they are difficult to hold onto as the tide is always changing. But again my eyes are drawn up and eventually the dark blues shift again to vibrant lively colors and I imagine there is more hope and less pain. Redemption. Hope. I am currently in the dark color region trying to hold onto the fleeting hopeful moments but I believe that I am moving towards a hopeful tomorrow. I don’t know who the artist is…or whether he is famous…I just know that it felt like it captured my soul.
So, yes, I skipped the Louvre and spent 3 hours in St. Severin…in stillness…in quiet…with tears and only with this one window…it was the best decision for me. I have never had art in church move me the way this did and I am so thankful. This experience was made possible by letting go of the “shoulds” and letting my heart lead. I am going to try that more often.
I will be writing a bit more sporadically over the next week and a half due to travelling so I may not be able to get my storm survival posts out…but I will try.
PS Here are a few other fun shots from the weekend