Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Flowers à la Monet

Eight years ago, I sojourned to Giverny for the first time in order to see the gardens that Claude Monet made famous in the last decades of his life. Japanese style bridges, a never ending array of gorgeous green plants, and the waterlillies he depicted so many times on canvas, are all part of this impressive landscape.

Today, with much anticipation, I ventured for a second trip. Years ago, I had read, that the first week of June is the best time of year to visit these gardens. According to the guidebook, this was because all the flowers are at the height of their bloom. Considering June 1st is my birthday, it was an easy decision to make that this would be where I would celebrate. The allure of the gardens were practically calling to me and I could not wait to be surrounded by the energy of this place.

Admittedly, along with being excited, I felt a bit of worry, as well.  For you see, after all these years, I had held in my memory banks the beauty of this place and wondered on the train ride there if I had blown the image up in my mind to such a degree that I might be sadly disappointed when I arrived. Thankfully, any misgivings I had were laid to rest as soon as I set foot in the gardens. Nature's artistry emanated from every direction, sending me to a place of sheer joy.

I do think it's important to mention that a friend of mine visited the gardens the previous month and the pictures of the flowers were completely different than what I gazed upon. So, I imagine they are constantly rotating what can be seen. I personally saw three different gardeners working absolute magic with their hands while toiling in the dirt. I gave a double thumbs up to the first one I saw working on the irises of every color imaginable. The woman behind me offered a bravo along with her merci. She was not exaggerating her enthusiasm. The peonies, rhododendrons, roses and a plethora of other varieties of flowers greet you in such a spectacular way, one can't help to wish that you lived here yourself so that you could enjoy this garden that is like no other.

On this second visit of mine, I had every intention to stay for awhile.  I brought along a book and sat on a bench reading. I also spent some time in quiet meditation.  One after another, passerbys commented on my strange behavior.  I am certain they were wondering why I wasn't rushing through the path like they were.   While I smiled at each of them, I answered one blanket response in my mind, "I can't resist the peaceful sounds of all the birds twittering above in the century-old trees...and why wouldn't I want to relish in the rainbow of color?  While you are rushing by, I am basking in every sound and every sight, luxuriating in its magnificence."  I couldn't help but feel compassion for all those who were missing out on all the details.

There was so much wonder here.  The garden was simply bustling with life.  Both the bees and the butterflies pranced around each blossom. The water embraced its banks, which offered a cooling affect.  Furthermore, the various shapes, sizes and colors of the plant life struck my fancy, as well. I frankly was in a perpetual state of awe.

As beautiful as everything was, the waterlily garden was most definitely the piece de la resistance . I made certain to enjoy it from several different vantage points.  Then, out of the blue, I heard a, "Wow!" being proclaimed from not only myself, but also from a gentleman across from me on the other side of the pond.  Out of the seemingly hundreds of people that were there, it was only the two of us who had noticed a spectacular jump made by a giant orange coy fish.  Thankfully for all the other bystanders, the fish hadn't completed his cycles of jumps and splashes, so that they could be impressed by his moves too.  However, from this observer's point of view, I feel a special kinship between myself, the man across the way and the coy.  It was as though the three of us shared a secret that no one else knew about.

There is little doubt that I could not get enough of my surroundings.  As I enjoyed the space for about five hours this time around, I could almost feel Monsieur Monet's presence painting his works à plein air.

Later, as I sat writing this post, it occurred to me that when I was college, I felt inspired to move from drawing with pencils to painting with watercolor.  Knowing nothing about painterly technique, I decided to copy Monet's painting, "The Artist's House," of 1873.  It was at this point when I felt I myself truly became an artist.  What I did not know then, is that I was painting what I would eventually call my favorite place on Earth.

What always fascinated me about this painting was that the artist portrayed his young son in the image.  It would be he who would donate his childhood home to the state, thereby opening its doors to the world. It is for both these Monet men and to all who continue to keep the property in its former state of glory, I dedicate this piece and I applaud you all.

The Artist's House, Claude Monet, 1873
Please visit Giverny for more information.

Thank you for reading and bonne journée.