Christina: living life, beautifully

March 5, 2010

To photograph this city, to claim a part of this landscape as my own, to capture the wild thing—this would have been desecration. Instead, I spent four days in that wonderful state of awareness which comes from living the rare. As I had hoped, it was an experience grounded on integrity and simplicity.

Redemption came quickly and silently. It was etched beneath the gilded frame of the Paris Opéra, was infused within seven luxurious hours at the modern art museum, and was inked on the pages of the thousands of books dripping from the ceilings of the used bookstore in the Latin Quarter. Redemption waited within the first majestic swell of an accordion in the skeletal confines of the métro, in the harmonious bonjour from a Parisian shopkeeper, in the cold collision of insidious Seine with smooth stone. Redemption was the discovery that the reality can be more breathtaking than the dream.

On our last night in the city, our new Parisian friends invited us to dinner at their home in the third arrondissement. We arrived nervous and bearing a gift of white wine, only to be saved by the true magic of the bise, the quintessential French greeting of a kiss on each cheek. There’s a quiet elegance in the bise and its unfailing ability to make any situation comfortable. It brings a delicious feeling of being acknowledged and almost always makes me feel as if I belong.

The night was a waking dream—something which now feels suspended between truth and story. We sipped dark wine from delicate crystal goblets, exotic aromas forecasted the meal to come, and our friends spoke to us with a curiosity about our lives that still seems undeserved. I had never felt so regal or so important.

As we conversed with our hosts, it was the first time I was truly confident while speaking French and the first time anyone told me I spoke well. It was beyond enchanting, this feeling of contributing to something beautiful. To be a part of this good life for even a moment was unlike anything I could have created for myself. What a difference from the last time I was in Paris, when paralysis and fear were the only emotions known to me.

If I have a home in France, Paris is it.


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