Père-Lachaise

20 December 2003 at 15:30 Leave a comment

Yesterday was an amazing day.

We weren’t in a hurry, so Ee slept in a bit, and we meandered our way over to Père-Lachaise cemetery. Ee wanted to see Jim Morrison’s grave and take a lot of pictures. She was like a kid in a candy store, and her dad was like a kid with a new toy, taking turns with the camera. I felt a bit separated from them, as I often do when we’re out and about. They are always so enthusiastic that they lose all self-awareness. I don’t often have that kind of enthusiasm, or, to be more accurate, I lose myself in quieter moments. In thought. In beauty. But most often in curiosity.

We managed to pick the perfect day to go visit this vast city on a hill. It was foggy and misty when we left and got increasingly foggy as the day wore on. The dark, leafless trees stark amid the alleyways and thoroughfares, the mansions and the desolate hovels, all cloaked in fog.

As bb and Ee skittered among the graves, excitedly pointing out interesting sculptures and stories, I wandered quietly, observing details and trying to place them in their own historical context. There was the grave of the Nantes family, generation after generation, the first burial in 1846, the most recent in 1977. Line after line of names, all buried in one crypt. Of course, as an American, I can’t imagine any family staying in one place long enough to all be buried together, but maybe they died far away, and were only brought to Paris to share this final home.

We made the trip to Morrison’s grave. There were a few flowers and notes, the cemetery police were there, looking at the things people had left. And there was the requisite crazy guy – his fuzzy, graying curly black hair as emphatic as his large eyes and the vast gestures of his hands. He seemed to come there often, or, at least, he wanted to show us the way to Oscar Wilde’s grave too; our accent obviously giving us away.

As it turns out, this cemetery brings together all the things that hold my imagination: architecture, monument, names, poetry and curiosity. And I was moved by the way each monument expressed a different kind of grief or hope or self-assurance or resignation.

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Entry filed under: beauty, moments, Paris.

French blue The French "Race Bannon"

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What I’ve been reading:

  • James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, L.L.D. (London, 14 King William Street, Strand: William P. Nimmo, 1876). 4 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 3, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985). 4 years ago
  • Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millennium (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988). 4 years ago
  • Stephanie Kallos, Broken for You (New York: Grove Press, 2004). 5 years ago
  • Marsilio Ficino, Letters of Marsilio Ficino, v. 2, trans. Language Dept. School of Economic Science, London (New York: Gingko Press, 1985) 5 years ago

T. Anderson Painter

I am a misanthrope. No one ever believes me, but this seems to prove my point.

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