Sunday, March 16, 2008

A veritable ocean

“Paris est un véritable océan. Jetez-y la sonde, vous n’en connaîtrez jamais la profondeur. Parcourez-le, décrivez-le! Quelque soin que vous mettiez à le parcourir, à le décrire ; quelque nombreux et intéressés que soient les explorateurs de cette mer, il s’y rencontrera toujours un lieu vierge, un antre inconnu, des fleurs, des perles, des monstres, quelque chose d’inouï, oublié par les plongeurs littérateurs.” -Balzac

"Paris is a veritable ocean. Sound to its depths, you will never discover them. Skim it, describe it! No matter how much care you take to scan it, discover it; however numerous and interested are the explorers of this sea, one will always meet a virgin place there, an unknown lair, flowers, pearls, monsters, something extraordinary and forgotten by literary sea-divers."

Both having been home-educated for most of our lives, field trips have a rather broad meaning. Yes, the excursion to the art museum or meat-packing plant certainly qualifies. But how about the ten minutes you nab in to stare down the French baker preparing hundreds of baguettes in his marvelous ovens? Or the degustation at the wine shop that leads to a lesson in French oenological terminology? Captured moments and curiosity keep education part of our daily lives, even as "grown-ups" (whatever that means). This is home education's greatest lesson, for me at least. Wherever you are, take full advantage of the time that you have there and sound the place to its depths. With only a few months left in this city of unfathomable profundity, we have been cocking our heads and having a good long look at both some new places and favorite old haunts.

The Cluny. This is where the museum of the Middle Ages lives, and inside one can find all manner of flowers, pearls, and monsters. Really. The baths of the Romans form the foundations of the building, and Christianity just built up from there, sometimes neglecting that they were established upon groundwork that was somewhat incongruous with their beliefs. Well, that's the Middle Ages for you- a cornucopia of influences, passions, restraints, and beauty. They proudly display pillars which were found underneath the Notre-Dame during excavations. Pre-christian, they celebrate pagan gods. Did the priests serving Mass in the 14th century know what dark desires from the past were lurking beneath them? It makes one wonder.

Musee de l'Assistance Publique, or the Paris Hospitals museum. This humble presentation painted a picture of a society which once cared for the poor and sick out of love for God and man, long ago. Of course, it wasn't always completely altruistic, as eternal pardons and indulgences for sin were issued as payment for medical service. But there were the faithful and plucky few -check out Sister Rosalie's life for a good example. Near the turn-of-the-century, an increased emphasis on the survival of the fittest led to blaming society's ills on the poor and sick, with the solution of shutting them away into institutions. This was an extremely sad chapter, particularly for the most vulnerable, the children. The museum claimed that as of late, they have tried to find their way back to some sense of charity. Methinks they will be unsuccessful until they go back to that"loving God" part. Paris is full of needy people, and government programs seem about as efficacious as a bandaid on a tumor. Of course, the states of my own native country's health care puts me in a precarious position for judging others. But that's whole other can of worms.

La Fleche d'Or. This club is in an old train station. I like that. It reminds me First Avenue in Minneapolis, which is an old bus station. What is it about former transport systems leaving rock n' roll in their trail? Dylan said/sang: "it takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry." Maybe the ghosts of a thousand tearful adieus has something to do with it. At any rate, we duck into this dingy establishment every couple of weeks, saying hello to a sampling of rock bands that are a bit wet behind the ears, but usually exuberant and fun.

Le chateau d'Ecouen. Karl was rehearsing yesterday with a band, so Abbey took the train half-an-hour into the countryside to see a castle. This is where the Museum of the Renaissance holds court, and what a lovely little box to keep it in! I somehow had a suspicion that it was going to be a magical experience when I read on their website ahead of time that I would have to "walk through the forest on foot from the train station" to get there. Most breathtaking was: the lovely portative organ (complete with demonstration), the painted fireplaces, the elaborate golden moving clock in the form of a ship with musicians, and the budding forest all around. Spring is on its way.


Anonymous said...

Please be sure to share with your youngest brother that home-school can be a delight. Thank you, (and I love you), signed Dad

Anonymous said...

I love the photo of happy-you in front of the chateau! It makes me miss you so much.
But that last photo: now THERE'S the road less-taken! I want to go on that one...
Love, Mom