The best thing to do upon arriving Charles de Gaulle Airport after a long overnight flight with two small children is to drive straight west to Giverny and flop down in the grass at the bottom of a field of blooming poppies. Play pretend baseball with your three-year-old son and work out the kinks. Stroll slowly through the village peeking through gorgeously-weathered iron gates. Have a cup of tea and an ice cream cone. Walk through Claude Monet's home and garden by the opposite route recommended to avoid getting stuck behind tour groups. Sit under a weeping willow tree, take in the waterlilies, listen to frogs croak and eat biscuits offered by friendly Finnish women. Offer to take photos of others and ask them to take photos of you. Continue driving west to the pretty farmhouse you've rented for a fraction of the cost of a hotel room in Paris. Despite being deliriously tired, push on and go to the local creperie for a quick gallette. End up staying for an unbelievable three-course meal and close down the restaurant. Fall into bed, sleep a solid 12 hours and wake up on French time.

Monet Refuses the Operation

Doctor, you say there are no haloes
around the streetlights in Paris
and what I see is an aberration
caused by old age, an affliction.
I tell you it has taken me all my life
to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,
to soften and blur and finally banish
the edges you regret I don’t see,
to learn that the line I called the horizon
does not exist and sky and water,
so long apart, are the same state of being.
Fifty-four years before I could see
Rouen cathedral is built
of parallel shafts of sun,
and now you want to restore
my youthful errors: fixed
notions of top and bottom,
the illusion of three-dimensional space,
wisteria separate
from the bridge it covers.
What can I say to convince you
the Houses of Parliament dissolve
night after night to become
the fluid dream of the Thames?
I will not return to a universe
of objects that don’t know each other,
as if islands were not the lost children
of one great continent.  The world
is flux, and light becomes what it touches,
becomes water, lilies on water,
above and below water,
becomes lilac and mauve and yellow
and white and cerulean lamps,
small fists passing sunlight
so quickly to one another
that it would take long, streaming hair
inside my brush to catch it.
To paint the speed of light!
Our weighted shapes, these verticals,
burn to mix with air
and change our bones, skin, clothes
to gases.  Doctor,
if only you could see
how heaven pulls earth into its arms
and how infinitely the heart expands
to claim this world, blue vapor without end.

~ Lisel Mueller

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