Sainte Chapelle, Paris

St chapelle altarI have loved this chapel since the first time I saw it, years ago. As I remember, they were working on Notre Dame at the time and I didn’t feel any spirit there. But here, wow. Of course, I have always loved the Medieval period.

The famous part of the Chapel is upstairs. (Ignore the keyboard set up under the altar – there was a concert in the evening). It’s all glass, consecrated in 1248. I once described in a short story:

Its beauty was legendary. The walls, if walls they were, lifted colored glass entire. Burnished red, deep sleepy green, blue the color of the sky behind a rising moon, joyous gold. Brilliant colors set in black, forming pictures of ancient holy stories, of long-dead nobles and their wives, of kneeling animals. She visited daily, pondering the lives of the men who now lived only in glass. She understood the artists’ visions as gifts to the Lord.Ste Chapelle King's entrance

This being a King’s chapel, the upstairs was reserved mostly for him. Peons worshiped downstairs. The King had an entrance from his bedroom so he could pray when his sins seemed overwhelming. It was Louis IX, Saint Louis, so you know he went often. It’s interesting to think that he saw the beauty as an indication of God’s power and the story of faith. I, myself, see it as homage to those who created it, without any modern tools. It is astonishing however you view it.stained glass

The ceiling alone will make you think of heaven…

ceiling

Downstairs is darker than up (I secretly call it the basement) but no less glorious. Actually, it’s my favorite part. The details, the colors, the statues – all capture my attention.

saint pillarSt chapelle basement

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ll note that there was a long line to  get in — and it was only the end of April — and we were happy to have the museum pass which made it a little faster. That said, it was totally worth the time.

We’ll close with an angelic detail from the altar.

St chapelle detail

 

Tuscan Story Excerpt

Today I want to experiment by posting part of one of my short stories. It takes place in Tuscany: an introverted biochemist and her fiancé are on an engagement trip. The ending isn’t quite as happy as this excerpt may lead you to believe… (Reminder to self; next trip take more pictures of people!)

couple

The Tuscan trip was a wonderful gift. As Patrick suggested, I refrained from thinking and just enjoyed. We visited all the hilltop cities: San Gimignano, Sienna, Orvieto, and Perugia of the divine chocolate.

Although building on the hills began as protection against marauding neighbors, the towns now afford lovely views and strenuous walking. Patrick and I went everywhere, swinging hands, looking up at geranium-filled balconies, down at worn cobblestones, and into alleyways filled with laundry or arches.

When the heat became overwhelming, we would go into a church — there was always a church, it being Italy and Catholic — where we’d sit in space lit by eerie light from round windows floating in the stone. Each church seemed styled into its own universe: the bucolic with white stucco and a cloud-painted ceiling; the spooky with a Saint’s finger, ear, or heart enshrined in a jeweled box; the artistic with smudged frescos. Despite their decoration, the churches reminded me of my laboratory–orderly, concentrated and cool.

Once refreshed, we would burst back outside into the heat and sun where tiny trucks with three wheels rattled and soccer games blared from open windows. Patrick was in bambino heaven; here a baby toddling across a piazza in a yellow sweater, there a tot kicking a ball with tiny sandals, up the street an outraged little one howling over a mother’s shoulder.

Speaking in his stilted Italian, he exclaimed over the babies–ché bambino caro–touching their chubby fingers. None of the mothers objected, which is surprising given the statistics, but he is a responsible, kind man and perhaps it shows in his demeanor.

In the evenings we ate pecorino cheese and drank vino nobile while sitting outdoors. The patio would remain empty until 9:00, then the Italians began to arrive, talking loudly, laughing, stretching in the warm evening. Arguments erupted, cheeks were kissed. Waiters rushed around with little plates of Italian pizza, which wasn’t at all like the American version.

I felt I was in a wonderful play, not in the audience, but on stage and not caring if I got tipsy or laughed too loud. I ordered more wine, per favore, and tried waving my arms when I talked. I licked the metal sherbet cup of gelati. I kissed Patrick in public, shook out my hair, and smiled at the staring men.

fresco2

The only disturbance in Italy was the dirt and dust, which spilled from the ancient buildings and monuments like the powder in the rubber gloves I wear when examining a risky organism. Everything was old and handled and trod upon. The strange wine caves. The smell of cheese–moldy milk. I pulled my little bottle of disinfectant from my fanny pack hourly. But despite the germs, I loved Tuscany. I loved myself in Tuscany.

 

Engraved Silver Cup

Silver Baby Cup. Engraved with my original, but not official, name.

I think names very important; they are the first things I settle on when starting a story. I can spend a week or more searching for a true fit — is “Carly” appropriate for the time period and the personality I imagine? Is “Meghan” overused? “Star” too fancy? In one of my novels, the lead was named Anna by her parents. She hated the name – plain and ordinary – so in the fifth grade she added two “h”s. Voila – Hannah. Here’s a bit from that same novel; mother and daughter are talking about family:

“There were seven Lydia’s in that family. Thank heavens they didn’t name her Lydia.” Mother makes a sound that I recognize as a snort. “Miss Lydia Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound.”

Okay, my family is weird that way. Focused on names. Long discussions on what to call the baby. No one cares if Fleda was your favorite aunt; Phoebe sounds like a cat. Fierce squabbles over pet names. PacoBell’s pretty mild. Orbital. Mr. Spam Beauyardee. Spamby for short. Keep-off-the-Rug and You-Too, Daddy’s suggestion for a pair of kittens. Claire named her fish Hootenanny and Joshua’s snake was Pencil. Names made us laugh. Meant something. We kids once had a dentist who said that he knew how a child was going to behave based on his name. If I recall, “Brian” and “Carol” were best behaved; “Janet” was stoic; “Wesley” a whiner; “Ricky” and “Cassie” bound to be devilish.

My parents named me Teresa so they could call me Terry. Very confusing; am I official today or just myself? The “y” got changed to an “i” in 7th grade. There were 3 other Terry’s in my grade, all boys, so guess what gym class was listed on my schedule? And guess how loud the hooting when I showed up. After that I morphed into Terri, a girl, thank you very much! My middle name is Nan, which I always liked, despite my sister calling me Terri Nanny Goat! In any case, I think my parents found a name for me that is a true fit.

Wooden Spoon

Hand Carved Wooden Ladle or Spoon which was created for me by my cousin as a thank you.  You may recognize it from my home page. I’m sharing its story at the request of a reader…

We had long been friends – our families vacationed together – and on my first trip to Europe we visited him at his army base (in Weisbaden I think it was). He and I sat together half the night talking. There had been a tragedy in his life and he told me the story. I might add he was handsome; we were both were young and flirtatious; he shared his feelings. A memorable visit.

At home I pondered long on what he had told me and eventually wrote a version of it, fully fiction but containing enough of the truth to be recognizable. I don’t want to put the story here because someday I hope to publish it, but I’ll share the first paragraph.

Crossroads

Like an elephant, I’m good at sorting through the memories stacked inside my head. I’ve heard about people whose memories are wobbly or gone. Not me. Say I have a mind to, I can twirl a wrench or make coffee and think myself back to where I lived until my voice changed and my beard came in. Little town smack in the middle of the country, surrounded by big fields. I once loved that place, but since the accident, 30 years ago though it was, I keep those particular memories hidden at the bottom of the pile. It makes no difference though, I can’t lose them; they are mine to keep forever.

I sent him my version of his story and after a while he sent me this spoon in thanks.  So now I think of him when I ladle soup!  I should add that he also carves batons for well-known conductors, creates copper drawer knobs from scratch, and is a full-on artist who works with his hands. This page is a callout to my cousin, my friend.

Germany

Color photo taken in Germany by Daddy In the neighborhood of Dinklesbuhl, I believe.

My dad was a great photographer – he took pictures of his architectural projects, but also of scenery. When we travelled for whatever reason, the camera (and the fishing pole) were always in the car. Many a stop was made when the light was just right or a fantastic fence, rainbow, mountain goat, flock of sheep, old stone bridge or other beautiful object appeared. Sometimes – usually a fence or a cliff – the shot demanded a person, artfully arranged. Early pictures show my mother, but later it was us, the children who had to sit still on a bit of rough wood or walk ahead down the forest path, stopping just where the light rayed through the trees. Once he made us sit on a park bench with a fat sleeping fellow; he called that picture “blind date” I think. I’ll have to get a scan of it.

Anyway, usually these stops happened when we were hungry – morning or evening light makes the most magical photos. As we waited for the camera to be focused or the sun to come back out, our stomachs would growl. As you can imagine, we complained mightly. But oh, we treasure those pictures now.

This picture was taken on a trip with my parents in Europe. I was dancing in Germany at the time and they met me, saw the last performance of the season, then took me off for a tour. I was with Daddy and he was trying to teach me some of the tricks of photography. The water was dead still; he pointed out how the photo would look better with rings of wave, found a rock and tossed it. Except the toss was misguided and the rings were at the wrong angle! We waited until the water stilled – seemed forever – then he tossed again. This time was perfect and he got his shot.

Some of Daddy’s desire for making it just right must have come down to me…not in photography, but in writing. Struggling with a sentence or with the order of paragraphs, I can really appreciate what he achieved in his pictures. This one hangs over my fireplace and is much loved, both for the picture and for the memory.

Why this particular blog?

Writers need blogs, or so I have read. I’m a writer, why not blog about writing? Because there are hundreds of sites by writers with more information and experience.

I was a ballet dancer, why not blog about dance? Ah, for me, that’s in the sweet past.

While pondering a topic, I wrote a novel based on a stack of family papers: A letter from a lawyer and a paragraph intended to be read in court. A certificate of Guardianship. Tiny photos. They told the unknown story of my grandparent’s lives; if Mother hadn’t given them to me, the story would have been lost.

I began thinking about the many objects in my house. I love the antiques handed down through the family, the travel mementos, the colors and materials and shapes, the home they build around me. But it’s the underlying stories that make me smile or sigh.

I realized I had found my blog’s focus. I hope it will flourish.

Update: I’ve been writing this blog for a couple years now and it has mutated into travel, another of my loves. I hope my words and pictures will offer the reader unusual insights into oft-covered countries. If you want to jump right in, click on Travel.