The Right Word

ES, I now realize means, “entresol.”  What an interesting name, “between the ground and ….what? So, now I know, I don’t live on the second floor, I live one floor above Entresol. Words seem to be so important in French. I feel this pressure to have the right word, which like the sesame door, will only open with its right name and here the key that opens that door is intonation. The familiar accent that will give it the exact shape. I remember my amazement in Mirebeau, exploring the countryside on our bicycles and noticing every pile of stones, or clump of trees, every curve or cross in the road had a name and such a variety of names. La rue du chat pendu for example, imagine that at home – Hung Cat Road! The history of place still resonating in the name is everywhere and everywhere a vista is groomed and a space opens like a stage for beauty – a beauty that overwhelms its actors. Paul made a comment that keeps coming back to me, “here, where one’s status seems to be determined by how you honour and preserve the past, changing the present becomes ever more difficult.” Is it possible that place is more important to a people than the people themselves?

The past does not exist. All memory is present. This is what I take from Ryszard Kapuscinski’s, Travels with Herodotus. I am here to catch and taste the pebbles as they turn in the waves.

Quelle joie, running under the mister, or is it the misteresse? These wonderful outdoor showers at Paris Plage spitting tiny beads of water that make a cloud in your hair and on your skin, the children screaming in laughter and I too cannot resist, I always go under them. Jouisseuse, que je suis, I love water on my skin!

It has been so hot, I take to wearing less and less. The heat wave broke last night with thunder and lightening and lots of rain. Paris smells so good after rain. Some gentle, aromatic fragrance coming from the trees, I believe, will be here for a day or so until the more constant mead of the city leavens again. I have always been one to trust my senses, but lately, I have to wonder how I can trust my nose when one happy odour will shift completely and unexpectedly into something more sour, such as popcorn turning into dirty socks or the mysterious alchemy of a flowery fragrance opening with my next breath to reveal the much lower, subtler notes of faded urine. 

I thought I was going to the Paris Plage swimming pool at noon today for a good swim. The water was lovely and I was very happy to be in it, but kept thinking, “Parisians must not like swimming – they are all just standing in groups talking and playing in the water like kids in a bathtub” I was trying with much difficulty to swim around them, until I realized that I was the only one in the middle of a crowd that had simultaneously started flapping their arms and walking in a circle. At first, I resisted, thinking they had all suddenly gone mad. Then, I realized they were responding to the barking calls of a man on the edge of the pool. I could see his eyes zeroing in on me and I knew that my stubborn resistance could not last too much longer. A word came up for air in my brain and I suddenly remembered reading somewhere: Aquagym.” I slowly worked my way to the outer edges of the flanks and escaped.

I have come to Paris to write. This is my beginning. I think of it as practice, as exercising, taking the words out for a run. Perhaps it will become something else, I have no idea, I only know I am starting. I bought paper yesterday, thinking I would start my project by cutting a spiral and making a word map. It sits on my desk, still in its own tiny spiral wrapped at the store. Today, I am thinking about the square of Notre Dame Cathedral being the zero point of Paris. This afternoon, not sure of what I was looking for, or where exactly to look, I went in search of the bronze star of the Parvis de Notre Dame.

Rain is the right word for water today, and the instant I left Ile Saint-Louis and stepped onto Ile de-la-Cité, home of Notre Dame cathedral and the prehistoric hearth of Paris, it fell. At least I had thought to bring an umbrella. I had no difficulty finding it. I took one photograph and a man, a woman and their son each stood on the star and turned in a circle while the other photographed. I asked what they were doing. They spoke to me in German and through gestures, I understood it was something about alignment.

I took a photo of my feet on the star in the rain. Point Zero. And now the rain comes down with the sun and the sky rumbles and crackles and the earth is running in rivers.