Friday, July 9, 2010


Sidewalk graffiti on rue Chabot Charny, Dijon FR (probably some unkind reference to the town's symbol, the owl)

Late night.  Brad and I trudging home through the wall of heat and humidity down rue Chabot Charnay after an organ concert at église Saint-Pierre.  Platoons of bicyclists heading home along the car-free streets in centre-ville. A lone motorcyclist makes pedestrian heads turn as he throttles down and roars up the block at highway speed.  Faint rock music comes from an open window high above the street.

Then a flash of gold to the left out of the corner of my eye.  Above the tall iron gates that shut off from the street a courtyard to one of the Renaissance stone mansions populating the neighborhoods I see the pointed crown of a gleaming gilt mirror.  As elaborate as anything found in Versailles, it is carved with all the excessiveness of French pre-revolutionary abandon.  Just the top two feet of this piece of art are visible through that second-story window – a gentle peak that sweeps out and down like it wants to take off on its golden wings.  From the width, I imagine the mirror to be 8 ft. tall or more, but hardly dwarfed in a room with 15-foot ceilings and 10-foot windows open wide to entice in any evening breeze that the room could possibly capture.

“Look, up there,” I direct Brad.   Before he can even focus, though, an invisible hand extinguishes the light – and the 30-second view that will last a lifetime.

Look up.  Look right.  Mind the gap.  Interdit sauf livraisons.  Poussez. Tirez. The color of strawberries.  When I travel my eyes are wide open to the smallest objects.  Everything is new and interesting and delightful – even when it isn’t.  Travel gives a different perspective on the world.  Yes, of human relations, but especially on the ordinary space I move through every day.  Do I carry this awareness home like a treasured souvenir, un memoire?  Will I become a traveler through the quotidian of my own life when I'm surrounded by the familiar again?

The roof cat of Maison Millière, a classic
15th century building in Dijon (cat is 20th c.)

What have you seen lately that caught you by surprise?  Share your memoire in the comments here.  I love reading all of them.


Marsha said...

Jody and I saw a particular memorable sight the day we arrived in Baton Rouge for Bayou Fest. We were unloading our stuff out of the vehicle in front of the hotel and we see this man riding toward our way on a bicycle. It looked like he had some type of self made canopy on his bike to shelter him from the shade, however, as he got nearer, we could see a small Collie type dog (possibly a Sheltie) perched on the platform with his front paws resting on the man's shoulders! I suppose the canopy was to shade the dog as well as the rider and also gave a sitting spot for the dog as he rode atop his master! It was such a sight but I couldn't get to my camera fast enough before he was past us! It definitely left a memorable impression on the both of us!

Julie Farrar said...

Sometimes -- even at home -- I feel like I should just get used to wearing my camera around my neck every day like jewelry. But the mind's eye takes good pictures too (you just can't share them with anyone easily).

Jane said...

Loved your rooftop cat, Julie. A friend who seems to know a lot about owls, told me about one she'd seen on the Concordia Seminary campus. When asked how she sighted owls, she said she looked up a lot while walking. I feared falling on my face if I took her too literally, but on evening walks with my very slow, elderly dog, I look up a lot too, mainly to pass the time. While I've never seen an owl, I'm often amazed by the beautiful cloud colors and patterns and the flights and calls of birds. Occasionally I can identify the latter and guess what they're up to. It's a whole other world up there!

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