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Karen Mickleson | all galleries >> Galleries >> Joy In Beauty Travelogue: One Response to a Terminal Cancer Diagnosis >
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August 2000

Ginnette Boyer of Au Petit Tonneau (et moi)
More photos HERE.

August 2000
What to do about Paris?

Moving forward now, I'm presently in Sweden at the beautiful and peaceful rural home of my friend, Christina, an hour outside Stockholm.I've been here since I flew in from Paris on Tuesday, sick as a dog with yet another terrible cold which has turned into it's usual URI, which, when treated with the Amoxicillin I got the French pharmacist to sell me, renders me a fuzzy-brained slug who only wants to sleep. Which I do, impatient with the minor incremental steps towards betterness. I think that this illness emerged out of an emotional meltdown I had in Paris, which in turn probably stems from having run out of my Chinese herbs a few weeks ago, which lowered my immune system threshold, and being tired in general, and ready to go home.

Thereís a running commentary in the travel world about whether itís better to have reservations or plans or to go with the flow, and this trip being as long as it is, I have had to periodically use up time when I arrive somewhere to make plans and reservations and such for the next segment. This is the most stressful part of the trip, as you spend a lot of money using the internet, things never go as you want, and you end up frittering away days on the phone or computer, feeling frustrated and not like youíre enjoying yourself.

Such was my experience in my beloved Paris, where I would wander around after long mornings of logistical nightmares, with no particular agenda as I was too mentally frazzled to really be present for a serious consideration of the art I love. I was working on the "August Plan", which incorporates visiting Christina by air as the drive was way too long; training to Denmark where I'd stay in private homes near Odense for a few days before taking a ferry to Angelika in Keil; then training back to my car in Paris, where I'll take off on Aug 18 for Brugge in Belgium for 3 nights; then Haarlem outside Amsterdam for 5 nights, and finally, 5 nights in Brussels before I drop off the car to be shipped on 30 August and fly home on the 31st.

Somewhere in the middle of this reservations juggernaut I lost it and fell into wrenching sobs for the real first time this trip, crying into my pillow, "I want to go HOME....I want to go HOME...."

It lasted a couple of days on and off, and one night the tears returned during a magnificently moving performance of Vivaldiís Four Seasons in the majesty of Saint Chapelle, where I took myself for healing. St. Chapelle in Paris sits you in Godís lap surrounded by the oldest and most awe-filling stained glass in France. I sat at the end of the first row, watching the expressions on the faces of these young musicians, with hot, salty tears rolling down my face as the three violins, a base and viola played my soul from dark sorrow to arches of aching beauty to impatient tension seeking release to courageous jubilance and, finally, the gift of tender, restful, peace after the encore adagio. I thought of many things to write during that performance, but most are gone by now. Keeping hold of the momentís intense emotional truth for later is not simple.

Things gradually improved on the surface, but my body was working it out on another level. My sister, Donna, and her husband, Tim, arrived in Paris at the same time I was there, and we had a lovely dinner together at the restaurant of dear Madame Ginnette Boyer with Laurence and Georges, the couple whose apartment I stayed at in Paris. I'd spent that afternoon visiting with Ginnette while she cooked for the evening, taking down recipes for beef burgundy, clafoute, her famous au gratin potatoes and mouse, while she shared her dismay and disgust with the French government's response to the Concorde crash, and we shared life stories. She invited me to come with her on a day trip to her country home in Normandy when I return from Sweden, which I will do on the 17th.

The next day, Donna, Tim and I visited my favorite Paris Museum, the Marmottan, and that night, returned for another concert at St. Chappelle--this time, a wonderful chamber trio of violin, viola & base doing Bach's Goldberg variations. No tears that time as I was nodding off as my body began its decline into the cold. One final treat before leaving Paris: A chance to meet up for dinner with my friend from Milpitas, Mari, and her daughter Andrea. We had good laughs and a lovely dinner at one of the best Cheap Eats in Paris restaurants before I bid them adieu to go to bed. Then out to the home of my friends, Kathy & Greg, who generously allowed me to leave my car and belongings at their place in the suburbs south of Paris while I went carless into Paris proper...There I re-packed myself for this plane and train portion of the trip, with sneezes every other minute and drippy nose blowing.

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