Last week, while I was staying in Paris, I visited the Tuilerie Gardens every morning to practice my Kungfu and Taichi – see Monday’s blog. I have been unable to commit to my White Crane Kungfu club for some time now http://www.whitecranefightingarts.com/ but I try to keep on with practicing my patterns. I try to find somewhere to do this whenever I am away from home and would now miss it if I couldn’t find anywhere suitable. Not only is it good exercise but these complex Chinese movements also create a feeling of rootedness for the place where they are practised. They also helped me see off a pickpocket on Paris’ Pont Neuf so it is practical exercise in many ways. For me, a little bit of the Tuileries, a small corner of France, feels like my space. Somewhere where I have established a personal relationship or, put differently, where I feel that I have planted roots. I’ve done this all over Britain and Italy as well as in Greece, China and the United States. In a strangely comforting way, I feel just that little bit more a part of Planet Earth this way. Paris’ Tuilerie Gardens have now joined that list.
On my last day in Paris, I was thinking about Claude Monet (1840-1926), for many people if not for me, the star of 19th Century French art. He’s easy to love but easy too to underestimate and even to take for granted.
Monet, famously, connected with his own sense of space and the effects of light on familiar and often observed places. Nowhere more profoundly than in his garden at Giverny where he made his lily pond.
Just a small distance from my new kungfu practice ground, stands the Orangerie Museum http://www.musee-orangerie.fr/ where two rooms were specifically designed to take two groups of Monet’s final water lily paintings,
Sitting there and enjoying at least a tiny sense of what the old painter was attempting, I thought I hadn’t been so far removed from that mental state when I was standing outside lost in my own no matter how clumsy attempts at Chinese martial arts. It was an appropriate way to conclude my visit to Paris.