Dear Readers, do I have une petite gâterie (a treat) for you today! Karen A. Chase is the author of a book I absolutely loved, Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds, winner of the eLit Silver Medal Award. She has graciously agreed to do a guest blog for us, and she includes an excerpt which really captures the soul of her book. Read on...
I planned an adventure to stay in Paris for five weeks for my fortieth. Journaling about the trip became a blog that became a book, and below is an excerpt that reminds me how important it is to nurture my dreams regardless of age. Like most tourists, I visited the Louvre, but to a woman turning forty in Paris for a month, the experience was more enlightening than I could imagine. Below is an excerpt from my book, Bonjour 40, on turning forty in the Louvre.
Bonjour 40 ~ Excerpt
Entered the Louvre at 9 a.m. It was all going so well. Tickets and plan in hand, navigation headset hanging around my neck, I went straight to the Winged Victory of Samothrace, the sculpture of the Greek goddess Nike. They have her placed on a rock pedestal resembling a large ship prow, at the top of a long flight of stairs, so you approach her from beneath. Art critics have determined her “best side” is a three-quarter view on her left, but I quickly realize, for a woman with no arms or head, she is commanding and stunning from every angle.
She is sexy and feminine, yet healthy and robust, with a pair of breasts and an ass that men would die to protect. This sculpture exudes what I imagine most of us women would like to feel like every single day. Brave. Confident. Alluring. Beautiful. Strident. And free. Some believe she is depicted descending from the skies, but placed on the edge of that rock. To me, she seems to be lifting off. She’s on the precipice of something even greater than herself. Stepping forward, wings out wide for flight, with the wind of the future already pressing and lifting her skirts.
I wander off envisioning myself feeling that way now that I’m turning forty, and from there, POOF! I was lost in a hallway leading to heaven knows where. Crap. I had no idea where I was. I looked at the map on the 2″×4″ screen of the handheld guide wondering how I could navigate my way back to my plan [I had made that morning] again.
I took a right into an exhibit room to get my bearings and ended up standing in front of the Mona Lisa. She is, I’m sorry to say, not what I expected. I was a little let down that she was so small. The canvas is 21″×30″, and as if to prove the point and make you feel ridiculous for thinking she was larger, the Louvre has placed her in a room with the largest canvas they own—Veronese’s Wedding of Cana at 391″×267″.
As I stood in front of her smirk, I stared into her face and compared her simplicity to the chaos of Cana. I realized the Mona Lisa makes a lovely point with her small, demure self. Not overbearing, too complicated, or too grand, it’s easy to be with her. Unlike the monster painting behind me, it would be easy to travel with her. Leonardo Da Vinci did. He carted her demure, quiet, canvas visage with him everywhere for more than fifteen years. He began painting her when he was fifty, improving, altering, and working at her continually until right before he died. Hmm.
Yes, I’m sure you see the lesson, too. Patience, grasshopper. Building a woman that is both engaging and mysterious takes time, and sometimes you start later in life than you planned…
Photo Caption: Although not in the Louvre, this woman’s expression, in a painting by Henri Gervex, is exactly how I feel when I experience art within the city. The painting is in the free Musée Carnavalet, covering the history of Paris.
WANT TO KNOW MORE about Karen Chase, and her book? You can buy Bonjour 40: A Paris Travel Log (40 years. 40 days. 40 seconds from Amazon. It's an ebook, but the PRINT version will be out this month--watch this space. Karen, who is also a graphic designer extraordinaire, has done a darling trailer for the book which you can watch here. Or go directly to her author site or her facebook page. Follow her on twitter at @KarenAChase. Nook fans can find the book here.
Karen, many thanks, and we eagerly await your next book!
In the COMMENTS: Virginia Honey, I do need one of those pillows! (Virginia writes the Paris Though my Lens blog). Beth and Barbara, thanks for answering Caitlin's question about French driver's licenses, especially since I didn't know the answer. And Caitlin, David Lebovitz did a blog post on everything about gelatin, which is where I found the conversion. Janelle, we are drooling over Aunt Martha's Oh-So-Good Pie (best name ever), please do send the recipe! Suzanne, looks like we'll be making that pie after all, but to celebrate. Pat, your Umbrian version of Eggnog Pie looks even better--but Chris (of that great shopping site, European Market) , your idea isn't bad either!