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Paris, Je t'aime! Now and Always

When despair grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

 Wendell Berry 


This poem by Wendell Berry has been a great comfort to me for several years. Another mother handed it to me one morning as I sat in a courthouse waiting for my young son to be sentenced for a foolish crime.

Last night I awoke with it stirring in my mind alongside images of Paris in her grief, my daughter in her new home (that seems so far away), my son wrestling with his own adulthood, my husband preparing to travel to celebrate his father’s 85th birthday. I wonder about the world that my one-year-old granddaughter will inherit. I ponder the magnificence of beauty and death and water and fire.

I tear up each time someone mentions Paris or I see the colors of the French flag displayed on a Seattle high-rise or a neighbor’s front porch. I want to pay my own tribute and feel that I don’t know how. I open my journal from a month ago and realize I didn’t feel like I knew how to pay tribute to the City of Light even while I was there a few short weeks ago.


October 11, 2015

I wish I could adequately describe the love I have for Paris… the feeling I experience in this city that is my second home… or maybe it was my first. Was I a 20s girl or some queen's handmaiden?

Today I sat on the steps where Gil the writer sat waiting during the film “Midnight in Paris.” It looked different in the daylight with vans parked on the curve in the road and traces of garbage in the gutters. Still, I could see Gil and hear Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein, my old friends come to visit.

Paris ~ wind blowing through my hair as we biked to Rue Mouffetard for Sunday morning delights. Cobblestones beneath my sneakered feet. The rush of espresso through my normally decaffeinated veins. The delight of following a vintage sign into a basement and finding an old-fashioned bowling alley with newfangled neon lights. I wonder what unspeakables have happened in that basement?

I ride. I walk. I savor.

This is the Paris I adore. The one that beckons my heart and soul to sing and dance and play and sit. The one that leaves an unsoothable ache as I think of my friends there, now cautious to sit and relax at a sidewalk café. I remember a recent dinner in Canal St. Martain, mere footsteps away from one of the terrorist targets. Despair rises and I remind myself that this is what terror wants… for us to be afraid and paralyzed; to stay in our homes and cower; to take cover and hide from its darkness.

I will return to Paris. I have no fear of going back to the City of Light. She is my heart’s home, the place where I find delight and freedom and, yes, peace. To not return or pay homage would be like abandoning Seattle if she were attacked. Paris awaits and I will go.

In the meantime, I will allow my tears to flow and I will seek solace where I can. I will walk around Greenlake and marvel at the heron. I will rake the incessant leaves in my yard and count each one as a blessing of my life. I will curl up with my cat and pet my friend’s old dog. And when I awake in the middle of the night, I will know that my tears are holy water and my heart refining fire. The breath and spirit that move through my lungs sustain me and even when the world feels shaky, I will find solid ground beneath my feet. I will pray for Paris, for my family, for the world. I will pray for peace and for love to always overcome fear.

Namaste. Paris, je t’aime! 

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