It has been a settling-in week for my Mother-in-law at the ‘centre de récupération’ that she moved into earlier. While her recovery takes time, she has the physio and other support she needs, and it is close enough (20 minutes by train, with a lovely 20 minute walk through Swiss countryside) that we have been able to see her each day.
We have also been able to get away to Paris this weekend as a number of her friends are able to visit her during our absence. As regular readers know, Paris usually pops up on these pages at least once a year, and we are making the most of our short stay here.
In addition to the regular walking around and just enjoying the pre-Christmas atmosphere, we were able to see the Edward Hopper (1882-1967) exhibition at the Grand palais.
Hopper is one of my favourite American artists, was most active in the 1920s through 1940s, with his realistic depictions of American urban scenes in particular being the most well known. While I was familiar with his oils (most well known work), nice to see his drawings, illustrations, etchings amd watercolours, showing his strong sense of form, light and shadow. His oils, whether landscape or interiors, have a wonderful sense of light and shadow, rich and bold colour, with subjects that capture the ordinary in an extraordinary way. A bit odd to go to Paris to see an exhibit of American art, but one of the advantages of being there.
We also went to the Louvre to see the new Islamic Art wing. A wonderful collection, some of which we have seen before, in a much improved setting. One of the less busy sections as most tourists understandably focus more on European art (the express lane for the Mona Lisa for the time-pressed!), now with even more room to breathe and appreciate some amazing pieces from around the Mid-East. Well curated, with good explanations of the rise and falls of the various empires and dynasties from the initial spread of Islam to 1800, with each rise matched with the rich artistic heritage of that period and dynasty. While I tend to prefer the ceramics, all of the work displayed is impressive, whether metalwork, glass, wood or Qurans and miniatures.
Earlier this week, we saw A Royal Affair, a film set in Denmark in the 18th century, based on the story of the insane King Christian, his doctor Struensee, and Queen Caroline. The film balances nicely the personal (relationship between the King and Struensee, and the affair between Struensee and the Queen) and the political and historical story between the reformers, led by Struensee taking advantage of his relationship with both the King and Queen, and the reform opposed establishment. Beautifully filmed and told, with great acting, particularly by Mads Mikkelson as Struensee.
Our other cultural program was attending a talk on Ostad Elahi (1895-1974), an Iranian mystic, thinker and judge who integrated theology, philosophy and mysticism into a coherent, almost secular way of life and approach. A reminder of the richness of the intellectual traditions within Islam, drowned out by the more narrow interpretations that speak loudest today.
And I finally finished The Denial of Death. It was heavy slogging to the end, with some interesting observations of the limits of psychotherapy, and how while it approaches religion in some aspects, it fails given it remains in the here and now. What is convincing is the reminder that life involves occasions of pain and suffering; deadening these occasions or living without these is not realistic nor it is truly life. Such occasions, after all, help us appreciate the moments of love and joy all that much more.
After going back to Geneva for a few days to spend more time with my Mother-in-law, we head back to Ottawa for Christmas. It will be good seeing the kids again and catching up with their news and activities; while Skype is indispensable (how did my parents survive with only letters?), nothing like being together with the informal conversations, debates and talking that only being together can bring about.
For Jewish readers, Happy Chanukkah.