Last May, while traveling in France, my sister and I went to Giverny to visit Monet’s Garden. The line to enter was horrendous, and once we got past the ticket booth, we became part of the swarm of tourists overrunning his house and garden. We must have heard a dozen different languages spoken, people from all over the globe had come to see for themselves the inspiration for Monet’s most famous paintings.
It was eye candy, a stunning profusion of color! But instead of the rare and exotic flora I expected, all the flowers were, well, your regular garden variety. Irises, roses, tulips, pansies, alyssum, forget-me-nots…nothing I don’t grow in my own garden. Yet they were artfully arranged by height, texture, and color to maximize the effect. And after all, they were in Monet’s Garden.
I wanted to capture at least the illusion of solitude and serenity, and to photograph the garden as I thought it must have been back in Monet’s day. I waited for lulls in tourist traffic to get my shots. But while waiting, I watched hoards of humanity shuffling by, and I caught glimpses of peoples’ lives that I found as moving as anything I saw in those historic gardens. Mothers and children, old couples holding hands, a little boy with eyes only for the baby chicks, an awkward teenaged boy who had eyes only for the teenaged chicks, and a family with four generations of women all sharing a park bench.
While we writers strive to capture a mood or feeling or effect, we should also observe the stories happening all around us.
The first is like a very pretty still life, or a posed portrait of Mother Nature. The other is a vibrant, sometimes messy picture of the world, brimming with humanity, and all the joy and heartbreak that life and love have to offer.
There is beauty in it all.
All images and words © NaomiBaltuck
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