I’m here (there)!
In Paris again. Now it’s the fall season, but sunny and warmish still. The leaves are just starting to change. Yesterday, I walked and walked my way into being here. Around Notre Dame, hello to the Seine, then to the top of the Centre Pompidou, paying vigil to the surrealist artists this time, and taking in big views of Paris rooftops, Sacré Coeur in the distance. Arriving comes more quickly now, with an accumulation of familiarity. But it’s always a treasure to be here.
Travelling between Vancouver and Paris this year, I navigate two worlds—my home life and its knowing-ness with those I love, and then, boom, being in France on my own. Another language, place, time. Suddenly having time, and more time, with focus on work, pacing myself, walking in the city, being alone, or meeting with people at the University.
This gap of
experiences is challenging, as is the work of so much travel on my body/mind. There is a need for integration of my new experiences that takes its own time. And I keep wanting my family to be here, as if I’m not fully
experiencing this place without them. A sense of something missed can be very
strong. I head that, what loss can mean. I am so used to living in relation to
them. But then, I am here, and I fall into ‘Nané-ish-ness.’ It’s a self-space I
had in travels past. I let another sense come forward, and wander alone as best
I write “t/here”
– to include my sense of here and there, as my here/there gets mixed up, moving
across the two lands. Each is distinct. Getting onto the Paris Metro always lets me
know where I am (here). The Metro has a whole poetry of its own. Broadly, it’s
familiar to me, like any subway system across the world. There is the comfort
of this, maybe I’m taking a ride across Toronto, or San Francisco. But then,
this train is full of French people, so I hear the language, over-hearing
conversations and cell phone talk. And French men and women wear such good shoes
and those scarves, so I know I am in Paris. The Gallic look and presence is
felt, as well as the growing cosmopolitan ethnicity of Paris. The Metro
stops have names of famous places along the way, St. Michel / Notre Dame,
Luxembourg, then onto my stop, the Cité Universitaire.
The Cité is a
wonderful place. It is an international university campus, linked to
the Paris universities, and what was once the “College of Nations.” Students
have come to study in Paris universities since the Middle Ages. Created in
1925, under a hopeful mandate of peaceful international relations after World
War I, the Cité houses young people from around the world, who live together in
what has become the globalization of higher education. The hope for a peaceful world remains on this campus of nations. The Cité houses
international students and researchers on a massive scale, though networks of
buildings, some very old, and some more modern. The site occupies dozens of hectors,
spanning several enormous city blocks. The wonder of it is also the parkland setting
that spreads around the various buildings (which are called houses/maisons).
Such abundance of greenery is unusual in Paris, and lovely to walk within,
easing our weary study-minds.
Hélène Cixous gives her monthly seminar right here in the Cité, in the Maison Heinrich Heine (German House). The seminar room has huge glass windows on all side, overlooking the tree-infused, park setting. Cixous' seminars are sponsored by Collège International de Philosophie, et Université Paris 8. But I will miss her seminar on this visit, as she starts teaching in mid-November.
I stay in the Maison d’Étudiants Canadienne. One of the oldest and first houses of the Cité, built in the 1920s for Canadian students. There is a large beaver tile mosaic on the main level hallway floor, as well as two inlaid patterns of green maple leafs in large circles, all of this in an art deco form.
And so, I am t/here!