Paris, Île-de-France, France

September 18, 2016

A Goodbye to Paris

I’ve known this letter was coming for weeks, have been mulling over and over how to sum up the je ne sais quoi that makes Paris so magical.

Sure, there’s the art, the food, the wine, the Seine, the architecture, the history. There are the people - a mix of passionate and proper, a place where respect is woven into life, and where Frenchness is a structure so strong that everyone can lean on it.

Those are all true things. But as I sat, leaning against a tree in the gardens of Versailles one day this past week, I was struck by what really makes Paris special for me —

It’s the sense of time.

Here, I’m aware that human civilization has been going on for thousands of years, and in all likelihood, will keep on going in one form or another for thousands more.

Here, I can see the 70, maybe 100 years I’ll get in that grander story to be able to contribute my verse.

I’m aware that everything I have, everything I know, and everything I’m building on came from some other brilliant person whose time has long passed. (And that someday, maybe, if I make one good thing, someone will build their creations on something I’ve made.)

Wednesday afternoon, I leaned against that tree and looked out at the vast expanse of Versailles’ looking pools. The late afternoon light filtered down, slanted, and a few trickles of fall fell one by one from the boughs above.

And in that moment, despite there not being one person in sight, I knew I wasn’t alone.

I sat against that tree with all the others who had sat there too. Some writers. A few teachers. A philosopher. Old lovers and young flames.

We sat, too, with those who hadn’t walked over yet, hadn’t rested their feet. The future painters. The musicians. The librarians. The janitors.

The tree towered over us all, leaned into us as we fell into it, and it watched our centuries and lifetimes spin by.

Time is stretched here. That’s what makes Paris so special. You can spend a week here that will burn inside you the rest of your life, or a spend a lifetime here making something that you know, deep down, will at best be a brief bright spark across a dark night.

It has been my immense honor to be able to take you with me, here in this city I love so deeply.

As you’re reading this right now, I’m on a plane, boarded this morning, off to another part of this lovely world we share.

Here’s to our next adventure.

-Steven

p.s. The best thing I saw all week was actually a news story, if you can believe it. One we’re likely to look back on, and say “Then. That’s when we started to really fix it.” The US and China just agreed to the Paris Climate Accords. How big a deal is this? The world’s two biggest emitters of CO2 have never agreed to any climate accord. Ever. We’re making progress! :)

p.p.s. Relatedly, and awesomely, the wonderful XKCD made this comic charting the history of the earth’s climate. It’s awesome.

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