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Discovering Parc André Citroën

illustrated journal Aug 19, 2021

Contrary to the announcement in my last post, I've decided to keep my Illustrated Journal private ... at least for now.  On occasion, I will post a journal entry on my blog. the discovery of Parc André Citroën proved to be a turning point for me and I thought I would share that day with you.  Perhaps one or two of you will relate to my experience.

These are the postcards that have been created since my visit to the park two days ago:

Excerpt from my Illustrated Journal - August 17th entry:

I canceled last night's game of Dominion.  I was too tired to think ... and still in a funk having found all but one optician closed. The open store on Rue de Belleville between Jourdain and Pyrénées had nothing that I want if I end up having to purchase new frames. I felt like an oddity in an Asian Optician in France.  It appeared I was not the only one thinking it odd that I entered the store.  It was the first time that I felt very unwelcome.

The highlight of the day was finding a bench facing out, away from the street, at a bus stop on Boulevard de Belleville. From the bench I had a lovely view of a slightly derelict park that the sidewalk passed through.  Hollyhocks bloomed among the overgrown grasses and weeds.  

For the next hour I entertained myself by sketching a postcard in ink and adding spots of color.  When it came to adding a figure, I was lazy.  The figure looked as if it were riding a bike rather than strolling along.  So I let the figure do what it was doing best ... ride a bike.  I'm pleased with the results. 

This morning, a slightly gray sky has turned blue and beckons me to finally walk a bit of the GR 75 route and sketch postcards.  I've decided I will honor Irene's request for a postcard showing the Eiffel Tower ... but not today.

STILL no email with my Pass Sanitaire. I haven't tried to go to a café, restaurant or museum without it ... though I probably would be permitted to enter at many.  A greater priority is to figure out what it is I'm doing with my life. I'm finding quiet contemplation, writing and painting is what is benefitting me the most right now.  Anne's place is the best place I know to do this.

There are many ways to think about a day.  I could focus on the number of times I went in the wrong direction after looking at a map in Paris Pratique, or the fact that I never did see one of the red and white blazes that mark the GR 75.

I know I exited the Métro at the right station.  From there, I continued to make errors.

Had I not taken a wrong turn, I would have missed seeing this great line of bicycles.

Almost on the right track again.

My kind of jungle gym

Or, I could focus on finding myself in Parc André Citroën while searching for the GR 75. The park's magic began working on me as soon as I passed through the gates.  It continued to unfold with each step.

I hadn't walked very far when I stopped to sketch a postcard.  The zigzag (up and down) structure of the bench worked better than I had expected for supporting my supplies.  What ignited my spark was the variety of shapes and the landscaping of cool and warm greens.

Shortly, an elderly man approached and sat on the bench next to mine.  From his appearance, I assumed he was homeless.  His long gray hair hung down in a braid and his clothing was tattered.  He watched me as I sketched with my fountain pen.  After about ten minutes he walked over to me and asked if he might watch.  When I smiled and nodded, he began to talk.

It turned out that he, too, is a painter.  He has a large studio a few blocks away from the park.  He loves drawing with pens, especially dip pens.  He commented on the fact that I was holding my pen incorrectly and he showed me the proper way to hold a pen, one that has a metal nib designed for making a variety of lines.  He explained that there are seven ways to manipulate a pen and he showed me each one.  He spoke in a mix of English and French.  I was able to understand most of what he was saying.  He continued with a bit of art history and how things changed after pigments could be put into tubes and artists stopped making their own paints.  Life now is no longer good for artists ...

He went on his way.  I continued to sketch the various shapes of the landscape.

Time passed.  I added color to my sketch. As I began to pack up my materials, I heard a voice calling out a greeting.  When I turned to look, it was the artist.  He was on his way back from shopping, pulling along his wheeled shopping bag.  He waved and smiled.  I returned the acknowledgement that we had made a connection.

I wandered further into the park, mesmerized by the geometry that greeted me in every direction.

I began to feel a joy I haven't felt for quite a while.  I felt whole again ... in balance ... There's something about being in solitude surrounded by geometric patterns that is totally comforting to me.  I experience this wonderful sensation when I am surrounded by nature, on deserted streets with repetitions of lamp posts or fences or doors or windows.  

When the geometry is a mix of linear and organic shapes, with a variety of edges ... I feel even better.

I've often wondered why I don't include people in my snapshots. I love sketching people in action as well as people's faces.  I think ... I don't include people in my snapshots because the shape of them often spoils the geometric patterning that I respond to so strongly.

.........   Interruption to make a salad.

....... back to my journal and Parc André Citroën.

The park is peculiar in that there are so many large structures that appear to either imprison plants or honor them. Outrageously organized confinement of botanicals, yet fascinating and soothing to my spirit. A final delight presented itself in the last of the Serial gardens, the Blue Garden.

I thought my level of joy couldn't possibly get any higher.  I was wrong. As I leaned over the wall from the upper level walkway. The sight of the blue-violet and red-violet blossoms, lush against their leaves of assorted shapes and tones of greens, took my breath away. I hadn't felt so happy in months, perhaps a year. The air was filled with sounds I couldn't hear, lovely music that poured into me and validated my being here. I felt renewed. Perhaps the tide was changing.

Flowing Thoughts ...

I learned long ago that I able to keep my thoughts flowing when I'm typing.  The tap tapping of my fingers and the sound that accompanies the tapping is soothing to me.  there is not that lag in time as there is when I'm writing on paper.  When I write quickly, I can't read what I've written at a later time.

Typing away on my father's Underwood typewriter in my loft in Boston ... typing on Mr. Hesse's typewriter before I could read or write (after helping Mrs. Hesse dust her vanity) ... typing on the first electric typewriter I ever had. Michael, the kid's dad, found it under a bush while walking the dog.

Just beyond the sixth serial garden are, what appear to be, meditation platforms.

Beyond the wooden platforms are a series of gardens with passageways cut within the dense walls of hedge.

The last of the gardens before I exited the park is a garden of huge tree monuments, for lack of a better name.  This is another example of the honored confinement of singular trees.

Time moves us along whether we like it or not. I passed through the gate, exiting what is for me, a magical park.

Just outside the gate, the largest birdhouse I've ever seen is perched atop a tree-like pole.

I snapped a photo at the fence corner to make note of where I had exited the park.

During this time of sensory excitement I was, simultaneously, thinking back on the New Yorker Magazine article read earlier this morning about rational thinking.  I couldn't possibly sketch my many responses to the multitude of inspirational sparks I had been experiencing since entering the park. My current challenge is to tap back into my inspirational sparks and develop the expression of that spark.  Perhaps it's time for me to get over my phobia about working from photographs!


Leaving the park, I wandered pretty aimlessly.  I still hadn't seen any of the GR 75 markings.  It didn't really matter to me anymore.  I had totally immersed myself in the park.  Had I not been searching for the GR 75, I would never have been wandering through this park in the 15th Arrondissement. 

I am drawn to return to this garden.

So many of the important moments in my life occurred between the point of starting and arriving.  My tendency to navigate poorly has led me to cross paths with amazing people, surprising events and beautiful views. 

Once, I rode in the back seat of a Citroën.  Debbie Krochta and I were hitchhiking in Germany.  I was seventeen and she was fifteen.  We were picked up by a man driving a Citroën.  I thought they were extremely ugly cars.  Though I love the shapes and designs of insects, these cars reminded me of ugly insects. Debbie sat in the front and I sat in the back.  As soon as the car started moving, I realized why these cars were amazing.  To this day, I have never felt as if I were floating on air when riding in a vehicle. The sensation was utterly amazing and intoxicating.

As usual, upon leaving the garden I became totally disoriented, followed the Seine and found wonderful views of the Eiffel Tour.  Snapped dozens of photos. 

I'll work from these photographs.  Hooray!  I'm already making progress on getting over my phobia about painting from photograph.

In spite of the fact that I was almost an hour away, by Métro, from my lodging, I decided to go into an open Optician store.  Yes, no, yes, no ... yes.  I fumbled along speaking French, until I couldn't understand anything they were telling me in response to what I had said.  Fortunately, one of the two men working at the desk spoke English. Guillaume spoke English.  The other gentleman had been asking me whether or not I had insurance. It took awhile and a great deal of patience to reach a solution for new glasses.  I'm pleased and confident that the experience will lead to better vision.  I will have a new pair of amethyst-color glasses as well as new lenses in my current glasses.  When all goes well, I'll have two pair of new glasses on August 25th or 26th.I don't mind at all that the optician is so far away.  I look forward to returning to Parc André Citroën!

Upon leaving the Optical Center, I walked along the Seine toward the Eiffel Tower.

Is it odd that a Rolls Royce is parked on the bridge?

and that just fifteen feet away from it is ...

someone's home ... someone who definitely does not own the Rolls Royce?

and a bit further down on the bridge, a couple is having a photo shoot on their wedding day.

Is this not an odd location for wedding photos?

Perhaps they became engaged while crossing the Seine on this bridge.

I'm sure that people passing by me as I ran the Pulaski Skyway Bridge were having similar thoughts of bewilderment.  Why would anyone want to run that bridge?  Why?  Because it is more than three miles long and bridge construction is intriguing to me.

My navigation skills proved dismal when it came to finding my way back to Rue de la Villette. Arriving at my destination has never been the primary focus of my travels.  It's the journey between my starting point and my end point that intrigues me and feeds my curiosity.

Prior to arriving in Paris I had programmed myself to resist taking so many photographs, adjusting slightly here and there for better patterns, compositions and movement.  Today, I realized that taking all of those snapshots, adjusting the shapes I see, searching for slight differences that can make monumental changes in the visual impact is something I absolutely love doing.  It's not about taking the hundreds of snapshots, it's about the awakening that occurs within me when I'm doing it.  I am seeking to observe more and the camera has allows been a lens through which I do that well.  I've abandoned the idea of resisting the urge to explore through the lens of my phone.
So many of the important moments in my life occurred between the point of starting and arriving.  My tendency to navigate poorly has led me to cross paths with amazing people, surprising events and beautiful views. Today's walk was long and fabulous.  When I finally arrived back at Anne's I was hungry, thirsty and happy.Garden is watered, Lala is eating her wet food for a change ... all is well.

Info on Parc André Citroën:

"The park was designed beginning of the 1990's by the French landscape designers Gilles Clément and Alain Provost and the architects Patrick BergerJean-François Jodry and Jean-Paul Viguier.

In 1915, Citroën built its factory on the banks of the Seine where it operated until the 1970's. At that time, 24 hectares (59 acres) were vacated and subsequently addressed in Paris' urban plan, ultimately giving rise to the Parc André Citroën.

"The park was designed beginning of the 1990's by the French landscape designers Gilles Clément and Alain Provost and the architects Patrick BergerJean-François Jodry and Jean-Paul Viguier.

The park is built around a central, rectangular lawn of roughly 273 by 85 meters in size. It is embellished with two greenhouse pavilions (hosting exotic plants and Mediterranean vegetation) at the eastern, urban end which are separated by a paved area featuring dancing fountains. The south edge of the lawn is bounded by a monumental canal — the "Jardin des Métamorphoses" — composed of an elevated reflecting pool that reaches through granite guard houses, lined by a suspended walkway. On the north side are two sets of small gardens: the six "Serial Gardens", each with a distinct landscape and architectural design and a "Garden in Movement" that presents wild grasses selected to respond at different rates to wind velocity. A 630-meter diagonal path cuts through the park.

The six serial gardens are each associated with a metal, a planet, a day of the week, a state of the water and a sense:[4]

  • The blue garden: copper, Venus, Friday, rain, and the sense of smell,
  • The green garden: tin, Jupiter, Thursday, spring water, and the sense of hearing.
  • The orange garden: mercury (the metal), Mercury (the planet), Wednesday, creeks, and the sense of touch.
  • The red garden: iron, Mars, Tuesday, waterfalls, and the sense of taste.
  • The silver garden: silver, the Moon, Monday, rivers, and sight.
  • The golden garden: gold, the Sun, Sunday, evaporation, and the 6th sense."

                                          the above is quoted from  Wikepedia


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