Monday, July 5, 2010




It is exhausting to chaperon a gaggle of high school students through Europe for nearly two weeks. Exhausting. Like deep in the marrow of my bones exhausting.

But I loved every minute. First, this trip gave me a chance to meet my French editor (hi Xavier!!) who is amazing and just the kind of person I love working with and so enthusiastic and wonderful that I felt like I died and went to heaven when I was in his office surrounded by my favorite books (in French) and knowing my book would be up on those shelves (also in French).

Second, it was a great way to say goodbye to teaching. If you have to quit a job you love, why not do it in Paris?

Third, gelato.

Fourth: art. It's everywhere. I mean, yeah, Mona Lisa in Louvre and David in Florence, but that's not what I'm talking about.

I'm talking about street art.

Secret: I love street art. I love actually watching the art be made in front of me. I think I might love it more than Mona Lisa, which is kinda overrated and most people only like it because it's famous and it always makes me mad when I'm at the Louvre and people are running down the hall just to see this one tiny pic that's behind three-inch bullet-proof glass and I'm all like "WTF? Didn't you notice that Donatello you just sprinted past? Show the other Ninja Turtles some love, y'all!" And usually I'm asked to go because I actually do say that sort of thing out loud and try to tell random nearby strangers about the composition of colors and the symbolism of flowers in the paintings because my friends have probably left me at the museum like three hours ago when I just stared slack-jawed at a painting and forgot there were other people around.

Deep breath.

The point: I like art, and one of the things I like particularly about art is watching it be made. I bought a watercolor in Venice specifically because I saw the guy paint it on the street--I bought it before the paint was even completely dried. And of everything I saw in the entire trip, I think my very favorite thing was watching the glass making demonstration, also in Venice.

I've seen glass blowing before, but this particular glass blower was very skilled. I only caught part of the end on tape, but the best part was the last bit of his demonstration, where he made a glass horse. I am still in awe of how he teased out a beautiful equine shape from a lump of molten sand.

That's what art is to me: creation. Here was nothing but a blob--and he made a beautiful shape, a graceful horse. It's magic, making something new from something old. No--it's better than magic--because it's real and not an illusion.

That's what paper is to me: a chance to create. I think it's the desire of all humans to create something precious, be it a flower in the garden, an accomplished child, or a work of art. We want to have made something from nothing, we want to know that we changed the world, even if it is only in a small way.


salarsenッ said...

Wow, Beth. Amazingly cool! My nice just took the same kind of trip with her class. What a great way to broaden their horizons. ";-)

Theresa Milstein said...

First, going to France with a bunch of students has got to be HARD. Hats off to you. I'm exhausted after a one-day field trip right in my own country.

I could've written your Mona Lisa paragraph. That's how I felt three years ago when I went to The Louvre. This year, I went to the Museo D'Orsay instead.

As a teenager when I visited Corning, NY, around there is a glass blowing place. It was so cool to see glass being made.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Oh my, I had no idea you were traveling with your students! You are brave and wonderful. They will remember this trip for always.
Watching the little horse emerge from that lump of glass was amazing. And I agree--finding art and gelato makes my day. too.
Finally, you really moved me with your last line. Sometimes it's easy to lose sight of why we write. Your words remind me of the quote from Nelson Mandela, which helps me move beyond insecurity and the interior critic: "Your playing small does not serve the world."

Corinne said...

Ooh, very cool! You've got me in the mood for ice cream now. That looks amazing.

Also? You should totally come to Amsterdam some time. I'll take you to a pancake restaurant with you *g* and we can geek out over art together.

So glad you had a good time!

lotusgirl said...

That's amazing! I'm glad you had a great time and got to meet Xavier. It's so exciting that your book will soon be in French and kids in France will read it and know who you are.

There is some fabulous stuff in the Louvre, but I was in love with the building itself. The pillars, the ceilings, etc. I'm a big fan of the Musée d'Orsay, too. The building is cool and so is the art.

Shannon O'Donnell said...

Wow. I "wow" you all the way around

- h.s students + France = wow
- glass blowing + horse = wow
- comparison between art and writing = wow

Wow!! :-)

Becky Levine said...

The thing that always amazes me about glass-blowing is that the tools always look so big and heavy/sturdy, but the glass and the art look so fragile & vulnerable. Great video!

ali said...

Beautiful post. Welcome home and glad you had such a great time!

Miriam S. Forster said...

I agree, and I love all the different ways you can create art: words, paint, glass, sand... heck, you can even do art with a Roomba vacuum cleaner!


The possibilities are endless. :)

Indigo said...

Thanks for sharing the video. The glass blower made it seem so effortless to create beauty. You managed to sum up exactly the way I view writing - creating something out of nothing. (Hugs)Indigo

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Karen Lange said...

What fun! I am glad you shared this. And glad you can rest now:)

Cat said...

Welcome back. The glass blowing was amazing. I've seen it life before but this guy war really skilled. I envy you for your trip. If ever you come to Germany let me know and we'll get together.

Eric said...

You're quitting being a teacher? GAH! Where am I going to read all the awesome anecdotes that come from your classrooms? I'm glad you had a nice trip though and I hope everything else from here on out works out like you plan.

Alexa said...

Looks like you had an amazing time, oh that ice cream! I need some of that right now.

The glass blowing looks amazing, such a gorgeous horse and to see it created is so cool!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

sounds awesome to me :)

Kelly H-Y said...

That would be exhausting ... but what an incredible way to end your teaching career! WOW! And ... I so agree about the gelato (and the rest too!).

TerryLynnJohnson said...

sounds wonderful and exhausting!
I've never tried gelato. Just a random fact there.

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