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?
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.
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.