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Through Aurora’s Eyes

Not long ago, my wife and I were able to explore Versailles. That day turned out to be a true joy thanks to an earnest, lively young Art Historian named Aurora and some invigorating weather.

We met her on a cold Paris morning when flurries of snow fell all across the city. On the train, we learned that this young brunette with clear, gray-blue eyes was a graduate student who loved ancient Chinese art. But, sadly, it seems that there are more than enough local art historians to fill any such positions in China. Even so, she was cheerful and optimistic about her professional future.

The Palace at Versailles

During the rest of the day, Aurora gave us the gift of her superb knowledge about Versailles’ art and history, including the little-known, fascinating, personal stories that make the past come alive. But, beyond that, she gave us an even better and far more rare present: her way of saying what she said. She used words and phrases and gestures and facial expression with such feeling and insight that it was as though she had lived in those times herself. As if she were telling us about people in her own family for whom she cared deeply, whether she liked them or not.

Aurora's 'perfect shot' in the Hall of Mirrors

After a few hours of Aurora’s mesmerizing company, we reached the Hall of Mirrors. Bright shafts of sunlight broke through the thick clouds just as we arrived. It was quite a sight, with a wall of south-facing, high widows running a hundred yards along one side and the huge mirrors running along the other. Not to mention all the gold and crystal around and in between.

Thankfully, the crowds weren’t heavy, and Aurora asked if we wanted her to take our photo there. Our answer was emphatically affirmative. To our delight, Aurora knew the perfect spot and angle. But each time she raised the camera, another visitor or two would drift into the shot. Five times, Six. Seven. She was far more patient and positive than I could have been in her place.

Garden fountain and palace in the distance

With the seventh try behind her, she smiled wistfully and made a theatrical gesture toward the Heavens, crying, “Can’t they see I’m creating art here?” Miraculously, and solely because she was so sweet and deserving, the oblivious stream of people unconsciously parted for the perfect shot. Well… perfect except for having me in it.

Being who she is, Aurora probably doesn’t think about the light she shines on others. But we will never recall the beauty of Versailles without also thinking of our great good fortune in having come to know it through Aurora’s eyes.

Categories: 2011 Posts Tags: , ,
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  1. October 13, 2011 at 5:08 am
  2. November 22, 2011 at 8:14 am

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