It’s been raining here for several days, an unusual occurrence in the desert. Last night, my husband and I spoke of that November in Paris, how lovely it was in the rain, how we missed it. I woke up thinking of this view from the top floor window of the Musée Rodin, one I often return to in my mind’s eye, appreciating the beauty of each season I’ve been lucky to see, from the lushness of spring to the sparseness of winter. Although I love the art in the museum, I enjoy looking out over the garden just as much, perhaps even more, as I anticipate strolling and exploring below.
The hôtel particulier has stood for three centuries. Before becoming the Musée Rodin, it was a grand private mansion, a Catholic boarding school for girls, and a sort of artists’ colony. I enjoy visualizing its many inhabitants wandering through the verdant oasis below in the garments of their day and station: embroidered satin farthingale gowns, elaborate lace shirts dripping from thick velvet waistcoats, stiff nuns’ habits, drab school girls’ uniforms, flowing white artists’ smocks smeared with clay or paint. The fashions of today are a far cry from these, even those of stylishly dressed Parisians.
From this vantage point, through the arches in the rear hedge, I can even glimpse previous versions of myself in chilly and balmy weather resting on a wooden chaise lounge with moss growing on its edges, looking up through the branches silhouetted against the sky, reveling in the sounds of birds chirping, children laughing on the playground at the school beyond the back fence, or the cry of a siren echoing off of stone buildings and walls. I felt protected, solitary, like Mary Lennox in her Secret Garden. How different my life was, I was. Sometimes I was in pure bliss just to be in Paris, and other times my worries followed me, even to this serene place. The tranquility of the garden enabled me to clear my mind, enjoy the calm, and later the rest of the city.
When I imagine this garden I am not always alone, but walking hand in hand with my husband, savoring the sound of rustling leaves on swaying branches, my love’s profile against a gray sky, or sitting on a bench watching the shifting sunlight or children reacting to Rodin’s sculptures set among the trees.
Awake in the night, I often peer through this window, descend the marble staircase, and stroll under the trees along the left edge of the garden until I reach the back. Behind the wall of hedges, I recline on a chaise lounge and relive the seclusion and peace until my body relaxes, my mind quiets, and sleep returns. Please share your favorite places to visit when you need a break or can’t sleep.
VISITING THE MUSÉE RODIN
You may purchase a combined ticket for both the museum and garden, or a reduced fare ticket with access to the sculpture garden only. Check the Musée Rodin website for opening times and ticket prices. The museum café, located in the garden, has tables both inside and outside. It’s lovely any time of year and makes for a nice lunch or afternoon coffee break.