The year 2015 ends on a bright and hopeful day in Paris. I’m relieved to feel no compulsion to come up with resolutions for 2016; I can simply reuse those of 2015 since none of them was realized. Something about this makes me happy. Unless my good cheer is due to the fact that I’ve just bought a train ticket.
This evening I’m going out to the Vendeen countryside, south of the Loire near the Atlantic Coast, to embrace the new year with closest of friends.
“Are you going to make us those fat crepes again?” said my godchild when I told her I was coming. “They’re called pancakes,” I reminded her. Since I won’t be arriving until the evening I’m dispensed from helping to prepare tonight’s festivities, and in exchange I’ll be making pancakes in the morning. I’m bringing along some Cary’s Canadian maple syrup, hoping to pass it off as Gary’s.
I could have purchased my train ticket online but I like the sense of happy anticipation is buying it at the station. So I biked over to Gare de l’Est, the East Station. (This evening I’ll take the train southwest from the Montparnasse Station.)
I walked back and on the way, not far from the station, I visited the little garden square beside Saint Laurent Church. The exceedingly December weather has allowed it to remain green
and in flower.
It’s a hopeful garden square. The installations and plantings were done by people accompanied by Emmaüs Solidarité along with local volunteers, as is written on the sign.
Emmaus http://emmaus-france.org/ is an organization founded in France after the Second World War by Abbot Pierre (Henri Grouès) that aims to fight poverty and improve the conditions of those living in poverty while calling on the public and on government to act in solidarity with the poor.
We’ll be eating well this evening as we toast the new year, followed in the morning by pancakes, with much else in store for the weekend. Meanwhile, this charming little garden reminds passersby of the possibilities offered by peaceful earth. Rhubarb, for one.
It reminds us of the need for shelter.
It reminds us of the need for community, family and friends.
It reminds to build good
and better lives.
It reminds us that the needs of a man who would cultivate a small plot of earth,
the needs of a woman who would paint a shell
the needs of a child who would play in a city square,
and the needs of a man who would sleep in a public garden
are also our needs.
Beside the square, the church visible today is the third on this site. The first was built as part of a monastery dedicated to Saint Laurent in the 5th century. Saint Laurent was born in Spain then lived in Rome, where he helped the indigent. That was in the third century, before Christianity held sway in much of Europe, when the Roman authorities sought to diminish its appeal and get a hand on the expanding treasure of the early popes. Rather than see that treasure fall into the hands of the Roman authorities, Lauent distributed it to the poor. When asked to produce the papal riches he pointed to the poor and said, “There are the treasures of the Church.” His martyrdom involved being burned on a grill.
The current Saint Laurent Church was begun in the 15th century, with work on the flamboyant Gothic interior continuing for over 200 years .
Several men were praying in separate chapels. A woman in the welcome booth by the creche was moving her lips while reading a book. A woman was sleeping against a column. So was a man.
I emptied the change in my pocket into the collection box, selected a candle and lit it with the flame of another.
I’m not Catholic. I don’t pray. But as I placed the long thin candle in the holder my mind flickered between the man sleeping nearby, my departure this evening for a joyful New Year’s Eve, the pleasing continuity of renewing for 2016 my resolutions of 2015, plans to call family in the U.S. tonight, tomorrow’s pancakes and Friday evening’s Euromillion lottery.
I saw a scribe and decided to write this before leaving Paris to celebrate the new year.
Wishing a happy, healthy 2016 to all. Bonne année!
Gary Lee Kraut
Dec. 31, 2015