PARIS — I see small signs of spring’s arrival today here in Paris. Winter jackets are unzipped, heavy scarves are wrapped much looser around the neck and the fabric awnings in front of a few cafés are drawn back to expose the tables to the afternoon sun. But for me one of the most exciting signs of rebirth is in a place that honors the dead; the grand cemetery Pere Lachaise.
Lately I’ve taken to walking around the cemetery right after lunch, partly because the weather has finally straightened up and the sun has decided to stick around for a bit. Mainly, though, I’ve needed to escape my atelier. My windows are being repaired and what with the noise, the dust, and furniture piled in the center of the room, it’s hard to draw a breath, much less draw a piglet or crocodile with glasses for my latest book. So escape is necessary.
I’ve already talked about the cemetery in this space so I promise not to go over old ground. But aside from being the largest repository for the dead in Paris proper (and still growing), Pere Lachaise is also the largest public park here. People from all over bring sandwiches, books, iPods and notebooks and sit in the sun to enjoy the quiet as they read and relax.
The colors this spring seemed to be more brilliant than usual. Perhaps it was all the rain from the winter. My theory is that the winter was so miserable that any day with sunshine and mild temperatures would make even the drabbest blossom blaze with color. And color is everywhere, from the blossoming trees to the shimmering sunlight shining through the tiny stained glass windows in some of the sepulchers.
So enjoy these few pictures of budding life and rebirth in a place of silence and memory. The full cycle of life and death is here to witness. It’s a great show, presented, if you use your imagination, by some of the residents of this cemetery; music by Chopin, script by Oscar Wide and film by Mèliés.
Doug Cushman is a former Redding artist and author who lives and works in Paris. He was born in Springfield, Ohio, and moved to Connecticut with his family at the age of 15. In high school he created comic books lampooning his teachers, selling them to his classmates for a nickel apiece. Since 1978, he has illustrated and/or written more than 100 books for children and collected a number of honors, including a Reuben Award for Book Illustration from the National Cartoonists Society, New York Times Children’s Books Best Sellers, and the New York Public Library’s Best 100 Books of 2000. He enjoys hiking, kayaking and cooking (and eating!). Learn more at his website, doug-cushman.com.
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