Most people who know me, even on a surface level, know of my passion for the beautiful city of Paris. I regularly express my thoughts on Paris through my writing. On the walls of my home, you’ll find enlarged photographs of the city sights, and treasures from the local marché aux puces (flea markets) on shelves throughout the rooms. I’ve adapted some Parisian ways to my daily life, like grocery shopping for just a few fresh items at a time, every few days. I’d be at a street market with a bicycle and a basket in front if I was a local.
To me, Paris has a perfect blend of old and new; it is varied enough for any traveler to find what they seek, and more––from the intricacies of Beaux-Arts architecture, the heft of gothic churches, the rugged cobblestone of the “artists’ hill,” Montmartre, to the highest couture and latest fashion trends. And the food. A favorite restaurant of ours is La Maison Rose. If you happen to go there, make sure to leave room for the carrot cake dessert! To Paris I have often returned, mostly with my daughter, and several times without. Of course, this is the first place I thought of when I read Tweetspeak’s theme for 2024 is “Journeys.”
While I anticipate future Parisian adventures, my travel habits have recently shifted since my daughter moved from our home in New Jersey to Arizona. Did you know Arizona is SO FAR AWAY from New Jersey? I knew it, sort of. On a map level. I definitely didn’t realize how disoriented I would feel when she moved across the country. The first time I flew out to visit, with the plane headed westward instead of eastward, I felt an emotional vertigo that unsettled, but also excited me.
I’ve had several trips to Arizona in the past two years, and while our living spaces are in different geographies, our travel groove remains unchanged. Except now Tori is often the guide as we road-trip to places she’s already explored, like the challenging hike at Tonto Natural Bridge State Park or the slow, winding drive through Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in an unexpected and torrential rainstorm. I’ve found places on my own, while she’s been at work (great plot twist!). I’m sure I’ll revisit the Phoenix Art Museum many times, and enjoy amazing Mexican dinners and creative margaritas at Casa Corazon.
During one visit, a quick Google search led us to the Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix where we strolled a path winding around a pond, past sculptures and sculptured plant life, waiting for koi to surface as we tossed in their food. The distinctive architecture of this oasis in downtown Phoenix contrasted with the local saguaro and prickly pear that we saw on the drive over.
Researching for this piece, I came across a poem called “Japanese Garden,” by Laura Tohe. Tohe is Diné, Sleepy-Rock People clan and born for the Bitter Water People clan. She is Professor Emerita with Distinction at Arizona State University and was named Poet Laureate of the Navajo Nation from 2015-2017. And, she’s a Laura, a name we treasure within the Tweetspeak community.
This poem was written in response to an art exhibit in Portland, Oregon, but its theme is a broad conjecture of the devastation global warming may unleash. What would happen if? This poem was first written in Tohe’s native Navajo. I spent some time looking at the stanzas in Navajo, noting the unfamiliar accent marks and combinations of letters. I spoke the lines aloud, phonetically as they appeared on the page, unknowing how far off I was from the actual pronunciation. How unfamiliar these word-shapes felt in my mouth, and yet, not unpleasant. Just different. As I compared the first four lines of Navajo and English, I noted that the two languages must have different syntax rules as well, given the repetition of certain Navajo words in the beginning and then end of the lines…
Tohe also blends the religious figures of Noah and St. Francis with traditional Navajo stories as if they’ve belonged together since their inception. Both traditions belong to her, to us, through her writing. How remarkable to embrace both, instead of excluding one for the other. Like travels to Paris and Arizona.
My journey to visit my daughter is an outward one, but inward as well. A transition in motherhood from “doing” to “being.” My daughter is an adult, managing her independent life geographically far away from my own dailies. This miracle of miracles, we are no less important to each other now; the survival and thriving of our personhoods are entwined, the bond between us remains. Although the time we spend together has changed, we speak on the phone weekly and fill each other in on what’s happened since we last spoke. Some weeks the conversations are shorter, some weeks they meander for hours. And, we do share the mutual love language of memes throughout the week. Giving space to let go of what was, to experience what is, leaves the future full of possibility of what is yet to come.
At dawn she gives birth to a gentle mist
flowers bow with wet sustenance
luminescence all around
—Laura Tohe, excerpted from the poem, Female Rain
The last time I went to Paris, in 2022, Tori had already moved to Arizona and I went with my childhood best friend. Kimmie, as I still call her, had never been to Paris before, so I swept her away with a tour of my and Tori’s favorite places.
One afternoon as we strolled through streets with no specific destination in mind, I came across a pop-up jewelry stand on the sidewalk. The jeweler looked strikingly familiar, and as we approached, I realized we had met at a street market five years before. In fact, he still carried the delicate twisted silver ring I purchased for Tori, so this time I bought one myself. I still wear it today. So connected, half a world away.
if she flies
ride the draft
I’ll meet you
—Michelle Rinaldi Ortega