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Blogging Revival

I know it’s been a long time since I blogged, but this is not without good reason. A mixture of many hours and upper-division classes made last semester one of the most challenging yet for me, and while blogging remained on the list of priorities, I rarely got that far down the list. But that is past, and the summer is now upon us!

There is much to blog about, as I have hardly been idle. After finals were done with, I went on a jaunt across middle and east Tennessee with some friends, and had a grand time backpacking, looking at waterfalls, climbing mountains, and not getting campfires lit due to damp wood. Plus, I have recently arrived in my new “home” of Jefferson, Texas. When my father announced he was looking for a full-time preaching job, I was afraid he might leave our beloved state, but he has ended up in this county seat of Marion County, Texas, and I must admit I rather like it here. East Texas has always been one of my favourite regions, and Jefferson is a historic and beautiful town, although a bit touristy. As for the natural side of things, it is situated between Caddo Lake and Lake o’ the Pines, so there will be plenty of places to canoe, and perhaps I can do some hiking as well. The trees here are tall and pines are abundant, and the people are very kind. I certainly miss Parker County, but I cannot complain about Marion County in the least.

So I am resuming my blogging鈥攖his will likely involve a lot of photography, since even though I stopped blogging, I did not stop taking pictures, and there are a lot of pictures I need to put up, especially from Europe. This summer will be busy, but busy in a good way, I think鈥攈opefully not overwhelming like last semester. So I hope you will keep reading the blog, or if you are new to this corner of the web, come back often or subscribe to the RSS feed!

The Vanity of Versailles

Gates of Versailles

It was the gold that shone most brightly in the morning light, and as we stood outside the palace gates of Versailles, it was easy to understand how the exterior of this grand edifice was built to impress. On either side of the royal gates was a tall, Classical-style building, and where the frieze would normally be found, the inscription A Toutes les Gloires de la France was carved in large letters, for all to see鈥斺淭o All the Glories of France.鈥

Gazing on all this glory, meant to reflect the power of the king of France and the splendour of his kingdom, the first words of Ecclesiastes came to mind: 鈥淰anity of vanities, all is vanity!鈥 Even though these things once impressed peasants and nobility alike in favour of the king, today they are simply a relic of the grandeur that once was, an empty palace open for anyone who will buy a ticket to see it. Even though it is still a very grand place, the vanity of it all is perhaps more evident in modern light.

Le Calvaire

Le Calvaire

Europe certainly has its share of crucifixes. From the restaurant across from the Place Verte in Verviers, to the many representations of Christ to be found in the grand cathedrals, it seems they鈥檙e everywhere. And they all look strangely similar: The white plaque above His head with the Latin initials 鈥淚.N.R.I.,鈥 the bearded, near-naked figure with a neutral facial expression鈥攕eemingly dead already. And I daresay that after seeing this picture so many times, the scene has long since ceased to move me.

But this time was different. I was in the section of the Orsay Museum dedicated to the work of the Naturalists, a school of painters who sought to paint their subjects as accurately as possible. And as I passed my eyes over these incredibly detailed paintings, one of them halfway up the wall grabbed my attention.

There He was again: my Saviour dying on a Roman cross. But He wasn鈥檛 as I had seen Him before, emotionless and still. This time he was screaming in pain, and the horror of His fate was so evident in His face that I could almost hear those words escaping from His lips: Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?

(“Le Calvaire” by Nikola茂 Gay, Mus茅e d’Orsay, Paris)

Art Nouveau

Art Nouveau in the Orsay Museum

(Photo by George P. Landow)

I had heard of Art Nouveau before, but I didn鈥檛 think much of it until I encountered it again in Paris, France. The entrances of several metro stops were decked out in the style, one of the few visible remnants of the turn of the century that remain. But it wasn鈥檛 until I wandered into the Art Nouveau exhibit at the Orsay Museum that it captured my fancy.

As I came to find out, Art Nouveau is more than a type of art鈥攊t is also a font face and a style of interior design, and it was this last aspect that I discovered in the museum. It seemed that the designers of these beds, desks, and chairs deliberately avoided sharp corners, and the result was furniture that curves and flows, imitating the contour of vines and branches. As I walked through the exhibit, it no longer felt like Paris鈥攖his was Lothl贸rien!

It鈥檚 difficult to find words to describe the Art Nouveau style鈥攊t looks modern, but in an oldish sort of way. I wouldn鈥檛 be surprised at all if the artists who created these works were inspired by the woods and fields, which of course were designed by the Creator Himself.

Foreign

First impression of Czech Republic

(Photo by Deborah Bruce)

鈥淥f all the places we鈥檝e visited so far, this feels the most foreign.鈥 Thus said my sister, as we sat in the cold outside the train station of Kaplice, Czech Republic. We had gotten off the train just moments before, expecting to find ourselves in a quaint little Czech town, probably with a bakery, and with the possibility of hiking to see some ancient castle ruins. What we found amid the stiff wind and rain was a sign pointing to the south, reading 鈥淜aplice鈥6 km.鈥 Even when we tried to get there on foot, we were stymied because the road was only made for motor traffic.

We weren鈥檛 lost, but we were alone, in a country with a strange language and strange currency, and this was enough to get our spirits down. But happily, that was not our last impression of the Czech Republic. The next train towards Czeske Budejovice finally arrived, and we went there to find a beautiful, good-sized city, with ATM machines and places to eat. We had a wonderful time there, and it made me think of the premature conclusions I sometimes make about people when I first meet them. They may not seem very pleasant at first, but upon getting to know them, I find their true character is much more delightful than it first seemed.