In Monet’s Garden
by Janine Canan
It was a Sunday morning in October, when Justine returned to the Monet Museum — more precisely Musée Marmottan—at 2 rue Louis-Boilly, for one last look. The streets near the Bois de Boulogne were empty. Justine stepped over the big brown fan-shaped leaves, fallen from the plane trees. The museum had just opened. She purchased a ticket, and sailed past the familiar cashier with the tiny pale slip forgotten inside her palm. Flying down the hall, she descended the carpeted stairs.
On the mid-landing, Sunrise on the Seine pulled her unabashedly to its silken surface, and drew her closer, and then closer. Justine pulled down her glasses, brushing back her silvery hair. Just inches from the painting, she entered….Each stroke shone with simplicity, poignancy and ecstasy. Subtly the painting shifted. Something was happening, manifesting, moving….Seizing her in its purity, it wrenched her heart open. And her mind flooded with the word Divine. She inhaled deeply, thinking, Here I can live. Forever. Everything is here.
Justine tumbled tipsily down the second flight of stairs, and passed by the lovely fields, trees, rivers, parks and domestic scenes of Monet’s youth. In front of the great Parliaments of London brilliantly mirrored on the Thames, she came to a dead stop. Lofty celestial light smeared the towers with tealy silver. Slapping wavelets tipped in gold. No wonder he more and more loved to paint water—lilies in water, bridges over water, garden and sky reflected in water: As above, so below.
She pirouetted rapturously toward the water lilies, which had been planted by the old man in his garden. These were certainly no mere representations. Justine stared into the timeless sky reflected in the pond. Concentrating with her whole body, she gazed at a tuft of reeds. Nothing but a reflection, she realized with a shock. Looking down into the water, she saw the dark weeping half, visible alongside the bright reflecting half of life. Lovely pink lilies floated up to her like kisses. Behind them, heaven rested among lily pads on the silent water. Wistful strands of willow trailed above. Five red lilies candesced in their greeny purple pond.
Justine inhaled sharply as she turned toward the Weeping Willow, whose legs were planted tenaciously in a gushing green mound. The proud trunk writhed—soft wide pink squiggles glistening upward through the brown. The roots surged, as the purple heartwood turned blood red and orange, fire flaring from its core. Flailing her arms about in every direction, the willow poured down rivers of tears, cascading tears and more tears.
The whole tree was sobbing. Nothing but soul, Justine gasped as the Holy One splashed every kind of tear there is upon her creation, and then transmuted Herself into a joyful yellow brilliance. I am the Weeping Tree, a voice whispered gloriously as Justine slowly backed away.
At the Japanese Bridge, so lovingly stroked with teals, aquamarines and cranberries, she stood for a moment at rest. But an inner urgency forced her onward toward the Avenue of the Roses. There rose trees flamed in riotous bloom, on fire with every color under the sun. Water, earth and air were all consumed in their uncontrollable passion. It grabbed her wildly by the heart, leashing her to Infinity. She felt faint with worship, as if drowning herself in the almost impenetrable thick green that was greedily devouring all the reds, blues and yellows—until it itself was finally consumed by the light.
Now Monet was inside—the brush-stroke—the sublimity—the perfection. Increasingly blind now—but it didn’t matter—he painted his own soul. In the immense yellow irises, striving upward into the ether, surrendering to the Sun. How Justine craved to go with him. How can I ever leave you, my beloveds? she cried, painfully trying to shake herself from that heaven of beauty. My lilies, my willows, my rose trees—you great ones At last, brutally she tore herself away. And climbing the dirty worn jade-carpeted steps with determination, she emerged onto the street.
Paris was bustling. A woman strolled past her, pushing a baby carriage. Justine felt light and alive. Tomorrow she would fly home. Ah, how truly she adored her Monet, who was never thrown off his path.
Janine Canan, poet and psychiatrist, graduate of Stanford and New York University School of Medicine, resides in Sonoma, California. She is the author of a dozen poetry collections, including In the Palace of Creation: Selected Works 1969-1999 and Changing Woman. She translated the German poetry of Else Lasker-Schüler in Star in My Forehead. She edited the award-winning anthology, She Rises like the Sun: Invocations of the Goddess by Contemporary American Women Poets, as well as The Rhyme of the Ag-ed Mariness: Last Poems of Lynn Lonidier, and Messages from Amma: In the Language of the Heart. Janine’s stories, Journeys with Justine, illustrated by Cristina Biaggi, will soon be out. She is currently poetry editor for Awakened Woman, and you may visit her at www.JanineCanan.com. Contact Janine.