Thursday, May 22, 2008

At the Crossroads

Two years ago this week, I made my first journey to Auvers-sur-Oise, to see Vincent's gravesite and the places he painted. I'd gone to Paris for the first time in six years to reward myself for the publication of my scholarly book, "Music and Image in Classical Athens," and in a way, to search for inspiration. There was a "now what?" feeling about my life at that time, having spent a decade on the dissertation and the book, and although I had journal articles and conference papers to work on, I wanted Something Different, Something New to help me find the "high yellow note" (as Vincent says).

I went to Auvers in a spirit of reverence and pilgrimage, and since it was an ordinary Wednesday, I had the place to myself. Just try and control your imagination if you're a van Gogh devotee and you're climbing the plateau into the wheatfields he painted. If I'd turned around and seen him standing in front of his easel, it wouldn't have been a surprise. The crossroads in the photo is the place where he painted "Crows Over a Wheatfield" (there's a poster marking it), and although I didn't realize it at the time, I was standing at a metaphorical crossroads too. It was an emotional and uplifting day, and already on the train back to Paris, I felt something beginning to stir inside. Words. A story.

When I came back to Florida, I started writing. I still don't know where the road is leading, but last year when I went back to Auvers, I left a little something at Vincent's grave just in case. To say thank you.

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