Paris never disappoints, but the jacaranda do. Last year, they gave us the best performance of celestial purple I had ever seen. This year, nothing. Flat. The bare trees skipped the flowering and moved unnoticeably from bare branch brown to spring green leaf. I’m not sure how that happens, but it did, and I’m disappointed.
The word for disappointment in French is déception. I absolutely love that word. It sounds so dramatic and James Bond. Such a loaded word to describe such a hollow, lonely feeling: déception. It comes from the Latin meaning « to take away ». That’s how the jacaranda left me feeling this year, a little empty, a little deceived. I was waiting for that heavenly purpleness at the Place d’Italie…and it didn’t come. I was robbed. Robbed of something that was not mine in the first place, a hope, a dream, some silly purple flowers.
If disappointment is the anticipation of a satisfaction that does not come to fruition, then her happy counterpart must be « surprise », or as we say in French, surprise. Colette (or Georges Sand?) said that the only pleasures in life are the unexpected ones, les seuls plaisirs de ce monde sont les plaisirs inattendus. I anticipated the jacaranda, and got déception. That was my surprise. That’s how Paris always gets me.
Constant and staunch, Paris, still, always, surprises me – and of course, when I least expect it. The other day, a new, unexpected, friend and I went to see the Anish Kapoor at the Grand Palais. How can I describe this colossal experience from the creator of Chicago’s famous mirrored bean? I can only fall back on the words of Colette and say that it was unexpected and a pleasure. Completely unexpected, and entirely satisfying. A true surprise.
Go. See it. Touch it. Experience it. Go during the day, a sunny day, a sunny day with clouds that move in the sky. It’s art, it’s science fiction, it’s hallucinant. But mostly, it’s like nothing you have ever seen. You won’t be disappointed. There will be no déception. Go, and let Paris surprise you - again.
~James Patrick Benn, a writer living in Paris
(Images: Courtesy of P. Delesserand)