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Thanksgiving challenge, day 7; for an explanation of this week’s writing, please visit the post from November 20.

April 28, 2014: Oh, this is a picture that catches something in my heart and squeezes, ever so gently yet with a tenacity that speaks to the permanence of my affection.

I took this picture in Giverny, at Claude Monet’s home where he painted some of his most beloved works. My friend Michelle suggested we go, and so we boarded a train from Paris – along with my brother – and made the trek out to the famous house. I didn’t know what to expect, and perhaps didn’t expect much, but the day itself was irresistible, fresh with the intoxication of life that spring so heartily endorses.

We toured the house and peered out at the blooming flowers from the same windows that Monet looked out of. It was a wonderland of color – pink, green, red, purple, white, orange, blue – and I could imagine the myriad ways a painter living there would find inspiration and joy.

Outside, we wandered. The gardens were nothing short of magnificent, a cultured nature more beautiful than any other I’d seen. It seemed a perfect time to be there: blooms were bursting almost to the point of obscenity, yet it was early enough in the season that it wasn’t crowded. Flowerbeds overflowed with wisteria, tulips, poppies, and so much I couldn’t name.

That day, even at the time, felt like a gift.

When I look at this picture, I feel gratitude so immense that I really don’t know that I can capture it. I am grateful for the two people who accompanied me that day, and for the sheer fact of standing in the midst of such beauty. It reminded me that the world is something we can marvel at, and delight in, and that neither demands anything other than presence.

Beyond that, I think of the month in Paris that was coming to a close for me, and am so thankful for that city which has stolen my heart, again and again. I don’t know what it is about Paris that has so captured me, but I find a piece of myself there that seems not to exist in other places: a small accent on my everyday way of being. I have dreams of living there, which I hope I will someday realize; in the meantime, I’m so very grateful to feel comfortable in my beloved City of Light.

The feeling that squeezes my heart when I look at this picture is something that I hope always stays with me. I am better when I remember that the world is large; I am happier when I look up from myself to see its beauty, its magnificence, and its incredible invitation to stand in humble, neverending, and all-encompassing awe.

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