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In Monet’s Garden

July 24, 2013
Monet's actual water lilies.

Monet’s actual water lilies.

When I was a child, my father had a print portraying Claude Monet’s garden in his bedroom, and another of “Water Lilies” in his office. I remember being entranced by these paintings–they were beautiful, yet also very calming. During some of the darker moments of my childhood, I would often stare at these images, and wish I could escape to them. I wonder if my father sometimes wished for the same thing.

As I got older, I was shocked to discover that these gardens and lilies did exist. Not only that–I could go see them for myself in Giverny, a tiny hamlet an hour outside of Paris. I learned this from an East Asian professor, who explained that Monet was fascinated with Japanese Zen artwork–so much so that Monet’s house was filled with works of the Japanese Zen masters. I had appreciated the meditative effect of studying these Japanese artists, and now I knew that my similar reaction to their works and Monet’s was no coincidence.

Today, I finally got to see Monet’s garden. And I have to say it–it was like the paintings had come to life. The garden itself I could only describe as beautiful chaos. Every kind of flower you could imagine is there. Sunflowers and lavender? Well, this is the French countryside. Of course! Hydrangea? In several colors. Single yellow roses jutting out from nowhere? Sure. How about something crazy like wild blueberry bushes? Those, too. And of course–water lilies.

Just as his impressive garden inspired the great painter’s own work, everywhere you looked on the grounds you would find a painter or sketch artist themselves inspired to create. For myself, I just wanted to sit quietly and absorb everything. All of these images and colors that I had once yearned to escape to were all here in front of me. Like a palette with more hues than I could possibly imagine.

And sure enough…Monet’s house is itself one of the most impressive galleries of Japanese artwork I had ever seen. Life is good when it meets your high expectations.

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