"I have a small daughter called Cleis, who is like a golden flower
I wouldn't take all Croesus' kingdom with love thrown in, for her."
On Saturday, I took my daughter Nell to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This trip was in honor of our birthdays. (Nell turned 9 on Monday, and I turned 35 yesterday, so we are birthday-buddies.) Back in April, I asked Nell if she would rather have a party, or go on a trip to New York City, and visit the Met. And she chose the art museum!
It was my first time figuring out how to use the subway system on my own, but it wasn't so hard. We took the S-train from Port Authority to Grand Central Station. Then we caught the 6 train uptown to 86th street. I got us to the Met in one piece!
We went in, and were happily overwhelmed by the vast grandeur, the holy spaciousness of all the art. It was Nell's first time, and she flew around the museum like a little bird, perching here and there to look at a painting or a sculpture and then flying off again. It wasn't my first time. I could remember going on a high school field trip. I wanted to show Nell a painting I remembered from that field trip: Joan of Arc.
I remember how I felt the first time I saw this painting, when I was about sixteen. I remember looking at her face, burning with the intensity of her inner voices, and I felt my heart pounding in my chest. My breath caught in my throat, and my imagination became entangled in the branches of the primordial forest all around her. I didn't even notice, at that time, the translucent figures of the saints floating behind her, whispering to her.
When I saw this painting on Saturday, almost twenty years (!) later, I was disappointed that I didn't have that same intense reaction. I admired the painting, of course, but more than that, I was mourning the emotions of my youth, which had passed away.
The artist Fay Ku writes about having a similar experience in her essay about this painting, found on a really great blog, "Painters on Painting." It's worth reading!
My sister Karen, her husband Carl, and their new little baby Natalie met us in the museum! Carl took a picture of Nell and me in front of this painting. I forgot to write down the title or the artist. You can see Nell is starting to look a little tired after a few hours in the Met!
Nell was very tired, so we started to leave, but we still had to walk down many hallways. All at once, Nell veered off into another room; a certain painting had caught her eye.
It was one of Monet's water lily paintings! She looked at it for a long time!
Eventually, we did manage to exit, after quite a lengthy detour in the gift shop.
On the bus ride home we cuddled, read a book, and drew pictures in my notebook. We were exhausted and happy. I had such a wonderful day with my daughter. I feel so lucky to be her mom, and I hope we can enjoy many more happy adventures together.
I have a small
Cleis, who is
like a golden
take all Croesus'
kingdom with love
thrown in, for her