Sight/Seeing

I'm not sure how to begin, so I keep looking back through the photos Isa's chosen for this post. It occurs to me that they don't look much like the Paris I live in -- the one with filthy sidewalks and beggars at every turn, where all the residents are stressed out and ticked off, and the tourists are largely lost and hungry.

Of course, some of the disconnect has to do with Isa's lovely camera and talent using it, but it's also a function of where we went. Our wanderings involved stops in the Galerie Véro-Dodat to leche les vitrines (window shop, literally "lick the windows") at Christian Louboutin, coffee at the same palatial café where Angelina Jolie burns the letter in The Tourist, and a pause in the Carousel du Louvre -- beautiful, old places.

Paris is an old city, and it industrialized with the rest of Western Europe in the 19th century, but as centralized as French power was in the hands of monarchs, revolutionaries, and the occasional emperor, capitalism's factories and warehouses were never allowed to intrude on the majesty of the capital.

There's nothing like having a great friend visit to remind what you like best about your city. As an expat who shamelessly moved to Paris for the romance of its visual beauty and dysfunction, it reminded me to ask myself: what's the point of staying somewhere if you no longer see it? It was a necessary wake up call.

On Monday I was still basking in my reignited appreciation of Paris' endless eye candy (the chic set, architecture, long autumn sunsets) when the question was further complicated for me.

I volunteer with an organization called les Auxiliaires des Aveugles that serves visually impaired people. (Donate here.) The people I escort to doctor appointments and to do their grocery shopping are so sensitive to the stimuli of their stronger senses, I wonder at their wherewithal. How can they cope with the odors? The inevitable bumps of a crowded sidewalk that, to them, come out of nowhere?

They get around easier with an arm to hold, and while we've walked arm in arm, every person I've escorted has taken note of the sun on their skin, the breeze, or the smell of the soap aisle. It is, I'd like to think, a microcosm of friendship: In lending you my arm, I give you the support you need to feel secure. The feeling of security allows you to relax and appreciate the niceties of life, and when you, in turn, share them with me, we are both enriched from our contact.

Let's all see clearly the joy in others, so that others will see it in us. xx

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