Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Sainte Victoire

The honeymoon starts unfairly, with my love divided. Moving along the curving Provençal roads, shaded by plane trees, we leave the festivities of the (beautiful but exhausting) wedding behind us—hightail it out of the Southwest region, trading Dumas for Van Gogh, for Cézanne. We arrive on the outskirts of Aix, and there she is: Mont Sainte Victoire in all her rocky glory. I have never been here, but I feel a sense of homecoming and desire, like returning to a lover after a long absence, seeing again the delicate way she peels an orange in a single spiral for your pleasure. I spent years looking at this mountain, through the eyes of the painter Paul Cézanne; semesters analyzing his obsessive analysis of its geometry: the critical thesis for my MFA compared Cézanne and his modernist literary relation, Lawrence Durrell. But what can you really capture of a lifelong love? Which face presents itself to you, at what moment? A mountain, an Alexandrian woman, two people beginning their life as a married couple—we were all there in Aix. The car stops. Sunlight low and golden, slanting across the sky and the stone, slicing our own bodies. We walk through a patch of vines, try to come closer to the mountain, which only recedes in its illusory tease. Hair stirred by a breeze, surrounded by green and made small by purple-gray rock, I am captured forever in the click of a shutter, looking satisfied and fulfilled at the foot of time. Poor mortal man, my husband, how can anyone hope to compete with the grandeur of Victory in a Provençal sunset?

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