shakespeare and co

When we first set foot in Paris, it was hot, we were dragging our luggage, and we didn’t know exactly where our hotel was.  But I didn’t care.  My first impression of Paris as we stepped out of the train station, despite the stress that my parents felt, was untainted.  I took in the cyclists, and the cafes, and the lampposts, and the trees planted every so often, and the effortlessly elegant natives that crossed the street with us.

There are a lot of beautiful people in Paris.  It’s sort of unfair, how attractive they are.

We finally caught a cab, and I cobbled together a sentence in French from my crash course and knowledge of Spanish, much to the delight of our cabbie.

We wandered that day to the Louvre and down to Notre Dame.  I think we walked the whole way, since we hadn’t bought our Metro passes yet.  It was gorgeous, and I loved it, even though I was incredibly out of it.

This is where my favorite discovery came.  I ended up going here twice.  Shakespeare and Co, an English-language bookstore in the heart of Paris.  My professor had mentioned it to me before and it sounded fascinating – who wouldn’t want to visit a bookstore that famous expats of the 1920s had frequented? Seriously.  Just imagining all of them converging on that one city, creating, thinking, writing… Ugh.

(On a related note, I saw Midnight in Paris shortly after I got home… OH MY GOSH.  It was brilliant.  I actually threw a pillow across the room when T.S. Eliot popped up.  But I’m getting sidetracked…)

This bookstore.  It’s… it’s one of the most incredible places I’ve been.  And that sounds odd, having seen monuments and architecture and museums.  But I cannot even describe the atmosphere there.  For a book lover, it was absolutely mind-blowing.  Books were organized enough to be found but not enough to give it an atmosphere of sterility… The whole place was just breathing.  Everyone inside that store was there because they wanted to be, and nobody was in a rush.  A love for books just permeated the whole place.

I could have stayed there forever, and I mean that.  I really do.  My family had to drag me out of the shop.  Everything about it was perfect, and I’ve never been anywhere like it.  It’s almost entirely classics, and the atmosphere is… homey?  There are signs, and little sections you can visit.  Hanging above the stairs is a sign that reads “Be not inhospitible to strangers lest they be angels in disguise”.  They have a section called “BEAT” and one simply titled “LOST” for Joyce, Hemingway, and their whole generation.  There’s also a well in the floor labeled “FEED THE STARVING WRITERS” and a cell filled with poetry.  Did I mention the entire Shakespeare section?

The best part about it, though, was the way that they encouraged reading and, further, writing.  They fostered creativity in that spot.  Upstairs, they had two reading rooms, a chess board, a piano, a typewriter, and the kid’s section.  There are so many places where you can write, though.  By the typewriter and the YA section, you can just leave notes, scraps of paper, and bits of prose and poetry, tacking a little bit of yourself up on a Metro ticket or shoving your soul into a crack in the wall.  A mirror in the poetry section also urged you to leave your own poems.

It was beautiful, and alive.

And so began a new adventure, which was chronicled with just as much love and affection as the last.  More later, maybe.

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coincidence?

I can’t believe I haven’t posted anything about what God’s been doing in the past few weeks, because it’s been amazing and a hundred percent Him.  This month, He’s really shown me a lot and put me in different people’s paths.  In the past few weeks, I’ve had so many long conversations with people about God, what they believe, why they struggle with the ideas of Christianity, and what’s been going on in their lives.

During one of these conversations, my friend looked at me very seriously and intently and asked me if I believed in coincidences.

No.  I don’t.

The more I begin to see these connections, and the more I “coincidentally” run into people, the more I realize that everything fits together in a way that I can’t possibly imagine, orchestrated perfectly in an intricate, weaving dance by a Creator who knows what He’s doing more than I do.  Sometimes I imagine what it would look like to map out, lining out each person’s interaction with others as these lines converge and diverge, but that’s too overwhelming of a thought.

A few weeks ago, I felt that I should text this friend to tell her that she was loved, and so I did.  The day after that, I went to her dorm room and we talked for an hour and a half about God, Jesus, grace, and forgiveness.  And, coincidence.

I asked her why she wanted to know my views on coincidence, and her answer absolutely amazed me.  She said that she almost started crying when she got that text from me, because she had been going through so many horrible things at that very time, and it was exactly what she needed to hear.  She looked at me hesistantly and asked me if I’d known.  I chuckled and told her that I honestly had no idea.

I don’t believe in coincidence (at least on the important things.  You and your friend both wearing the same shirt is probably not that meaningful).  I think that God moves people and uses us, in all of our fallability, to do His work.  And what He did with that text message made Him more tangible to my friend, who had doubted if God even existed.

Since then, I’ve “run into” so many different people.  I happened to sit by a girl who goes to my church last weekend on a five hour bus ride, and we talked the entire ride.  She was also on the bus back, and took me back to campus when I didn’t have enough cash for a cab.

While visiting my friend, who also speaks Spanish, we met a homeless woman from Madrid and talked to her for a long time.

All these high school seniors are visiting my school right now, too, and some of them are staying with students.  I walked into my suitemate‘s room to find a kid that I went to pre-first with and figured out that all this time, we’d been living in the same neighborhood back home.

God does these sorts of things all the time, and there is no way that all of these coincidences could be coincidences.  It’s honestly impossible.

It’s like hearing a song and then realizing that it’s playing on the radio all the time, or meeting a person and then seeing them all over campus, or your neighborhood, or wherever you frequent the most.  Once you see God, and once you realize that He’s working, these random happenings grow extinct as you begin to see Him all the time.  He’s always been there.  You’d just never noticed it before.

A coincidence is nothing more than our inability to see.  A coincidence is when we don’t notice God moving in a powerful way and decide to attribute his magnificent power to mere chance.

So no, I don’t believe in coincidence.  I believe in God.

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neruda and my totally unrelated feelings about life

Soneto XVII

No te amo como si fueras rosa de sal, topacio
o flecha de claveles que propagan el fuego:
te amo como se aman ciertas cosas oscuras,
secretamente, entre la sombra y el alma.

Te amo como la planta que no florece y lleva
dentro de sí, escondida, la luz de aquellas flores,
y gracias a tu amor vive oscuro en mi cuerpo
el apretado aroma que ascendió de la tierra.

Te amo sin saber cómo, ni cuándo, ni de dónde,
te amo directamente sin problemas ni orgullo:
así te amo porque no sé amar de otra manera,

sino así de este modo en que no soy ni eres,
tan cerca que tu mano sobre mi pecho es mía,
tan cerca que se cierran tus ojos con mi sueño.

Pablo Neruda, 1959

Things I miss:

voraciously reading books I want to read, home, my family, friends, certainty, the presence of those certain few that would listen and understand whatever you said, not doing homework, sleeping.

Things I have:

homework, gained knowledge, an education, God’s love and presence, new friends, the opportunity to have new conversations with people.

But still, I’m looking forward to Christmas.

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Read this (in English…): http://poemhunter.com/poem/sonnet-xvii/