Thursday, April 3, 2008

Spring Arrives in Normandy Bearing Whispers of the Past and the Spirit of Monet

The beauty of Normandy is often characterized by the soft, humbling somberness of the historical events that passed here many years ago. A gray, cloudy day is never lost on a trip to this coastal shore of France - bleak skies and an angry, pale ocean always seems a fitting backdrop against the telling signs and the unfolding stories of the courage and heart-rending bravery of some of America's finest heroes.


I returned to Normandy this week following my first solo visit last December under these exact same conditions of weather. This time I brought with me 131 Americans with varying, but mostly modest, interest in Normandy and certainly none eager to make the four hour drive on a bus, wrenched, as they were, from a pre-dawn slumber in their swank Paris hotel.

The events that passed on the shores here speak for themselves and not a single traveler escaped this day with a dry eye or an unbroken heart. The courage of these men all these years later is still whispered on the breezes and felt in the sway of the trees here in this part of France and that mysterious effervescence shivered down to the last inch of bone of all who made the journey.

There is nothing like ten straight days of cold, wet, rain and snow to make the magic of spring come to life in France. As we pulled out of the American Cemetery headed toward the Norman countryside for lunch, the clouds gave way to a brilliant blue sky and the sun returned for the first time in weeks. The magic of the moment was not lost on the travelers this day - their gratitude was palpable and the unimaginable grace this sojourn warrants will surely stay with these more wizened travelers for a long time to come.

With the return of the sun after so many weeks the flowers of early spring seemed to arch toward the sky in hopes of capturing every fleeting bit of light.

Many of these travelers had given up a promised day in Monet's gardens at Giverney to travel to Normandy to bear witness to this important piece of American history and pay homage to these fallen heroes. I thought it quite serendipitous that, in the end, the group was rewarded with a spectacular day - and one where the early spring flowers of Normandy seemed buoyed by Claude Monet himself:





This beautiful, heart-warming day was a fitting end to my time in Paris and the Norman countryside. Tomorrow, Hawaii. Aloha.
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