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From Paris to Provence

Thirst for Sun

1888: “Van Gogh was  […] talking of his wish to go south, ostensibly in search of more light and colour.”

“Vincent […] cited severe Parisian winter and his indifferent health […] as reasons for his departure: ‘It appears to me to be almost impossible to work in Paris, unless you have a retreat where you can go to recover your peace of mind and self-confidence.  Otherwise you become irrevocably dulled.’  He described himself as a worn-out Paris cab horse about to be put out to pasture.”

Snow, Not Sun

Still 1888: “Van Gogh arrived in Arles, the capital of Provence. […] he found to his amazement that the little town […] lay under a think blanket of snow.”

South-thirsty, sun-thirsty Van Gogh skips no beat: his betrayed expectations aside, he instantly zooms in on the ordinary perfection of Provence snow.  He writes: “’And the landscapes in the snow, with the white peaks against a sky as bright as the snow, were just like the winter landscapes the Japanese do.” For all that, the almond trees were already in blossom.”

Acceptance is Always In Season

Still 1888, the Provence honeymoon is over.  In a letter to his brother, Theo, Van Gogh writes: “I am sure the town of Arles was infinitely more glorious in the past.  Everything has a blighted, faded quality about it now.  Still, if you look at it for a long time, the old charm re-emerges.  And that is why I can see that I will lose absolutely nothing by staying where I am and contenting myself with watching things go by, like a spider in its web waiting for flies.  I can’t force things, and now that I’m settled in, I’ll be able to profit from all the fine days and all the opportunities for catching a real picture now and then.”

Reality is never wrong (whether you travel it from North to South or from South back to North).

Acceptance is always in season (on this globe of ours no matter where you are witnessing this life from).

Notice (the ordinary perfection of) whatever immediately is.


Humility Check


The Letters of Vincent van Gogh, Penguin Classics, 1996