15 August 2012

My Date with Napoleon

"Even when I am gone, I shall remain in people's minds the star of their rights, 
my name will be the war cry of their efforts, the motto of their hopes."
--Napoleon Bonaparte

Altered Portrait of General Napoleon Bonaparte
Napoleon by David, Alterations by ~runningwave~ 

The Paris of my dreams swirled into view like a ferris wheel of bright and airy hues. The Effiel Tower seen over broad boulevards with bustling passersby appeared just as it might look in a painting by The Impressionsts.

On that day in 1987, the autumn of my eighteenth year, I felt the dark clouds internally, deeply, as I wandered through the grey, damp air of the real life Paris.

Here was I in The City of Light, and only just, that weekend because our plane was delayed on the tarmac at the London airport due to fog. But it was My Grand Tour, my freshman year of college which I gleefully spent being an ex-pat. So much to do, to see!

The morning now faded into afternoon as I passed beneath the iron limbs of Eiffel's masterpiece on a stroll through Parc Champ-du-Mars. My mission, to meet L'Empereur, Napoleon Bonaparte, the Corsican General who rose to the height of power in Europe, raised up by his own bootstraps and willing to take on the World. Sometimes -- very often in fact -- Napoleon succeeded.

At last my goal in sight and my green Michelin guidebook tucked under my arm, I walked with purpose towards Les Invalides, the great complex of buildings which houses several museums and Napoleon's Tomb.

Something happened then that I did not expect or plan.

On my way to visit Napoleon, I was spellbound by the glory of the French Army at the Musée de l'Armée. For three hours or more I admired swords, rapiers, sabers, shields, halberdsgrieves, maces, daggers, battle axes, and suits of armor, not to mention pennants, flags, and heraldry. I wandered through the Medieval and Renaissance halls, never making it to the nineteenth century.

How is it that a quiet, young woman from the American Midwest goes to Paris for the first time and spends so long starring at weapons of destruction? 

You might well ask.

As a young girl, the tales of knights in shining armor captivated me. Ever since I could read fairy tales and adventures for myself, these were my favorite stories. I did not always dream of being that damsel awaiting rescue by knights. No, I think I had ambition to be a knight almost as much as I wanted to have one to come and rescue me from my rather mundane existence. 

This was long before the movie Brave or George R. R. Martin had described the character of Arya Stark, but indeed there always have been women who dreamt of being skilled at arms. In my youth I idolized Eowyn of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings for her fearless swordplay. If the plot had action, chases, battle and mayhem, I loved it. I read Greco-Roman and Norse mythology until I knew the gods and heroes moves by heart. 

There were few social networks for geeks, especially female geeks, before the internet and Facebook.  Not surprising then, that in high school I fell in with the crowd who played Dungeons & Dragons on the weekends. I developed characters skilled at warfare and cunning; my weapons of choice varied between magical spells, short swords, and crossbows.  

That afternoon in Paris was a pilgrimage for me of sorts. Alone in my sojourn, I was at last seeing what I had spent years reading about in my quiet corner of the United States: case by case lined with pole arms, blades, and armor. Indeed, one of the finest displays of arms on the European Continent, the vast collection of Les Invalides.

It was somehow fitting that I came to pay my respects to the Emperor of France after acknowledging this impressive array of battle glory (and plunder).  I had not forgotten my purpose, so dutifully I went to the crypt.  The giant, baroque sarcophagus is lifted towards the colorful dome. Just as an emperor might sit high on a dais in life, so Napoleon is raised to the heights in death.

Here was laid to rest a man who dared to be more than his birth dictated. Someone with the courage and self-confidence to dream big and bold dreams, who fought for what he believed was right. He endured the hatred of many aristocrats as he learned to master his skills and even after he became ruler of France. He promoted his officers from the ranks and ensured they were competent soldiers. 

Many scholars still demonize Napoleon for being a war-monger, but my thoughts on him are more complex. I see Napoleon as a man of letters, of strategy and skill, a great mind, who used the arts of diplomacy when he could, but was unafraid to take up arms when necessary. 

I am not a violent person, and I will always attempt to negotiate in my own conflicts, leaving battle only for the last resort. And yet, I agree with Napoleon that there comes a time to fight. And if you must fight, than it should be for the deepest convictions you hold or for the protection of someone or something you love.

If I could really meet Napoleon, I'd want to ask how he kept up his confidence in the face of goals that many might have seen insurmountable.  Although it is my natural inclination and ancestral loyalty to be on the side of England in the Napoleonic Wars, I still can admire this man for who he was and for what one person can accomplish if only he or she is willing to grasp for destiny.  

What might we all accomplish, if we believe we cannot fail?

Vive L'Empereur! Napoleon, I salute your audacity!

Posted this day, 15 August 2012, for L'anniversaire de Napoleon Bonaparte

Napoleon Bonaparte's Maxims on Character
"He who hazards nothing, gains nothing."

"My motto has always been: A career open to all talents, without distinctions of birth." 

"Impossible is a word to be found only in the dictionary of fool."

08 August 2012

With Admiration to My Fellow Artists

I am dedicating this web post to the creative people who motivate me by sharing their art with the world in the physical or online world (or both). 

I want to especially thank a very creative woman with whom I associate the scintillating hue of red-orange:  her hair color, but also the color of her personality which does tend to shine when she is coaxed out of her surface librarian-demeanor.   Ms. PocketSize, you are a great inspiration to me. I love it when you dare to try something new with your art. Keep experimenting, Lady, and you will go far.

So, as I understand it, here are The Versitle Blogger Award Nomination Rules:
1.  Thank the person who nominated me and leave a link to her/his blog. *check*
2.  Include the award image in this post. *check*
3.  Give 7 random facts about myself.
4.  Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award and leave a link to their site.
5.  Let the other bloggers know they've been nominated.

 So, here are 7 random facts about myself:

  1.  I live and work, so that I can travel. Travel is a way to collect experiences. 
  2. When I was little I read every book on myths and legends that I could lay my hands on. A fact the school librarian remembered when seeing me after a lapse of 20 years. 
  3. My parents are both professional artists/designers; they have owned a design studio together since before I was born. 
  4.  I spent my freshman year in college studying abroad in England on scholarship. That year absorbing art and culture in the UK and Europe has shaped my life since. 
  5. I am a total fantasy and science fiction geek. 
  6. My "runningwave" name comes from poem called "Deep Peace" by a writer who wrote poetry under the name Fiona Macleod. 
  7. I love crossroads, tidelines, coasts, and threshholds -- the liminal border spaces where two or more elements meet. 

 Here -- in random order -- are the writers, poets, and visual artists who inspire me as I travel the web of the Internet. My nominations for The Versatile Blogger Award are (envelope please):

  1. Pocket Size Studios, thank you for nominating Pull of the Tides for the Versitle Blogger Award. I hereby nominate yours as well! It is a joy to collaborate with a friend who is working on a parallel path to mine. I am happy to find someone else who shares the goal of finding a voice through mixed media art. Hugs to you, PocketSize. 
  2. Melissa, the creatrix of Smitten By Britain, whose writing, humour, and carefully selected photographs remind me of the country where my heart often is.
  3. Gaian Soul, Joanna Powell Colbert, an artist whose powerful influence and constant subject is Nature Herself.
  4. Lucy, a lady from Northern England who shares her fiber art, gardening, and wisdom with the world at Attic24  (My crochet teacher recommended her blog to me.)
  5. Jill K. Berry, a mixed media artist whose work with maps and explores the world from a traveler's eye view. Her blog, Personal Geographies, inspires me again and again. I want to take a class with Jill someday -- though she lives very far away from me -- and when I grow up, I want to be like her.
  6. Jane Davies, a collage artist from New England, with whom I have taken a class, and who is teaching an online workshop this autumn I have registered for in sketchbook journaling. I am always fascinated to travel with you as you post your colorful Collage Journeys.
  7. The always elegant time traveler in textiles who blogs At the Sign of the Golden Scissors.  I am not a fashion plate, but if I was given to that characteristic, I think I might want to wear the eighteenth-century fashion cut by this consummate dressmaker.
  8. Mael Bridge's blog of all things relating to the Irish Saint and Goddess Brigit: Brigit's Sparkling Flame
  9.  Jane Brocket, an artist who works in fiber, food, and photography. She selects visual patterns in her blog which are a mini-vacation everytime I come to visit her at Jane Brocket.
  10. Michelle Ward, graphic artist, designer, and witty spirit who writes and designs in a distinctive style. 
  11. Michelle Ward is also notable as organizer of an online project that I only found about close to the end of its run: an online artists' crusade which has drawn to a close, but you can still visit it and be empowered to challenge your own artistic voice at Green Pepper Press Street Team.
  12. Writer and follower of the natural cycles of seasons, Waverly Fitzgerald, who has taught me how to celebrate the small details in life as well as the big festivals and holidays.  She is publisher of School of the Seasons, which I read before the Internet was part of my daily life. I have followed her career with interest as she assembled collaborators to publish an online magazine, Living in Season.
  13. My dear friend, who shares her wisdom and real life experiences facing the challenge of dealing with life after the death of her only son, Rob. She has begun to write this year on a blog that will touch your heart and soul called Facing the Worst. She will move you to think differently about your own life and to guard what you hold to be precious.

All of these artists/writers/creators of diverse kinds meet my definition of Verstile Bloggers.

I'm going to break the Rules above and end here, because these are thirteen blogs that I read most regularly. I want to honor all of these creative people for sharing their talents and energy.

I expect as I come to know more artists online, the list of people who inspire me will grow and grow.