Marchutz is an integral part of who I am becoming.

Six weeks ago, I started a program that I understood to be an incredible art emersion experience. Today I look back at a series of intensive drawing and painting sessions, difficult seminar discussions, excursions to incredible locations and voluminous conversations outside the classroom and see a thread in my life that is pushing me to take the road less traveled. 

That road lies in a pursuit of intellect and art.

I may still one day become the phenomenal doctor, the healer that I sought and have worked hard to try to become, but, for the next year or two or three, I must follow the passion of my heart and attune it to the decency of my mind.

Two roads diverged in the yellow wood and I want to take the one with the thorns, the brush, the bees, the valleys, the sweat, the blood, and the promise of a fulfilling life.

I have learned through my experiences at Marchutz and now traveling abroad that Serendipity has her way of working things out. I have made numerous friends and experienced incredible things because of my good friend Serendipity:
fireworks at the Eiffel tower with an old friend,
a gondola ride in Venice with five new friends (three from Turkey, one from South Korea, and another from northern New York),
a sunset view of Florence with two girls I met on the long walk over to the lookout spot,
sonorous, monastic-like singing in a baptistry in Pisa, again, with two new friends,
Chianti wine and an Italian lunch in a Tuscan farmhouse with some Australians and a guy from Manhattan,
exploring Marseille with a great old friend,
lying under the hot summer sun on a beach in southern France with some splendid folks I ran into the night before, 
and swimming by an aqueduct in the Gardon river that dates back nearly two millennia with folks that I met on the tour bus,
these among many other experiences.

In other words, 
for the Christian, 
God will provide. 

God has provided
and
Providence is something that I've learned to trust.

Art and intellect, 
at least for the next few years,
will be
and should be the focus of my life.

Hope for me the best, my friends.
Sketching and studying at the Musée d'Orsay.
 
In my usual style, yesterday morning I woke up early enough to be on time but ended up lounging around in bed until I'd certainly be late. I packed a quick lunch, showered, packed my bag and ran out of the door to the Hotel Roi René to meet George the tour guide-this generally is a twenty-five minute walk mind you; it took me eight.

The night before I borrowed my friend Stas' computer to try to get flights and tickets for the second half of my European adventure. I tried a few different avenues and nothing was working, so, I eventually gave up and left allowing my friend to go to sleep.

As I boarded the bus yesterday morning, I saw Tiffany and Jane (two other new friends from the Marchutz school) but Stas was nowhere to be seen. In the back of my head, I thought she was maybe sleeping in because I'd kept her up so late the night before. 

Two minutes before George was ready to start moving the bus, Stas showed up sweaty, with just woken up eyes, holding a package of cherry tomatoes. She found me sitting I'm the mid-back of the bus and told me about how she was set on sleeping in and then decided to run and try to make it. I'm so glad she ran.

As the bus began moving to our first destination, Stas and I talked about life, our new lessons learned in France about people and relationships, and about how we were going about thinking on what we wanted to do with our lives. The views on the ride were of fields, streams, and 14th century castle ruins jutting out of the rocky countryside.

When we arrived in Avignon, we were faced with an incredible stone wall, a barrier built in something like the 14th century to protect the city from intruders. We got off of the bus and, marveling at the beauty of the Rhone river and the stone wall before it, we followed George to the Palais de Pope. We climbed a winding tower to the top of the Palais to an incredible vista of the Rhone, wheat fields, and monastery ruins among tile-roofed homes. As George completed his little spiel on the history and influence of the place, I went exploring: climbing things, touching stones and trees and sculptures and flowers, and observing people in the street.

Tiffany, Jane, and Stas were hungry so, after deciding that we didn't want to pay 13 euro each to enter the Palais, we went out on the town to look for good and cheap food. 

The Italian place was not yet open. Neither was the Thai place. Eventually, I noticed that a Vietnamese place we were looking at had out an "Ouvert" sign. This ended up being a fantastic decision. For five euro fifty, I got a huge bowl of rice, salad, soup, and Vietnamese fried chicken with the included appetizer of shrimp chips- which looked like Styrofoam according to Stas.

As we sat down, beside us sat a group of formidable fellas, barrel-chested with military looking backpacks. To my amazement, they were speaking Russian, very colorful Russian at that. They talked about fighting and cockroaches- typical conversation for a group of fellas. 

As they finished their meal and got up to leave, I asked the men in Russian if they were boxers. They told me that they were legionnaires. 

Later, I looked up the word and was thoroughly impressed. A legionnaire is sort of an international mercenary under the French army.

The girls and I decided to try to make it across the Rhone to the other side of Avignon where amusements were cheap or free. However, along the way we were mesmerized by all the interesting artistic theater posters on the walls and on street rails. Tiffany had the idea that it would be cool to take some home. So, naturally, I pulled out the Opinel 7, a handmade French knife I bought earlier, and began cutting posters down for myself and the girls. It was quite thrilling and totally worth it.

After all the thievery, we walked back up to the Palais and sat on a bench under the shade in the garden. As we rested and talked, a troop of young ducklings marched by us and into the brush behind the bench. Tiffany and Stas fumbled with their cameras as Jane and I continued our humble repose.

We walked back to the bus, taking pictures by the river and sketching along the way. The next stop was Pont du Gard on the Garden river. 

Pont du Gard is an aqueduct/bridge constructed in 60 AD. The structure was immense and we hiked up the side of a nearby mountain to get a good look at it. There I met Maddy from Toronto, Julia from New York, and Brantley who goes to USC-Columbia. 

We, along with Tiffany and Stas, all went swimming in the river flowing beneath the Pont du Gard and even did some base jumping from a small cliff protruding by the edge of one of the banks. The water was chilly but refreshing. It was the kind of water that's perfect for a hot summer day.

The day, full of history, new friends, and summer fun, was a good day: a story worthy to be told.
The crew (Anastasia, Jane, Tiffany and I) at the Vietnamese place in Avignon.
A view of Pont du Gard from within a tree.
 
Sitting out in a private farmer's field, we looked out at Mount Sainte Victoire, the aqueduct, and civilization below comparing nature to Cezanne's renditions of it. The distance of the mountain, the depth of the city in the valley below, and the fading presence of the pine, were all captured beautifully by Cezanne.

Laura sketched the mountain and the clouds. Lucy took selfies with Kristina's camera. Robert stood erect looking out at the wide expanse before him.

Sharon asked the question of how the eye could become, according to Cezanne, more "concentric" as it looked more and more at nature.

Prompted by Alan, we all looked at three different Cezanne paintings and tried to figure out their chronology.

With the sweat, the heat, and the beauty, time slowed down and the questions and the particulars became one solid fluid motion, a gentle breeze that flowed along, like a creek, running humbly for as long as it gets water from a source.