Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Search for the Unicorn: The Cloisters

No, the SurLaLune blog has not been abandoned, I promise. It is a demanding and time consuming enterprise, however, and my time has been needed elsewhere. I plan to return with more regular posting after this holiday week--in the U.S. this is one of the most popular vacation weeks of the year. I am spending the week not on vacation but catching my breath and regrouping after several weeks (months!) of living at a higher speed. Really, it feels like I have been doing that since last year when I bought a new house. I've never really caught up!

Anyway, since others are on vacation this week, perhaps in New York City, I wanted to share this email I received--the design is prettier than the imagery on the website, but I will direct you there, too. I cannot be too enthusiastic about the Cloisters for myself. My visit was my last stop during a multi-day trip to NYC five years ago and was an unexpected highlight. I have copied and pasted my description of the experience below. So if you are in NYC, don't miss a trip to see the Search for the Unicorn exhibit. I would love to see it myself!

From my June 2008 journal:

Then we headed to the Cloisters. I was along for the ride at this point, interested, but not intent. Mom’s interests lie in Medieval Art so she was the primary fan girl. At least until we got there. Then I became one, too.

The Cloisters is beautiful. It is an amazing blend of old and new, seamless to the untrained eye. I walked from room to room and enjoyed the art, but I thrived on the architecture and atmosphere. For the first time in five days, even longer really, I was at peace. The thick walls, dense foliage, and dazzling sunlight all served to divorce me from the noises of New York. I began to understand the appeal of a cloistered life, surrounded by art and peace, divorced from the outside world.

Then I met the Unicorn Tapestries. I’ve managed to meet several famous works of art over the years, the ones that are so familiar they feel anticlimactic when you finally meet them. Some leave you amused, like the Mona Lisa. Others leave you confused, like the Blue Boy. A few leave you breathless. Winged Victory did that to me in the Louvre.

The Unicorn Tapestries stunned me. I understand the appeal. I read about them years ago, as an early teen, when I was in my unicorn loving state of being. Yes, I went through that. The story wasn’t quite romantic or fantastical enough for me then, so I forgot most of it and just smiled whenever I saw the tapestries in books or elsewhere. Not of much interest to me, I thought.

Wrong. They are beautiful. I’ve never met other tapestries like them. My timing to their room coincided with a school group and a learned guide, so I got to hear a longish lesson about them as I gazed upon the intricate weaving and marveled at their size. I fell in love. I wanted to bring one home with me. I have to settle for a book and a Michael Michaud necklace of holly leaves derived from one of the tapestries.

I snuck back to the room thrice to view them “one last time.” A friendly guard came up and pointed out the hidden frog to me, delighted with my delight in them.

We ate lunch in a courtyard where Dad and I snuck bits of bread to tiny sparrows I couldn’t help but converse with. They are so much friendlier and sweeter than pigeons. Mom just rolled her eyes, convinced someone would tell us to stop. I couldn’t help myself, but there weren’t any signs so I was breaking no rule I knew of.

Then we explored the kitchen garden full of herbs and other plants, carefully and clearly labeled, so many that I have read about over the years since they figure so well in fantasy literature but have never met in person. So the Cloisters offered many unexpected delights and a peacefulness that encompassed me the rest of the day as we traveled back to the hotel, to the airport and on to home.

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