Striking Contrasts

Strong gusts of wind swirled clouds of ice crystals over the crest of a huge drift between my house and garage. I stood at the staircase window, watching and waiting. This unexpected spring blizzard had already raged for nearly 48 hours. Surely it would end soon. As I watched, the day’s light slowly began to fade. Shielded by cold, gray clouds, our warm, bright sun was dropping behind the horizon.

My daughter Tammie stepped up alongside me and commented, “It looks like it’s still snowing.”

Nodding, I answered, “The weather report is that the storm will end this evening. Anyway, I’ve noticed the wind usually settles down after the sun sets. I hope the man who plows my yard will be able to come then.”

My daughter and I needed to be at Chicago’s O’Hare airport tomorrow to take a flight to Europe. It had been good luck and a quick, last-minute decision that allowed Tammie, who lives in the Twin Cities, to arrive at my house just as the blizzard began two days ago. We’d been snowbound ever since.

At eleven thirty that night, I heard the sound of a truck in my back yard. Jumping to my feet I ran to a window and watched as the drifts in my back yard were cleared away. The man operating the plow did the job with such gusto, I couldn’t help wondering if he was having fun.

In the morning, the glare of fresh snow and sunshine was blinding as I shoveled a ridge of snow away from the garage door. At 26 degrees, the work was pleasant.

After a five-hour bus ride to Chicago and an eight-hour flight over the Atlantic Ocean, Tammie and I arrived in Paris the following morning. According to Wisconsin time, it was two in the morning. To all the people living in France, it was nine in the morning. I wanted to take a nap, but the tour guide said, “To prevent you from suffering from jet lag, you need to stay up all day. By waiting until this evening to go to bed, your sleep cycle will adjust more quickly to the new time.”

Bleary-eyed and dazed, we followed our Parisian guide, a young woman named Marie out of the airport to a waiting bus. Fatigue was forgotten as we suddenly realized; it wasn’t cold. At 72 degrees the air felt pleasantly warm. The lawns were bright green. Trees along the street were entirely covered with leaves!

The contrast between the two snowbound days before our trip and this full-blown summer was unexpected. I had been prepared for the weather in France to be chilly. If I had to stay awake for two days in a row, I decided, at least the time would be spent in comfort and with flowers to admire.

Although I didn’t think I had slept during the flight over, the time I spent with my eyes shut, resting, must have been helpful. Otherwise I don’t know how I could have enjoyed the rest of that unnaturally long day.

After a short bus tour of Paris we celebrated Mass at the convent where Saint Catherine Laboure, a Marian visionary, lived in the mid 1800’s. Since she belonged to an order started by Saint Vincent de Paul, our next visit was to the church where his incorrupt body lies. After lunch we visited the grand Notre Dame Cathedral, located in the heart of Paris on an island in the Seine River.

About the time Tammie and I were hoping we’d stop for an evening meal and some rest, our bus stopped at the hotel where we were assigned rooms. We were not to rest yet, nor spend time admiring the Eiffel tower a mere three blocks away. Our tour guide had us return to the bus so we could visit the Basilica de Sacre Coeur, (Sacred Heart) located at the highest point in Paris.

Our Tuesday evening meal was at a restaurant within walking distance of the basilica. Despite having not having properly slept in beds since Sunday night, we weary travelers joyously celebrated our arrival in Paris by toasting each other with the wine, singing with the piano player and dancing to the music. The sharp contrast between our tiredness and our behavior matched the yin and yang of our past two days.

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