Jester of Gardens


fort mason
Fort Mason, San Francisco, California

Integrity is to be valued. Assistance from another person. A practical approach. Prosperity. Act on opportunities presented.” Steve Luca via Japaridze Tarot

They made their way down the trail and found themselves on even ground just as dusk arrived. “What do you say we get some coffee?” Selene nodded. Tristán called a taxi, “Emmenez nous à Parc du Mont Boron, s’il vous plaît.” He instructed the driver and both he and Selene entered the taxi. This was the last night Selene had to explore Nice on her own as her friends would be arriving sometime between morning and evening the next day. In the passing of a quarter hour, they found themselves on the edge of Parc du Mont du Boron. “Merci.” Tristán told the driver as he closed the door behind him.  From the parking lot, Selene followed Tristán down a trail labeled Chemin du Fort Mont Alban. Selene spiritedly examined the families with children, the passerby jogger, the hand-holding couple and the livelihood they encountered as they walked up the path. Along the route, there were houses contrasted by rows of trees, among them Carob trees and wild olives. As they continued walking and nightfall arose, Selene noted a brightly lit fort-like structure ahead of them. Upon arriving to the fort structure, they stopped to intake a breathtaking view of the Villefranche -sur-Mer overlooking the Rade de Villefranche-sur-Mer in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Beautiful lit up residences, boats out on the sea, a mountainous backdrop, and open water that extended beyond what the margins of human vision would allow for.

I still remember the first time I came here – well, the first time that I can recall.” Said Tristán. “Whenever I would visit, I would make up stories of valiant knights fighting for love and justice. Often, I would reenact scenes as I gallanted around the perimeter of the fort -it wasn’t open to the public until 2011. This is Fort du Mont Alban. If memory serves me correctly this structure is one of the rare examples of XVI century french military architecture. It was built by Domenico Ponsello between 1557 – 1560. My father served in the Marine Nationale, La Royale, the French Navy. I think there’s a part of me that still carries that warrior archetype, though I decided to pursue a different path – a more bohème path if you may. You know, I often wonder about the archetypes that we all choose to embody. You have the artists, the intellectuals, the warriors, the mothers, the  fathers, the teachers, the explorers – what is it that leads us to choose one path over the other? How do we choose to label our mental schemas of the self? I think most of us identify with multiple archetypal figures, though there might be one, two, or three that we think really represent us. During my adolescent years into my young adult years, there was a part of me that resented my father. I thought I was so wise and knowledgeable and would participate in anti-war rallies and become engulfed in their communities. Until one day, I was sitting in a depth psychology class at my university and I realized something. La professeur would talk about mythology, Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and would talk about how often times our roles in society can often be explained via the use of archetypes. After some time in her class, I realized that the instinct to protect what is yours, to defend something greater than yourself – the interests of the population at large- is natural. It’s been an archetype that existed since humans began to live in population clusters. Eventually I was able to address the paradox, the dissonance of ‘I don’t promote war, but I respect those who serve for the military’, by realizing that perhaps my father at some level whether consciously or unconsciously identified with this warrior archetype and part of me did too.”  Selene stared into the distance as she remembered her past studies in psychology. She thought about the struggle in the process of individuation. So many of us swear to not be like ‘them’ – like our parents, like our friends who possess qualities that annoy us, like those we label as con artists. Many times we end up embodying those qualities to a degree – in some form, in some instance. What within us allows us to identify those qualities or behaviors in the first place? Why would we call attention to something we’re not familiar with? Isn’t that which is unfamiliar to our individual experience usually ineffable?  “Ah, so you like psychology? Carl Jung?” Tristán chuckled. “Giuseppe may have told me a bit about your background. Let’s go get that coffee I promised you earlier.”

As they made their way down Chemin du Fort Mont Alban towards Corniche André de Joly  they encountered a jester dressed surreally playing the accordion. He wore bright red tights. On one foot he had a black leather boot and on the other he a black colored pointed dutch wooden clog. His suit was a variety of blue hues adorned with purple and green designs and golden particularities. On top he wore a blue-green and gold tunic with dark grey metal crown cufflinks. The tunic extended into puffed shorts that lengthened down his mid-thigh with an elastic band finish. From the elastic band, the leg with the boot was cuffed with ribbon flowers in varying colors; red, pink, blue, green. On the leg with the black wooden clog, an accordion mimicking pattern was created using tulle of magenta, purple, green, blue, and yellow hues. On the left side of his tunic, his collar extended down to his belt, then neatly tucked away at his waist. The right collar was short – a lively black, red, and chrome piece, displayed atop the bib that was tucked below it. From the bib was the cut out of a common buckeye butterfly. His face was decorated with white paint, red accents ,and what appeared to be eyebrows with a worried look. He wore a plastic, black cone-shaped hat which appeared to tame his protruding red hair dotted with white freckles. Though he held the accordion with both hands, on his left arm, he carried a beige and mint colored globe decorated with butterfly wall paper; butterflies of different species all varying in size. On his other hand, he carried what appeared to be a cracked ceramic eyeball with an attached ribbon flower – a much smaller globe than the one he carried on his left side. As he played his instrument, the eyeball violently moved from side to side. He played with passion and intensity. Beside him, stood a tall magenta tulip.

Querer.”  Tristán said as he stopped in front of the jester. “Querer as in the Spanish word for desire?” Asked Selene. “Yes. Querer as in the Spanish word for desire. I still vividly remember the moment that I decided that I was going to pursue a more creative path in life. It was my first Cirque du Soleil show. I went to see it in Paris towards the end of my university career. It was called Alegría. Alegría is a story about the struggle in transition, about the difficulty of change, and the ability of the human spirit to often triumph amidst adversity. The story speaks to the transition from an old world to a new one – the transition from monarchy to democracy. The setting is in this liminal space where a new democracy is being birthed. Throughout this process, the only ones whom can stay grounded, the only ones that can keep up with the chaos of the transition are the clowns. My favorite number from the show was the song Querer – it possessed what Federico García Lorca calls duende; the singer’s voice held space for both melancholy and hope. I remember sitting in the audience, captivated. The song was played in the interlude to aerial high bar. In that moment, I remember feeling as if this great life of possibility lay ahead of me. I was enthralled, bewitched.”  Selene and Tristán continued walking through the Nicene streets into the night.  “Have you ever wondered about why is it that some art really moves us? You know of those performances or those novels or those works of art that transport us to another universe where we experience ourselves differently? Where it almost feels as if time is suspended and we’re given the creative license to craft a character for ourselves to the liking of that world? Why exactly does that occur? How does it occur? Is it a result of the artist, the audience, or a combination of both?” 

Selene reached into her oversized clutch and pulled out a copy of the book she read en route from Brazil to France. “I think you’d like this read. It discusses the science behind what is called a flow state. You know those states whether you’re watching a performance, or exercising, or kissing someone and you suddenly get fully submerged in the moment? Those moments where nothing else matters, but the task at hand? In this book, the authors call these ‘flow states’. They argue that it’s possible to increase the amount of flow states we experience and that doing so increases our productivity and our overall happiness as human beings. I found it a fascinating read. As a matter of fact, I found one of the dedications in the book quite amusing – ‘ To Willian James, you got there first.’ I loudly shrieked when reading that! During my fourth year of my baccalaureate program, I took a class on Mysticism where I learned about the psychologist William James. In his book The Variety of Religious Experience, James described what he calls ‘mystical experiences’  that are characterized by seven qualities: ineffability, a noetic quality, transiency, passivity, oneness, timelessness, and this inkling that one has encountered their true selves. This book, the one that I read during my travels here, attempts to breakdown these experiences under the label of ‘flow’ so that we may possibly find ways to induce them at will. Though there’s a part of me that thinks that the reason they’re so beautiful and life-changing are because of their transient nature. If I experienced them multiple times a day, perhaps they would become part of my every day landscape and then I would label them as dull! Where would I derive that send of high from? What would be the medicine to fulfill my insatiable desire? Anyway, that’s what I think happens when we get ‘lost’ in these experiences – in the performance, extreme exercise, meditation, the film. Something triggers us to momentarily lose our individual sense of self and taste ephemeral liberation.”  From Corniche André de Joly they turned onto to Rue Bonaparte. On the corner of Rue Bonaparte and Rue Bavastro, they came across a fiddler and a couple dancing a tango. “Querer.” Selene said to Tristán. “Ah yes- Querer. It must be the tune of the night.” They watched the couple dance with precision, with intensity, with desire. Tristán continued walking and Selene followed. As the clock hands moved to mark the eight and the six, they approached a café and entered; in the world of Chez Pauline they got lost.

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