What Makes Your Heart Sing?

The Manneport, Reflections of Water, Claude Monet 1885

This week’s theme is ‘What makes your heart sing?’ and is inspired by a quote by Marcel Proust: ‘Let us be grateful to people who make us happy, they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.’

Proust is most famous for his reflections on memory and time. In his major work, A La Recherché do Temps Perdu (literally, In Search of Lost Time but rendered by his first translator as A Remembrence of Things Past) the narrator strives to recall the past but is unable to in detail until triggered by a sensation – the celebrated madeleine dunked in tisane, but also the feeling of an uneven flagstone under his feet and the sound of a “little phrase” of music.

But there is much more than musings on memory in the work. Summarising Proust is a famously perilous undertaking and one that I am not remotely qualified to attempt – however one of his major themes seems very relevant to us and that is art. Proust contemplates art and our relationship to it, both as creators and consumers, directly but he also uses fictional artists as foils, principally: Elstir, a painter, Bergotte, a novelist, Vinteuil, a composer and the actress, Berma.  Elstir is, to some extent, modelled on Claude Monet who painted extensively on the coast of Normandy. Proust’s narrator (usually, called Marcel though he is not named in the book) encounters Elstir in the second volume, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower (translated by Scott Moncrieff as Within a Budding Grove) when he visits the fictional Normandy seaside resort of Balbec. At Balbec he visits Elstir’s studio and talks about the impressionistic seascapes

Sometimes in my window in the hotel at Balbec, in the morning whenFrançoise undid the fastenings of the curtains that shut out the light, in the evening when I was waiting until it should be time to go out with Saint-Loup, I had been led by some effect of sunlight to mistake what was only a darker stretch of sea for a distant coastline, or to gaze at a belt of liquid azure without knowing whether it belonged to sea or sky. But presently my reason would re-establish between the elements that distinction which in my first impression I had overlooked. In the same way I used, in Paris, in my bedroom, to hear a dispute, almost a riot, in the street below, until I had referred back to its cause—a carriage for instance that was rattling towards me—this noise, from which I now eliminated the shrill and discordant vociferations which my ear had really heard but which my reason knew that wheels did not produce. But the rare moments in which we see nature as she is, with poetic vision, it was from those that Elstir’s work was taken. One of his metaphors that occurred most commonly in the seascapes which he had round him was precisely that which, comparing land with sea, suppressed every line of demarcation between them. It was this comparison, tacitly and untiringly repeated on a single canvas, which gave it that multiform and powerful unity, the cause (not always clearly perceived by themselves) of the enthusiasm which Elstir’s work aroused in certain collectors.

Marcel also describes the scene from his hotel bedroom window, in particular the sea which is ever changing as tide, waves and most of all light are always different. It seems to me that Proust is attempting to use words here in a way that is intentionally analogous to the way that impressionist artists use paint. If true, this is hardly a brilliant observation as he gives a big clue in the descriptions of Elstir/Monet’s paintings quoted above. But, so you can judge for yourself I will put a much bigger extract than usual up.  I am eager to hear what others think of this and am just sorry that my French is never going to be nearly good enough to read it in the original.

Window in which I was, henceforward, to plant myself every morning, as at the pane of a mail coach in which one has slept, to see whether, in the night, a long sought mountain-chain has come nearer or withdrawn—only here it was those hills of the sea which, before they come dancing back towards us, are apt to retire so far that often it was only at the end of a long and sandy plain that I would distinguish, miles it seemed away, their first undulations upon a background transparent, vaporous, bluish, like the glaciers that one sees in the backgrounds of the Tuscan Primitives. On other mornings it was quite close at hand that the sun was smiling upon those waters of a green as tender as that preserved in Alpine pastures (among mountains on which the sun spreads himself here and there like a lazy giant who may at any moment come leaping gaily down their craggy sides) less by the moisture of their soil than by the liquid mobility of their light. Anyhow, in that breach which shore and water between them drive through all the rest of the world, for the passage, the accumulation there of light, it is light above all, according to the direction from which it comes and along which our eyes follow it, it is light that shifts and fixes the undulations of the sea. Difference of lighting modifies no less the orientation of a place, constructs no less before our eyes new goals which it inspires in us the yearning to attain, than would a distance in space actually traversed in the course of a long journey. When, in the morning, the sun came from behind the hotel, disclosing to me the sands bathed in light as far as the first bastions of the sea, it seemed to be shewing me another side of the picture, and to be engaging me in the pursuit, along the winding path of its rays, of a journey motionless but ever varied amid all the fairest scenes of the diversified landscape of the hours. And on this first morning the sun pointed out to me far off with a jovial finger those blue peaks of the sea, which bear no name upon any geographer’s chart, until, dizzy with its sublime excursion over the thundering and chaotic surface of their crests and avalanches, it came back to take shelter from the wind in my bedroom, swaggering across the unmade bed and scattering its riches over the splashed surface of the basin-stand, and into my open trunk, where by its very splendour and ill-matched luxury it added still further to the general effect of disorder.

Prompts:  What makes your heart sing? If it is something or someone physical try describing them or it as if painting with your words. If not… well try thinking of an image that represents the thing that makes your heart sing and paint a verbal picture of that.

Alternatively describe a visit to the beach

Sur les planches de Trouville, Claude Monet 1870


3 thoughts on “What Makes Your Heart Sing?

  1. From Urszula:

    Makes my Spirit soar

    Sept 2005
    When we first came to our house in Point
    In the Western Isles I remember it well
    I opened the back door
    And the view took my breath away
    It was a lovely sunny day
    Vast blue sky as far as I could see
    To the sides and as high
    The sky met the ground and sea
    No hills just flat some low houses
    I stepped back hit by the beauty
    Immersed in the blue and the light
    No photo could capture this sight

    I found this in an old notebook, wrote it 11 July 2007
    Sailing by
    Every night the music ‘Sailing By’ is heard
    And then the shipping forecast announced
    For Malin Head and Hebrides
    And I can hear the wind
    The force eight or nine or ten
    Whistling round the house
    And it feels good, dark and snug
    To be indoors
    In our island home
    And even when I hear the same
    Down here in England land
    I feel that I am back up there again
    And my spirit soars

    Thursday 17 Jan 2000
    Today the air glowed
    Grey sky and grey clouds
    Rain falling gently
    But persistently
    Yet there was a light
    Reflected from the clouds
    Neither white nor orange
    A luminosity
    A magical quality
    We walked enveloped in the light

    In July
    A lovely sky
    Gone midnight
    Approaching one
    It has got as dark as it will get
    A navy blue sky but to the north
    On the horizon a deep crimson sky
    Borders onto the sea
    Then going upwards lightens to orange and yellow and cyan
    The remnant of sunset merges with the approaching dawn
    A single star or is it a planet shines in the sky
    The quiet night hangs about me
    A few bird sounds echo over the loch and moor
    As I start getting ready for bed I get the urge to write
    To write this down
    To capture the feeling of peace and solitude
    To take with me
    A memory to keep

    Thursday 5 July
    Things that make me happy:
    Seeing washing blowing in the wind
    Seeing a rainbow
    Seeing a group of ducks waddling along behind each other
    Looking out of the window in the evening
    Peaceful quiet salmon pink sky
    Over the bay hills silhouetted

    Sat 7 Nov 2009
    It was a lovely day
    The sun low behind us
    The waves coming in
    Every seventh one or so
    Large rushing in to shore
    Pink dollops of froth like snails on the beach
    Exhilarating one of those breathtaking moments
    Standing on the beach arms out
    Taking in the whole thing
    White pink grey clouds
    Making their shapes against the blue sky
    Fresh air lots of it
    We walked as it became twilight
    Cold noses hat and hood up
    And on the dunes
    Huge bonfire ready to be lit
    Two figures in life jackets
    Sitting on a sofa on the top
    There will be a fire tonight
    But we will be cosy indoors
    Leaving the revellers to their light

    Sat 28 Aug 2010
    We felt done in by shopping etc
    ‘washed it all away’
    Having tea on the Braighe then a walk

    The view looked beautiful today
    Glassy flat beach black islands
    Sun shining over the beach
    Towards blue sky fluffy clouds
    No midges slight breeze
    Huge expanse of beach
    Water gently lapping at the edge
    Just inviting walking up to it
    Only a flock of sea gulls on the island
    Lead one marching goose stepping
    Keeping their own comfort distance
    The view just made my spirit soar
    I put my hands out

    Thursday 2 Dec 2010
    Lovely winter’s walk
    Wrapped up warm
    Crunching on snow and ice
    Walking down to Portnaguran harbour
    Clouds and gentle light
    Snow covered mountains on the mainland pink
    Low sun setting behind us
    The sea calm and blue
    The tide in no waves today
    Just a lapping onto the rocks
    And very cold
    The headland soft pinkish white
    With glowing brown tufts of Marin grass
    No sign of green anywhere in sight
    Feelings overcome me
    Or is it my heart
    The loveliness the calmness
    This natural gentle beauty
    On a cold winter’s day

    June 2020
    We walk down the road
    My neighbour and I
    As we do every day
    Wild flowers on either side
    Sprawling lanky yellow buttercups
    Low clover beds crimson and cream
    Single purpley pink orchids dotted throughout
    Amongst the long grass
    On a sunny day we have blue sky and sea
    Stretches of wispy clouds high up
    The hills lazily recumbent
    On the way back we see the wild flowers again
    Still colourful amongst the grass
    Make my spirit soar

    Liked by 1 person

    By Marie Cable.

    One thing that makes my heart sing is Uillean MacLeod’s Rock and Ceilidh show on Isles F.M. on Friday nights from 10 p.m. until midnight although it often goes on until after midnight. He sometimes has a guest presenter with him Murdo John also known as M.J. They make a good double act. He plays a variety of music There’s Rock and Ceilidh as the name suggests but that includes the Heb Celt style music, Scottish, Irish, Country, American and Pop chosen by listeners. It is a request show and provides an eclectic choice of music. I usually listen to it in bed and sing along in my head and quite often it really lifts my spirits. A lot of those requesting songs are known by Ullie if not friends of his sister, it is almost a family request show.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s