No one is quite sure what brought you to Arles. You wanted to go south, Vincent, away from Paris, and something drew you to this town. Perhaps it was what Michelet wrote about the beauty of the arlesienne, the women of Arles, but that was not what you would encounter here.
Although the walls are now charred from bombings during World War II, you found a pale quiet town some hundred and twenty years ago. But it was here you would find yourself, find your style, find your color, and come into your own. It was also here you would have your fateful encounter with Gauguin.
Signs of your paintings now checker the city that threw you out, marking the spots where you once stood and immortalized Arles.
In the case of your lovely little house, an empty space is all that is left by war.
Here and there we find more, however.
The trees still stand at Les Alyscamps, and brilliantly so in the spattered August light.
The Roman tombs still reside there, too.
And the old mill. I think you would be happy to know it still stands.
And although unadvertised in the tourism brochures, you should know you have a monument here too.
I know, it’s pretty horrific. But what do you expect of the town that gathered to sign a petition to force your leaving?
Your detached head, grimacing and menacing, with only one ear sculpted, speaks more to the memory of Arles, and their guilt of having betrayed such a beautiful soul. They know you only cut off part of your earlobe, and yet perpetuate the myth and the stereotype. It is their only saving grace. For notice, Vincent, that no other place chooses to remember you in this way.
And in the meantime, they need you. Your energy runs through the veins of this place, enriching it with your passion. This is your figure embedded into the streets, directing the fellow traveler to walk with you, following yellow at each turn.
And consistently, you lead towards beauty, towards the stars, towards something greater…
The Rhone, a three minute walk from your house. I sat there for an hour perhaps, imagining your thoughts as you let the waters of the river flow past, and time went on, and on.