Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Wild Thing

I have really had my brain full recently. This has been one of the most therapeutic few weeks for me and I am feeling really incredible, after feeling really crappy. Again, I think it's the Spring thing, the rebirth thing, but for me it is also silently, quietly a reminder of 3 major springtime losses that I have had in my life, that I have never been able to grieve properly, or is that what I am doing now, this Spring in Lyon that feels so intense?

The loss of Michael, my closest friend in Philadelphia, who really got me and loved me the way I was, who whistled outside my window on summer nights, beckoning me to go out and be wild. He was stabbed to death on South Street the night before he took his architectural boards. He was a John Doe at the morgue because he didn't have his wallet on him. He was mad at me because I had left him behind and moved to New York. He would barely speak to me. He never forgave me, even though I tried to break through. The loss of Manny, my big brother in the city, Cajun boy, amazing chef who smoked cigars, shared my passion for France in a car, taught me about foie gras and Monbazillac, defended my broken heart (post Jean-Luc.) He drowned, scuba diving. He had just fallen in love. We had talked the week before. And, the illness of Halliday, my beautiful older daughter, which left scars on my life that will never go away, and on hers. Spring just feels so painful yet beautiful to me.

At 2 in the morning, when I could not sleep because I was so flipping angry at another male friend of mine (that, an entirely other story) and mostly angry at myself, again, I began making sense of all of these crazy feelings.

I am tired of being treated like I am invisible. I am tired of trying to get the attention of people who are too busy to be present. I am weary of those who cannot talk about what's really going on, or think deeply. I am sick of hearing myself talk. I am embracing the amazing young girl that I was and am trying so hard to be proud of my inner wildness and my unbridled creative spirit that has often been criticized, condemned. I am trying not to criticize myself. I am trying to look at the whole picture and not stumble into superficial holes. I want to tell the truth about a lot of things. I want to speak my mind even though it's just my mind. I am finished with my old story and am starting a new one, but I am reintroducing a character that I was told to leave behind, because she was so challenging, so untamable. I know that is the only way I can go forward and write my next chapter. I must wear myself like a badge of honor. Manny and Michael loved me as I was, crazy, wild, raw, emotional, so deeply sensitive, spontaneous, vulnerable, dependable, true...and selfishly, I feel such a loss without them in this world. My springtime loss, a deep hole I am trying to fill with reflection.

At 2 in the morning, I read my weekly horoscope. Here's what it said:

"He who cannot howl
will not find his pack."

{Charles Simic}

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Joyeux Anniversaire

The loveliest 11 year old I have ever met!

Monday, April 28, 2008

L'absence n'est-elle pas, pour qui aime,

la plus certaine, la plus efficace, la
plus vivace, la plus

indestructible, la plus fidèle des présences?

{Marcel Proust}

Friday, April 25, 2008

En Exile de la Presqu'ile

We are in exile (does that mean "out of the island"?) from the "almost island," the Manhattan of Lyon, the 2nd arrondisement, 69002. I rented our apartment to a friend from New York for a few days and now am in forced exile in the country. Poor me, going from one amazing, chic city apartment to one bucolic, peaceful hamlet, with only 48 minutes in between. What's remarkable though is the difference in me. I feel like I am equally country girl and city girl, split in two.

I am sitting on an old stone foundation, crossed legged, in my gym clothes (from 2 days ago) and my favorite Vega sneakers. Haven't taken a shower, brushed my hair or put on lip gloss in 24 hours. Forget why I even do this. Hmmmm. I'm listening to the Charolais cows mooing and the echoes of that in the valley below, the trickle of water, a spring perhaps, the birds singing happily, a bee pollinating clover. Things zoom by, insects, lizards peep their heads out of stone walls and run quickly in the last rays of the sun. I can see miles away, nothing but open farmland, cultivated in patchwork green, mountains in the background, a magical forest on one side, rolling fields on the other. I am too lucky. C'est trop beau.

I haven't accomplished much today, or rather feel that way. We're sort of on vacation (I'm never on vacation—workaholic that I am,) but I did make vegetable soup, bring loads of logs inside, light a fire, keep it going all day, check emails and make web changes, call an electrician, text an old boyfriend, make pasta for the girls, gossip about men with Flo. I get into a different rhythm here and I love it—but I do feel less productive. I am out of contact even though I have a cell, landline and the most absurdly slow internet possible. We played tennis this morning and jogged, forgot that. It felt so good to be outside, I love to be outside. And now, trying to soak in those last remaining rays of warmth, I realize, this is my home. This house is so comforting to me, just the way my house in Red Hook has been for 16 years. I feel safe here. I feel blessed with all that I have in my life.

Things to get at the épicerie in Larajasse: chevre, lardons, du lait frais, de l'ail, oignons, les fraises (garrigettes) et un bouteille d'eau.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Le soleil, le soleil

Had the most wonderful time at Cyril's the other night, the Bistrot du Boulevard, our Thursday night hang out. It's the neighborhood restaurant that you always dream of having in your neighborhood. In my case, it's not in my neighborhood, but rather in my friends' neighborhood, kind of the way Bolgen + Moi was when I lived in the Hudson Valley. Wow, just love having a place to call mine, where I walk in and people know me, yet it's filled with everything new and the possibility of hearing many life stories, of telling your own once again, of being heard, of making yourself understood. I've been telling my story a lot lately and it feels really good.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I am here

I feel like jumping up and down, it is so gorgeous today!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Silence Speaks Louder Than Words

Where I come from, silence has a very loud message...disapproval, so no wonder I have the hardest time listening to silence. I attribute all kinds of bad judgements to it—suddenly, I am the kid in trouble, feeling desperate to win back approval, whatever the price (cher;) These days, I have been hearing a lot of silence and my reaction has been different. Yes, I've run thru the litany of self-deprecating insults already. I've felt sad, I've felt insulted, I've felt wronged, misunderstood, ashamed, embarassed, shocked. I swear, I have felt it all at the same time, but the resounding feeling, the feeling I woke up with yesterday, today is this:
I feel free. You gotta love it! Embrace the silence!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Oh, merde

L'homme m'etonnera toujours car il peut aussi bien
marcher dans la merde que sur la lune

I can't believe it takes only 2 1/2 hours to get to Uzes from here. It feels so radically different. France is crazy that way. Drive one hour and the architecture, vegetation, accent, stone color and produce have all changed. Lunch at Terroirs, an amazing place that serves tapas and tart-like pizzas, can resusitate even the most weary (that would be me, who can barely sleep these days.) I am starving and yet a small salad with the freshest lettuce, lightest vinagrette and ceviche of Coquilles St. Jacques with pink grapefruit slices, totally satiates me. The sun is amazing. I am a sun worshipper of late. The local rosé is fresh and delicious and I have fallen in love with the south of France, again, again. We girls bask, Daisy poses in my new basket, the Saturday market stirs around us and I feel so happy.

This is my third time visiting Uzes in 5 weeks and each time I am more comfortable here, feel like it's a place I will come back to. Sometimes it's great to explore new places, but sometimes, these days for me, it's great to just go back to places I know. Less stressful. I have really been trying to limit the stress in my life, as this year (these past years, hmmm when did it start?) has been mega stressful. Flaux, a mini village with few inhabitants is where we stay. La Mona, Franck Valtat's bed and breakfast is beautiful and stylish. Being the incredibly picky person that I am about aesthetics, I can always find something to complain about wherever I stay, but Franck (ex-Parisian, Heschung boot-wearer, apricot confiture-maker) has it going on. His place is amazing, tasteful and so relaxing.

Sleepy now. Been thinking too much. Feeling like a teenager when springtime came around, remembering how breezy life was back then, breezy and intense. Still have images floating around in my head, dreamed about going to Chile, dreamed about the sun shining so bright it hurt, casting a light so clear down on me. Somehow, I am trying to bring all of these floating images together, images of my profound simplicity, enduring, my deeply emotional nature, lunar child, wanting to do something that means something, something tangible. The sun shines on me. I have been here before. {I have walked in these shoes, they protect me.} It feels raw, it feels warm, it feels familiar. It's an old feeling. Do all roads lead to the same place, I wonder?

Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Simple Truth

An early start for Saint-Martin-en-Haut to get my car repaired. It's rainy and cold and I am praying its going to be warm and sunny this weekend. We are going to Uzes, gorgeous town in the Languedoc-Roussillon region with my marraine (godmother), Cynthia, or Auntie Tint as we used to call her, staying at my favorite chambre d'hote, La Mona, in Flaux, a jewel that the girls and I discovered on a recent trip to La Cote D'Azur. Today, also going to Saint Symphorien sur Coise to pay a bill long overdue, to visit my adopted family here in France at their amazing, amazing atelier Objet de Curiosité. They have really inspired me and my house in the country is filled with objets de curiosité and paintings of my very very dear friend Isabelle Grange.

In a café in Saint Martin. They know me now as it's ma petite pause preférée in the area. 2 completely drunk old guys at the bar who think they are so funny. It starts early for some folks, I guess. They are trashed. Carole, the server, is rewriting the menu du jour on a chalk board with a really cool pen that looks like white-out but is really like liquid chalk. She has the best script writing. They offer only one choice here, but it's always delicious, hardy and fresh. I love the simplicity of it all—we have too many choices. Life is too complicated.

I was thinking about myself the other day. I was at my coiffeur (most lovely place in Lyon) having my hair cut radically and my meches done, and while Guy was rinsing my hair, he knocked out one of my earrings and down the drain it went. I have been wearing the same earrings that I bought at Barneys downtown 20 years ago—for 20 years I guess. Maybe I have changed them briefly twice or 3 times. Barney's had the best antique jewelry section ever and I coveted these earrings for months before getting up the courage to buy them. They are the perfect little gold studs with tiny star diamonds in the center. Anyway, thinking about myself, I think I am funny in the way that I don't change my style much—and I think at the core I am very very simple, and conservative. I really need very little in terms of stuff, to be happy. Just the perfect sponge, café au lait bowl, dish detergent or charm bracelet—and the perfect pair of earrings.

Earring rescued. I am relieved not to have to change my style. It's conservative me, Agnes B, Paul Smith, Morgane le Fay, my favorite earrings and the perfect café, on the quintessential rainy day, in the most beautiful place in this simple country.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I have been roaming around Lyon a bit these last few days, looking for springish inspiration, my head full of images, things I am trying to fuse together into I am not sure what yet—a collage, a Basic French project, a good deed—don't know yet. I have this impression that every Spring about this time I find myself roaming around in this same way. When I lived in Philadelphia and New York in my 20s and 30s, I would roam through book stores and second-hand stores collecting images of typography, colors, people, things that somehow touched me and were permitted space in my image bank. Usually I would make something by hand—a card, a love letter, coalescing (now spontaneous tears, where do those come from?) these disparate visual things, words heard, glances stolen into something, something I could touch or could touch someone.

After moving to the country in my 30s, when time was scarce and little people were my primary focus, I would steal away and roam through antique stores, junk stores (my all-time favorite being Hoffman's barn in Red Hook.) I was distracted, spacing out in my own world, my private Idaho. I think I was hard to live with at these times, I needed so desperately to be mentally alone, to disconnect.

Spring roaming took me on back country roads, collecting colors of white red barns against bright blue skies, monochrome landscapes, images of things decomposing from Winter's snow cover, images of small, delicate flowers erupting with life's vitality from that same ground. At these times, I found myself paying the toll for the car behind me on the Rhinebeck/Kingston Bridge, feeling rich with Spring, fecund.

So I find myself, now in France, roaming, first with intention, now abstractly lost. I have found a new typeface that I love (thanks Ka, awesome designer and web guru :) and I have found that I like the colors yellow and orange (when I thought I never would) and not red (still.) I have found that stripes are "tendances" as always and that Habitat at Place de la Republique never lets me down. I am inspired by t-shirts (girl at my gym wearing simple black one with large, ornate wing etchings silkscreened in gold, nice—wings of desire?

I was really inspired by a table display at Coté Maison of not celadon green, but more grassy celadon and dove grey hand-made faience pottery with olive nid d'abeille dishtowels and multistripe (again) napkins. Desire a powder pink linen tablecloth...gotta love the French! I was inspired by colored toilet paper (lime, orange, cyan, black??) coming soon to BF, and colored paper towels that could very well replace napkins chez nous this summer.

Electronic music, if you can believe it, has been fitting into this mix, even Daft Punk I have been dancing around to...the Psychedelic Furs (love love love, you can't give it away,) Vincent Delerme, Bierut, the Perishers, the Eels. Usually at this time, I like things that make me feel extremely—either extremely ridiculously happy or deeply profoundly to the core sad, all in the same day. I like these emotional extremes. They are like Spring cleaning, things piled up in the closet that must be considered, viewed and then stored away with intention or tossed out.

Tonight, I woke from a deep sleep, lay there thinking about all that I could do if I got up, bills to pay, webedits, laundry. I kept thinking about wanting to do something, a project outside myself, like creating an inspirational venue for young girls, designing empowering t-shirts and donating the proceeds to a non-profit. I feel like I want to bloom, I am spilling forth with images and inspiration. I got up to (au moins) make the list of what I need to do today, and here I am, toile notebook in hand, trying to make something physical, something that counts (lasts, endures.) How much can I give back today, I wonder? And what would a French person think if I paid their toll?