On walks, scents, and being your own compass

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , , , on July 20, 2012 by ana

I’ve always loved going for long walks at night. Here, the air smells of mowed grass, trees, pebbly, dusty road, and wet wood when I walk. The last time I breathed air this clean was probably in Spain two years ago. It was around the same time of  year except the air smelled of river and stone.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about scents. I’ve been a bit violet obsessed. In part, because I think it is a suitable scent to wear while baking, but also because I like that it’s both dame-like and masculine in a dandy sort of way. I’ve also been thinking about red wine. Not the specific smells of a particular wine but the general scent. It is a layer in the olfactory memory of many great meals, and of memorable conversations sitting on couches or standing in kitchens with good friends. Then there was a conversation I had in Paris with a lovely perfume obsessed girl. Talking with her made me start thinking about the structure of fragrance and the often ignored construction of atmosphere through scents.

Trampling through the fields that are now my backyard, breathing in the green air, a group of small black birds flew by. Their wings flapping sounded almost like rain. Each time I’ve seen these bird in the gloaming sky I have thought of that Olivier Theyskens dress that Kirsten Dunst wore to the premier of Marie Antoinette at Cannes and wondered if a walk just after sunset inspired him.

I feel so sheltered, inspired, and grounded by nature right now. Sometimes limitations create expansion. I have very little internet access here. The service on my phone is also limited. Little by little this new quieter rythm is seeping in to everything. Walking back to my apartment I thought, I don’t need anything right now. I am perfectly satisfied. I am working towards things. I had a full day. I ate delicious food. I swam. I worked. I read. There is nothing right this moment that I want or need.

It has been so long since I felt that way. I used to feel that way with Leo all the time. We would be driving somewhere in his little vintage car. Zooming down the 101 to dinner or a show listening to tunes we loved, and I would feel that exact same feeling. This time, I thought, I got here by my sheer strength and will. I had a lot of help but I’ve steered it all with the needle of my own compass.

Quiet Days in France

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , on July 19, 2012 by ana


 

Burgundy is slowly and steadily stealing my heart.

Posted in Burgundy, paris with tags , , on July 12, 2012 by ana

I should say France is stealing my heart. So far, Baune has been a dream. I have to pinch myself. So often we worry about the unknown. I know I have devoted a lot of anxious minutes throughout my days to the possibility of loss, failure, and pain but if we are going to worry about the obstacles and clouds that life inevitably brings at the very least we should devote equal time in awe of the sweet surprises, lucky breaks and magical coincidences that occur.

I have been here two weeks. Most days I’m in bed by ten. I think I’m making up for my horrible jet-lag. I wake up do yoga, drink coffee, then head over to the school. I love the women I am working for. They are sweet and generous, love food and wine, and have an adventurous spirit that I always find attractive in people. The days are long but lovely. The space we spend most of the time in, the atelier, is light-filled and pretty.

Last Thursday I was off for the day and met up with an old High School friend who was in Burgundy. He took me to a rehearsal for the final concert in a music festival a couple of towns over. We sat in an old building that could have easily been at one point a church or some sort of barn or armory and watched as musicians from the Met and from all over played Mozart. I have never seen a rehearsal like that before. When I was a kid I would sometimes go with my mom to the rehearsals of the small theater company she helped run. Later, in acting class, my weeks were filled with rehearsals for our scenes. Rehersals are so interesting. They are labs. This one of course was completely different. It was at a completely different level, and the energy was so interesting. I started to sort of see what it is a conductor really does and wondered what it would be like to hear the world through any of their ears. A mezzo-soprano sang twenty-feet away from me and it was amazing to hear voice and see how the music flowed through her body. She had the confidence of being an instrument.

My days in Burgundy are so different from my days in Paris. I work for ten hors or so then I’m off, alone. I have no internet connection in my apartment, and it’s really quiet here at night. I am really enjoying the solitude. The world right now revolves around food, reading, and sitting with my feelings and thoughts. Before I left Paris Bree said to me, “If this was your Eat, Pray, Love then I think you are about to step into the pray part of the program.” I think she was right. There is a lot running though my mind these days. I think about how to temper the indulgent side of me with discipline. I think about balance, about finding a middle point and not going so back and forth in extremes. I have a feeling that that is how I will always be, and I think about the best possible ways to make peace with it.

I was in Paris this past weekend moving my things from one apartment to another. I am loving Burgundy but I also love Paris. It was wonderful to return. To walk around and stumble upon gorgeous chocolate stores and flower shops. My cousin Carolina was visiting and we ran around Paris eating one delicious meal after another. It was raining most of the time but it didn’t matter. I bought patchouli, violette, and opopanax votives at diptyque, and violet, and smokey earl grey teas at Kusmi. I’m having a romance with all things violet right now.

My new apartment is on the 20th, which feels so far away but I like the neighborhood and the apartment is full of windows. It’s on the top floor so there is a great view of the neighborhood’s rooftops, and the trees tops at Pere Lachaise. At a distance you can see part of the Eiffel Tower.

Just as it was before I left, I felt a sadness I couldn’t quite shake. This is going to sound ridiculous because how much can you care for someone that you knew for a month or two but that French boy still haunts my heart. It catches me off guard. I’ve tried to make sense of it. I’ve tried to figure out how someone could swoop in, shower me with exactly what I needed, then swoop out. How someone seemingly wrong could step in and fill my heart for just a moment and then be completely gone. When he left I felt sad and his departure highlighted all the loss of the last years. There is a part of me that feels that I’m really truly over Leo. That I have fully stepped by myself beyond the self that I grew into being when we were together. Of course, I suppose, that you never truly get over anyone until you fall in love again.

I think the French guy came in to show me some things I wasn’t seeing. And I think there are people in your life that for whatever reason change you. I have had this experience with men and women. It has nothing to do with sex or attraction or romance. There are people, sometimes this can even happen with strangers, you see something in them and it changes you and you never forget them. It happened to me on the train back from Paris. I was watching a boy, who was maybe twelve, with his grandmother. His face was so animated and sweet. There was something very proper and kind and wholesome about him. It was easy to see his expressions translating into his twenties and thirties, into his seventies as well. Whatever essensce was inside that person captivated me. Sometimes something as simple as a boy on a train can leave a mark in you.

I think all the cooking and solitude of the next weeks will carve something interesting in me. I’m feeling inspired. I’m so enamored by nature, by the mid-afternoon hail storms, and by the wildflowers and golden fields with bails of hay. As I write this I’m sitting behind my apartment on a picnic table. Butterflies and bees flutter and buzz around me.

I think this is the perfect place to be right now. I feel ready to let go of the past and step into this world of food that calls me. It has always intrigued me but I now can put it more clearly into words. I am closer to defining what it is I want. I see the nourishing, the sensual, the communal, the political, the celebratory, the textural, and not just the taste. It is exciting beyond words. It is a new world that has always been there.

a perfect morning

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , on July 3, 2012 by ana

field trip

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , , on July 3, 2012 by ana

This is Madame Loichet. She was born in the house that she lives in, and has a beautiful, beautiful vegetable garden. The lovely ladies I am spending my summer with in Beaune took me to meet her last Friday.

If you want to see more pictures of my visit with Madame Loichet. Visit my other blog: notebooks and gluesticks .

Beaune

Posted in Burgundy with tags , , on June 29, 2012 by ana

 

I took the train to Burgundy this morning. My bag weighed a ton but now I’m glad I brought nice candles and books and my rosemary plant with me.  Walking to the butcher earlier today, and a bit later while driving around Baune I was reminded of Lecce, where I was last summer in Italy. I was there at this time last year. The two cities don’t exactly look alike but they have, at least at first glance, a similar feeling. There are also similarities to what I did there and what I am doing here.

I instantly liked the women, a mother and daughter, I’m working for. Marjorie, the mom, picked  me up at the train station in her tiny, bright blue, vintage car. On the way back to the school we stopped at the cave to pick up some wine. Once at the school we drank coffee, discussed some of the work ahead, and got ready for tomorrow’s class. There is an old bloodhound at the school. Her name is Lilly. She looks like she could have stepped out of a Disney cartoon in the seventies or could be in a Sylvain Choumet movie today. She slept in the corner while I polished wine glasses. Kendall, the daughter, ironed napkins. The room was all white- white walls, white pottery, white napkins and aprons, and above the white mantel seven bright orange Gerbera daisies each in its own glass bottle. The daisies made me think of Cleo. They are her favorites.

After running some errands we arrived at my new home. A little time-share apartment that is part Florida vacation and part dorm room but with a field behind my porch and  a church steeple and mountains in the distance. I’m not staying in Baune but a smaller town ten minutes from there called Levernois.  After I unpacked I had goat cheese and figs and saucisson for dinner on a picnic table outside. The sky was still light at almost nine o’clock at night. I ate slowly, barefoot, taking it all in and thought this exactly where I am supposed to be and how I am supposed to feel- a little alone in the country, swimming in feelings of both the impermanence of things and their beauty. I think the days, the air, the sky will add up and fill me with just the right thing. What that is exactly I don’t know.

Earlier, while we drove around, Marjorie said to me, if you stay open to the experience it will change you.

I know she is right. I think she is one of the reasons why I’m here. I think I am going to learn a lot from her about running a business, about cooking and in general about how to create the kind of life I’m after.

Last month, when all was said and done with the painter, and I had lost my job at the bakery, Nicki said to me, it is all about stepping into the adventure of the next moment. 

I keep thinking about that. I carry a lot of joy within me but there is often an unshakable longing and nostalgia. It leaves me wondering what exactly it is that I feel is missing. What is it that I want that I don’t have and how can I give it to myself. I think the answer lies in diving deeper into this life of food, writing, creativity, and celebration, and eventually in opening my own business. I want to find the stillness that allows things to unfold as they are meant to, without sadness, without fear or judgement or exasperation.

jet-lag, thunderstorms & Burgundy

Posted in Los Angeles, paris with tags , , on June 25, 2012 by ana

I’m back in Paris. I had the worst jet-lag when I returned and couldn’t fall asleep until 5 or 6 in the morning for most of the week. During one of those sleepless nights there was a beautiful, raging thunderstorm. I sat by the kitchen window watching the sky light up and sound as if it was cracking open. The storm made me excited about the summer. I love thunderstorms.

My trip to LA was both lovely and hard. It felt like I hit true rock-bottom after a year and a half of banging myself against things. It felt horrible but in the end something about it felt very grounding, like I was finally touching firm ground not some ledge on the way down. For the past month in Paris I had been dancing with my demons, and when I got to LA it became a full on brawl. I felt like my confidence was full of holes. I felt extremely vulnerable and shy, and then on the other side of that I kept beating myself up about it.

I drove around asking the same questions I had been asking myself in Paris. Was I so lost that I had to loose myself even more to find myself? What had I done moving so far from home! There were moments in LA were I felt desperate to find some answers. Moments when I felt old and like I had strayed from my path. There were also lots of moments where it was wonderful to be there. To see the people I love. To witness my best friends get married and see all our old New York friends at their wedding.

At some point towards the end of my trip when I was feeling lower than low something clicked. I thought- you are such a shit. You are surrounded by so much love. You have such good friends. You live in Paris. Why are you looking at all you don’t have and not celebrating all you do have. You are the only one that is judging yourself. And as soon as I thought that something switched, and I thought, what if everything is happening exactly as it needs to. What if everything is perfect just as it is. I don’t think I have ever internalized that thought as I did at that moment.

 

The whole time I’ve been in Paris my friend Karina’s words have rang through me. When we were 23 she said to me two things that I still think about all the time. One was, never forget who you are. The other, I think the key word right now is perseverance. For as much as I think about her words I forgot, for a moment, who I was but in forgetting I found a clearer version of myself.

I got on the plane with a plan and a Kinfolk magazine. My plan was to do a French intensive for the month of July, look for work as soon as that was done, and then go to the Cordon Bleu in November. On the plane I read my magazine. After reading an essay about an American woman who had moved to Burgundy and opened a cooking school I decided to email her. I told her I had been inspired by her story and asked her for work.

I got back to Paris with a renewed sense of self, with my curiosity back at it’s normal level, and feeling excited about this here adventure that I am on. Somewhere in the past week I remembered just why I had decided to move to Europe. I felt that feeling in my gut again that pushed me to it. I started to rejoice about being in Paris. It started to hit me that I live here.

Then I heard back from the school in Burgundy, and so it is that I now find myself packing to go there tomorrow. I will be there for the next five weeks cooking, gardening and being, as Brie put it, the all around kitchen au pair. I will be their intern in exchange for my own apartment, meals, and a bicycle to ride to work. I am beyond excited. Who knows what will happen next. The French intensive is still a priority but it will have to wait. Off I go! Small town, country roads, vegetable patches-I have been craving thee!

 

 

 

Oh, LA you are so freaking pretty when you are in bloom.

Posted in 37 on June 5, 2012 by ana

It’s nice to be home. To drive past purple Jacaranda trees. To sit with Stevie and glue place settings for her wedding. To smell the jasmine. To eat fish tacos and shrimp burritos as an almost full moon hangs over the Walgreen’s parking lot.  It’s good to love and be loved. To see familiar faces. To have breakfast with Millie. To buy coffee from a guy who says, “didn’t you move to Paris?” To make plans with my sister. To drive to lunch with my cousin listening to Benny Goodman. To see Leo. It was good seeing him. I think we are becoming friends.

 

“She must find a boat and sail in it. No guarantee of shore. Only a conviction that what she wanted could exist, if she dared to find it.” ― Jeanette Winterson

Posted in paris with tags , , on June 3, 2012 by ana

Because my life isn’t very structured at the moment time feels like it’s moving at a different speed than usual. Things that happened four weeks ago feel like they happened months and months ago. Even things that happened a week ago seems further away than usual. This leaves me with the sensation that I have been feeling one particular way or another for a long time when in reality it has only been a short while.

I’m on a plane flying back to LA for Stevie’s wedding. I’ve been in Paris three months now. It feels like I have been there longer and at the same time this trip, which once felt so far away, arrived quickly and just when it was needed. It’s been a long time since I’ve lived like a student. The last month was intense. I feel neglected. I desperately need a haircut, a mani/pedi, and a scrub at a Korean spa. But that’s not the only way I feel neglected. I have been excessive and have neglected myself. Today, at the airport, I realized how much that excessiveness undermines my confidence.

It’s time to really dive into my life in Paris. This trip home feels like a perfectly timed interlude. So, lets just say these last three months were the prologue. I have seen and explored a bit of Paris but I need to do more. I need to drink the city in. Not literally, as I have been doing but indulging in its beauty and magic. It is time to make Paris my home.

Last week I went to see the Eva Besnyo exhibit at Jeu de Paume. Coming in from the Paris heat, into the cool and quiet space that smelled of traces of glue and wall paint, I remembered how often museums have felt to me like a church.  Specially if you find yourself alone in a room taking in something that speaks to you. As I walked through the rooms looking at her photographs I realized that until recently I had never taken a picture because I was seeing something. Most of the photographs I’ve taken I have taken with my my head more than my eyes.

After Eve Besnyo, I went upstairs and looked at some videos by Laurent Grasso. I thought the two exhibits played beautifully off each other. I sat in a room all by myself and watched a video about a hawk and its flight. I sat there and watched it twice and thought about the relationship between deep self-acceptance, inspiration, and expression. I sat there and thought about how beautiful and strange and difficult and lovely life is. I thought about the things I know I want in my life- a business, a baby, a man, and how the intense desire to expand creatively, to grow up creatively trumps all of it.

 

 

For whatever we lose (like a you or a me) it’s always ourselves we find in the sea ~ ee cumings

Posted in paris with tags , , , on May 22, 2012 by ana

Lost in boy thoughts I yell to my roommate from the kitchen, “tell me not to write!”

“Tell you not to write?”

“Yes,” I say, “because I was doing fine but now I just want to write him.”

The moment passes. The desire to say I miss you, to say this is harder than I thought it would be is shut down by fear. This is a good thing. Staying away is a good thing. Doubt comes in the form of – what’s the point, to what end, and if I did write would he hate me a little for not letting it go? The next thought that follows is he has forgotten me and then maybe it meant more to me than him. But then I think I am too much in my head. I’m being such a girl.

All of this because as I walked up the stairs an image, an imagined image, popped in my head. Out of nowhere in my mind I saw him walking up the stairs to my apartment the first time we had sex. I sprinted up the stairs. I tried to leave the thought behind but it caught up to me as I read an ee cumings poem on someone’s blog. And then I remembered  walking home from the metro that day. The play between being excited and staying present, telling myself that there was plenty of time for the list of things I wanted to do- shower, brush my teeth, tidy the apartment, find music and have a few minutes to kick back and relax. Now that I’ve written it down, all those thoughts have lost their power and become a lovely moment and nothing else. Writing is amazing that way.

In the past couple of days the work, language, money panic has slightly subsided and I’m feeling more like myself again.  It still feels like I’m in the middle of a mid-October leaf storm or on the white water rafting part of the program or the free fall part of the jump but I’m starting to think, I can handle this. I’ve remembered a crucial bit. Sanity is always found in returning to myself. Somehow that got lost in the last month and a half of late nights, out-of-town guests and farewells. That has always been the answer or at the very least a big part of it.

It is also true that I would be lost with out my friends- the ones I can reach out to in the middle of the night if necessary. Still, the answer, my answer, is always the same- read, write, cut images and glue them on paper, cook (and now bake).  There has always been behavior, in my part that is less than healthy when things feel shaky. And it is also true that when I’m almost at the edge I find my way back to a healthier day to day. Yes, there is often now a sadness in the morning when I first open my eyes. That has been there since almost two years ago next July. But I’ve always been good at shaking it off with my first cup of coffee.

It’s raining in Paris. All month long brief stints of sunshine seem to promise summer but not yet, not yet, not yet. Things are slowly changing. French is opening up to me a bit. My ear hears words and my brain understands them without translating them to Spanish or English. More and more I feel trepidation when I write because it feels more exposing than it ever has. I suspect that is a good thing. I must be getting closer to what I need to be doing if it feels scary. And as Lili pointed out the other day lots of small changes add up to some big ones.

“At this time last year,’ she said, “you didn’t know what you wanted to do. You hadn’t decided to move to Paris. You hadn’t taken your trip to Italy. You weren’t even baking. Think of all the incredible things that happened in one year.”

And except for that momentary staircase flash and the minutes after, I’m having a pretty good day. Thanks in part to a Sam Shepard interview in the guardian, a commencement speech by Neil Gaiman, an essay by Anne Lamont, a paragraph about cake batter in Michael Rhulman’s Ratio, a bit of a conversation with Angelo Badalamenti about the sound of Twin Peaks that I listened to on Nicolas Jaar’s essential mix for BBC radio, two Mark Strand poems, a kitchenaid mixer, a batch (finally!) of really good dark chocolate cayenne cookies that leave behind a mellow heat reminiscent of a first kiss, and the realization that if all I want is just beyond my hand’s reach maybe I just need to put down my arms and walk towards it.