Archive for France

I heart Cary Tennis.

Posted in paris with tags , , , on January 9, 2013 by ana

Cleaning my computer I came across one of his columns saved many, many years ago. Given the decisions (going to New York) and the changes (a fresh new set of uncertainties) ahead it seemed apropos to post it below.

Dear Pond Jumper, 

Isn’t it strange how you can fly somewhere and suddenly that’s where you live? We just end up places. It’s the modern condition. I don’t think we’ve adjusted yet, as a species — the way we’re wired, that is. Yes, there are bureaus and agencies to administer the shifting accounts of nationality and wealth, of telephone number and e-mail address; yes, the you@your.e-mail.abode is a borderless fiction of zero gravity that moves with you nearly at the speed of light. But what we used to call a person — not so much the body itself, which can move in and out of its cultural crosshairs, but the location of the being defined by intersecting lines of family, history, soil, trade, the sets, unions and subsets of attributes and proclivities, the smells you smelled as a child and the smells your grandfather smelled as a child, all that: It was thus for so long a given that maybe we didn’t even think to place a high enough price on the geographic and temporal circumstances that define who we are, and then our easy, automatic sense of rootedness, of connection, of belonging, slipped away so quietly and so fast we couldn’t quite remember what it was supposed to feel like. And now we move to Paris and what we say about the view is, it’s the view that you saw in that movie. 

I’m always getting the question wrong. I wish that were part of my charm. Maybe if I were French, it might be part of my charm. But I’m American and I’m afraid my obliqueness comes across like a failure of manhood, something maybe they have a pill for in the drugstore. Besides, you’re not looking for some faux-Gallic take on things, are you? You’re looking for good-old fashioned American advice. 

Well, OK. How do you organize your identity now that you’re in exile? The best way, it seems to me, is by defining a purpose and a duration for the accomplishment of that purpose. Why are you in Paris? What do you mean to accomplish there? Is it only to have lived there? Is it only to smell the bread every day, to eat the food, hear the music of the language, feel the exquisite lightness of an ancient civilization and emulate it, absorb it, take it in like a culture vitamin? So how long, would you say, would that take? A year? Two years? Five? Put a time on it and then say, “This is what I am doing in Paris.” 

You need to construct a narrative. You need to be able to say something like, “I am living in Paris with my boyfriend but I only plan to stay here three years, and I will visit my family every year for two weeks.” Or you could say, “I am living in Paris because I prefer the pain of France to the pain of America, especially the delicate little pastries.” 

There are various reasons to be someplace. They don’t all have to be well-thought-out. You could say, “I like the air in Paris and for that reason I intend to remain, at least until the air in America improves.” Or you could say, “I am only here for an adventure; my home is in America, where my family and friends are, and where I grew up, and I intend to return there before the decade is out.” 

Do you see what I mean? You need a mission statement, as it were, so you can explain yourself to yourself and to others. Here are some other possibilities: “I am enjoying Paris, but since I cannot work here, I do not plan to stay indefinitely.” Or, “I am going to return to America for an education in international relations, after which I hope to return to Paris as a special attaché to the diplomatic corps.” Or, “I plan to stay here and study, raise a family, marry my boyfriend, and become a French citizen.” 

I came to San Francisco on a whim and stayed for the air and the beer. 

Perhaps Paris is for you like one of those things one must do before dying. If so, when you have done it, you will have to figure out what to do next. That can be a tough one if doing the next thing involves leaving the boyfriend. But that’s the way life goes. (That sounds at least a little French, doesn’t it?)

 

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 .