Even after all this time, after all the croissants and creative inspiration found here, after all that France has given me, there remains room for doubt. I’d say once a week I experience a cascade of misgivings about what the hell I’m doing cloistered in a medieval French town. It’s so tranquil and tucked away from it all which is part of the point of living here. But sometimes I wonder how long I can sustain an isolated existence. Perhaps peace and I are not meant to be in a long term relationship and are better suited for a one-year stand.
But the minute I start thinking this way the universe screams out my name. Last week I received a hand delivered invitation to a book launch. Then as I was seeking permission to use photos of a gallery for my blook, the owner invited us to another book launch. And despite being up to my eyeballs in editing I decided to shed the sweatpants and hit the local literary scene.
Friday night we ventured up to the library to see what Dominque Thibault’s work was all about. She was releasing the latest of her books, now numbering over 30. It turns out this diminutive lady is a world famous illustrator. The place was packed and no wonder, her art is breathtaking. The mayor offered his official thanks and praise and she spoke of her exodus from Paris many years ago, now embraced by a town that reveres her talent. I’d met her once before but I had no idea the depth and breadth of her genius. She is currently working on a project for the Dalai Lama, like the real Dalai Lama dude. She was very interested in my ‘work’ and we made plans to get together for drinks. Well now, that’s worth a little extra French study.
Then on Saturday night we made our way to La Galerie Spiralinthe.
As we arrived the street lamps were glowing and the Christmas lights strung overhead twinkled as local children marveled at the handmade toys in the window across the street. The debonair owner stood outside puffing on his ebony pipe as he chatted with Maxime, a Parisian artist. I lingered inhaling the sweet smell of pipe tobacco while listening to a lively French discussion of the deplorable commercialization of modern art.
Then, surrounded by paintings and objets d’art, the beauty of which I cannot find words to describe, we experienced the reading of a lifetime. The event was for the work of a Russian poet who lived in Paris in the 20’s. The book was introduced then his poems were brought to life. A woman stood at a music stand and began to speak. Her voice was a velvet, husky French feast and she was so impassioned by the words that the standing room only crowd was spellbound. Then Vladamir, a local artist, read the mournful poems in his native Russian (one of my favourite languages to listen to) and for some reason, as soon as he started to speak, Neil and I were both almost moved to tears. In fact it was one of the most moving experiences I’ve ever had.
After the reading we all continued on to the Café Des Arts to sip ice cold vodka in honour of Vladamir and his countryman. We sat and drank with these writers and painters while small children played under the tables. There was a tiny blond waif wearing miniature designer boots, an apple green wool coat with tiny lapels and a red beret. There was a Senegalese toddler who waddled into my lap and I sat admiring her braided hair while her beautifully unconcerned mother sipped her cocktail.
I’m telling you, it was magic. It was like opening the door to the life I’ve always wanted, as if it had been ready and waiting for me all this time. Of course it was also like opening a door to my unconscious. At Dominque’s book launch, after all the speeches had been made, she stood before me and smiled patiently. Very politely she told me she needed my chair. At first I was confused. There were plenty of empty chairs. But then I realized the whole time I’d been sitting smack in the middle of the signing table. Even a retired shrink can figure out that one.