Saturday, September 16, 2017

Coming up for air



Hello. 

Well, the fact that I am starting to get search dog emails tells me that it is time to check in with this amazing community to explain the reason for my silence. And for those of you who reached out, please know that I am deeply, deeply moved by such gestures, especially in this time of transition. One where, admittedly, I have been wrestling with the chimera of loneliness quite a lot. 

I am in Avignon, la Cité des Pâpes, currently working a two-month contract that will continue through October. Such temporary contracts, or CDDs, are very common in France. They give the employer a means of "trying out" someone before committing to the far more binding permanent contract, the elusive CDI (which one needs in order to, say, buy a car on credit or rent an apartment). What this means for me is that I am on an island of seeming-security in the midst of a strong current. And it has been interesting to observe the ugly head of perfectionism rearing its head as a result. I have been pushing myself hard to advance - for there is much to learn - and judging myself harshly when I "fail." All of these modes of being are ones that I thought that I had left behind long ago, but they are apparently very old stories that still need to be brought to light. Hopefully, with kindness. 


There have been some gifts along the way, the most important of which is that my friend Anthony's Mom is renting me a beautiful studio (see above to understand how perfect this is) that I will be able to stay in if my contract is extended. My ex has been kind enough to let me store some of my possessions in the old house and helped me to move a few carefully chosen items to Avignon last week. That was a hard day. While I had long since made my peace with the end of our 15-year relationship and had disconnected from that beautiful home, saying au revoir to Kipling, whom I will no longer be seeing on a regular basis, was brutal. I am crying to think on it, and how much I miss him, so I will move on...

The idea all along was for me to purposefully not try to launch into a third career yet (nor have I, realistically, regained the self-confidence to start my own business but am getting there) but rather to get what my Sister and I used to call "a job-job" back in our acting days that would support me while I could continue to be creative, which is where my heart is and has always been. However, the reality is that I am too exhausted from working such long hours and so have not been able to keep that part of my spirit as active as I would like, save for the occasional short bursts on Instagram (@lostinarles). In time, my wish is that I will build up strength so that I can put down the words and take the photographs on a more regular basis. Or I will have to find another solution. I woke up this morning with a very clear thought in my head: "my life cannot be only this." In France, they call it "métro, boulot, dodo" or "commute, work, sleep" (then repeat). 


Last night was a rare evening off and I walked and walked the streets of Avignon. The light was splendid golden, that September sun fading creating long shadows as the crowds passed in silhouette. It is a city and I have again passed into anonymity, something long since forgotten after so many years of living in the Provençal village and Arles. I listened to jazz in front of the Palais des Pâpes, then wandered through the vernissage of an exhibition in the magnificent Palais de Roure, tenuously clutching my rosé in a plastic cup while watching the old families of this grand town air kiss. It was pleasant. Afterwards, I lit all the candles in my studio, put on some beautiful music and found myself staring off into space, thinking and letting the feelings come up of all that has changed, of all that is in motion. 

I am still coming up for air, rising and rising. And then sometimes falling back. Not drowned or flying but still here, breathing in my bones; filled with longing but also grateful. I am not sure what is next. But none of us do.


One step, then the next, then the next...

It is all we can do. With all that is going on in the world, I am hyper aware that this is just my story. But I feel how it essential it is to try and remain open to the beauty and the good. 


Thank you for being here,
With love from Avignon,
Heather


Sunday, August 13, 2017

48


Photo by Anthony Watson @ateliervime

I had wanted to compare. And look backwards to see where I had been a year ago. I was convinced that I was "better" then.

However, life is not linear, so why should I be?

You see, it was my birthday on Friday and now I am 48. Which seems like a fine age, actually.

I can almost hear the paper scrape of turning the page in my mind as I have imagined it so many times. And yet the truth is that I am not yet all the way there. Still no definite job, still living out of a suitcase, jumping from house to house. Emotionally moved on yes, thankfully, despite the occasional angry fires, although not getting to where I want to go in any aspect of practical life, no matter how hard I have insisted.

But that does not make me a failure. And in these past days, the word that has risen like a wave again and again is resilient. I am resilient.

I have not given up on my dreams even when it has been suggested - always with true kindness - that perhaps I am hurting myself to stay. And if I do have to cede that it is just not going to happen for me in France (money is running out), then I will take my hoping elsewhere.

There are certain people who are embarrassed for me that I have not found my way here yet, who have shuffled away without looking me in the eye. But I am not. I have seen how hard it is to make one's life alone as a foreigner in France, and most certainly as a woman without means.

My heart is still true. I am sticking to what I know in terms of beauty and creativity and love because it is what I believe in.

It has been an incredible year with strong experiences. I dared to take the plane to come back to see, then vowed to try and stay when I knew that my couple was indeed over. I know what it is like to be with a man who is not my ex and to feel deeply appreciated. I fell in love with a mysterious city. I nursed Ben through the end of his life and let him go with peace.

Still here. Resilient. "At 48? You are still a baby." I heard that the other day. And I agree. Not only because age is relevant (albeit often inconclusive) but because there is much in me that is in awe, that marvels at this life, just like a child. Just maybe - or not - with wiser eyes to see.



***
PS. I actually had a lovely birthday. I stuck to my tradition. Those of you who have been reading here for some time might remember that it is of seeing art. My friend Anthony had invited me over for drinks afterwards but when I arrived, it turned out to be for a candlelight dinner with several of his fascinating friends. Bellinis were served. I am acutely aware that in all important moments of this past year - from Christmas onwards - I have been under the protective wings of true friends and my incredible family. How grateful I am for them. And for you.

PPS. Curiosity did not kill the cat. :) Only after hitting "publish" did I go back to see where I was last year, after all. If you wondered the same, you can find out by clicking here.

 

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Intuition in the Palazzo Fortuny - Venice



Intuition has been a key guiding force in my life. The spark of hope, the air under my wings to take incredible risks, but also the fiery brush of warnings to be heeded. All mercurial.

As I have written, it is this not knowing but feeling that is deeply linked with my love for Venice. When I have absolutely no idea where I am going as I wander its canals, I listen for the voice inside that crisply orders, "Turn left." As nothing seems remotely "real," the whispers of my imagination are far more valued than reason as I Hansel and Gretel my way through a waking dream.

Such was my experience as I discovered the exhibition "Intuition" at the Palazzo Fortuny. And I literally stumbled upon it, its entrance barely marked along a small campo. Not knowing what was in store for me, I entered with my mind's eye open and was rewarded with what is most likely my very favorite presentation that I have seen anywhere in over thirty years of hunting art. And that means above the Picasso Late Works show at MoMa, the Lucian Freud retrospective at the Met, the controversial De Kooning, all of it. 

And why? Because of magic. I mean it.

But that implies that just as with its namesake, it is inexplicable. And so while I love to write about art, I can't here. You will hopefully just trust me along with the tears of mine that fell throughout my visit simply because I was so moved. As with all intuition, the beginning starts in darkness and so does the exhibition with a mysterious Basquiat standing as guardian before a forest of exceptionally rare menhir statues (largely found in France, these Neolithic creations are mans first large-scale representations of himself). 

Up from the depths that literally rise from a canal, we are transported into the instinctive worlds of creativity, rock crystal transmitters of dreams, romance and language before climbing up to the top floor where we are delivered into the light of a meditation room. There visitors are encouraged to make a clay ball and then sit in reflection on its weight and meaning. 

It is a transcendental path, finally. Perhaps that is why I was so moved; those rippling echoes reminded me of my own efforts and struggles too. And yet the imperfect beauty is overwhelming and ever-present.

There are works by far too many of artists who I adore to name...Cy Twombly, Kandinsky, Hans Hartung, Giacometti, Picasso, Beuys, Anish Kapoor...and even those "who wish to remain anonymous"! But it is their placement in the former home of Mario Fortuny that made me want to take up residence myself and never leave. For those of you in the design world, you will perhaps have a penny drop aha upon reading that "Intuition" was co-curated by Axel Vervoordt and the museum director Daniela Ferretti. I think that I would be quite happy there actually, and yes, finally the guards were obliged to shoo me out. I left with regret. But my intuition tells me, strongly, that I will return.

Once more, I want to walk through the rooms that felt like indirect reflections of a me; those that I am claiming as I find my way.






























Intuition
Until November 26th, 2017
Palazzo Fortuny
San Marco 3958
30124 Venice

Open 10am-6pm
Closed Tuesday
Price: 12 Euros

For more information about the exhibition, please click: Here.



*PS. I am (hopefully) back to regular commenting as Disqus did not seem to help those of you who were having problems after all. Feedback, please? Thank you. 

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Held in Beauty



I woke up this morning with questions popping in my mind like BB guns. Uncertainty, lack of clarity, fear rattlers. I am tired of them, my daily alarm clock.

But fortunately, I am taking care of Kipling at the moment, which necessitates a morning walk before my day becomes entirely solid. I donned the floppy hat, clicked on the leash, shut the gate with a heavy thwack, then turned in the opposite direction that I usually take. My feet having decided in advance of my still rollicking head.

It was late, the sun was already high; the wind had lifted but it was raspy as smoke. Perhaps it was instinctive to trace the tree line, hop-scotching between the whitened dirt path and the promising peace of shade. But it was also deeply reassuring to be under the wings of something so much bigger than I. Trees as tall as a house, backs straight yet arching skyward.

"I would like to be a tree," I thought. And somehow that did not seem lyrical or fantastical but the cool relief of a simpler truth. As Kipling would sniff, I would stop to listen. Not only to the brushing of branches but the piping birds hopesong and the ciglales rattling their summer thrum.

It arrived several times within those moments of seeming stillness that I actually felt uplifted by the life around me to the point of being held. In beauty. Or by it, so strongly that the edges of my skin dissolved. How different from a human embrace, given from one and received by another.

I felt only a coursing of love, so complete and expansive as to silence all questioning.

During the return, Kip and I passed the parking area where camper vans spread out like satellites. A man who resembled a late Picasso (the person, not the paintings) was seated hunched over his guitar and strummed out slowly the chords of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah." *

Under my breath as if half-consciously, I picked up the tune and sang lightly as I continued on.


*I chose this version as I remember crying very hard with tears of joy while watching it live for so many reasons.
Equality for all.
Thank you for being here,
Heather

 

Monday, July 17, 2017

What I don't know about Venice



I no longer want to hunch over my dreams, hands domed over them as if to keep the flame from going out. I want to spit them in an ark as if a dolphin fountain grinning. Or toss them to the admiring crowds as scatters of confetti. 

So I went back to Venice. 

I could not afford it. I couldn't afford not to. 

It is high season, during the Biennale. I was aware that I was pushing the circumstances. Yes, the crowds tripped over my feet unapologetically. The heat burned. My clothes hung heavily like weights. And some of the art was puzzlingly, mockingly bad. 

And yet. This dream cannot be tarnished just with a bit of brash and dust. So I walked and walked. At times nearly as if backwards slowly spooling out a thread so that I could eventually find my way back to who I am when not there. 

Because it is all that I do not know about Venice, and most likely never will, which calls me to celebrate without needing to understand.

Life.
Life.
Beauty.
Love.

Love.
































 

It was a very short visit but such a wonderful one, bringing joy to every corner of me. 

I have only begun to shift through the photos taken. I don't think that they are anything exceptional but I will share some nonetheless. This time I just wanted to remain open to take it all in without needing to go to that inside place that captures, something which seemed too similar to protecting my dreams rather than setting them free...


I have missed you all.
How is everyone? Please, do tell.
With Love from Provence,
Heather