Friday, January 22, 2016

Climbing the staircase - chez Anthony




 Living in France can warp your sense of time and what that does to a person.

Now,  I don't consider myself particularly ageist - I think I have said that before, perhaps recently even. But lately life has been kind to me by inviting friendships into my life with several women who are older than I am, at times considerably so. And I have to say that it has been eye-opening to say the least.

 I see where their knowledge has been accumulated and how perspectives have eventually been sharpened with patience and not bitterness. There is none of that competing elbowing that has driven me towards the more stable companionships of men in the past (well, dogs too but they don't quite merit nosing in here). Phenomenally, these women willingly share their wisdom without weight or preaching or directing. I haven't figured out how that magic trick is pulled off yet but that is just one more secret to look forward to unravelling, one day.

They are utterly themselves and can care openly, benevolently, without second guessing.

Each one is truly beautiful and none of them remotely look their age, although that seems to be more of a bonus of being true than a goal. Inside they are lit with personal cocktails stirred with undimmed curiosity. Imagine a glowing silk thread spinning outwards from the heart in several, specifically cast directions with a calm economy of action. Like that. And that form of willingness has been extended towards me in a way that doesn't judge what I know already or don't know. My experiences are not discarded but taken in, hopefully adding and not subtracting, another step to climb, moving onwards.

I feel incredibly fortunate and am listening. Ok and admittedly am often talking entirely too much. One of my friends reminded me that I am still young at 46; I tend to forget that.

Speaking of a curious nature and an appetite for progression, let's go back to Anthony and his partners wonderful renovation project. After a considerable amount of thought - let's say that of a child from days gone by having to select just one piece from an array of penny candy - I have decided that my very favorite feature of this mid-18th century property is its staircase. Unlike me (or the current me), it is ambitious. 

Well, the family who built it certainly was. For it was not enough that they had one of the grandest hôtel particuliers in this small but then still important village, they absolutely had to have the tallest one too. And so, an additional ceiling was built, raising the roof to a double height in the stairwell, one lined with open windows to catch the Provençal winds and topped with a delicately shaped plafond à la française. You can see very well what shape it is in now...we will have to wait together to see what it will become and the scaffolding is already in place. 

Can you see why this makes me dream? Come with me, let's start from the beginning. At the base of the stairs, I start in near darkness, my hand on the cool iron railing. I tilt my head up and place on foot above the other, drawn by the light, the space and wondering if following my will is endless and painless as well. Up I go, climbing the staircase, until I reach the last floor, then I shakily climb the wooden ladder, nearly vertical, to that extra space, the secret alcove where families inscribed their names after world wars and unforeseen triumphs (or trials, who knows). Turning at last, the world falls from just beyond my feet and I feel the sway of vertigo. There is nothing there and everything and so very much still to learn. I have gone as high as I can go for now...chaque choses en son temps...all in good time. 
















Let's keep going on...


Have a great weekend everyone and thank you for being here...





35 comments:

  1. A staircase with a story at the end! How delicious! Do you suppose it was Marcel Proust? No, of course not, I'm sure his penmanship was better .....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. From what I understand, Mr. Proust did not often wander out beyond his cork-lined rooms and certainly not to socialize with the likes of me!

      Delete
  2. As we've not met in person, am not sure I can call myself your friend, but at 74, I am older! These wonderful photos reinforced my great sadness: a 76 year old long time friend, we met working overseas decades ago, she just for a year - the longest she could sublet her NYC rent controlled apartment, one that took me in, over and over, before and after overseas assignments, she in her retirement a volunteer at the Met, an easy walk, the 42nd Street Library and more, is now going to have to leave NYC as the 6th floor walk up is no longer practical. And there is not even very modest affordable housing in the city for a healthy, bright, 76 year old who wants to age in place.

    So every beautiful photo was a reminder of what 2 grand adventurous old women, women who climbed to top of Mayan temples and then even deeper inside to see a jade death mask, can no longer do: climb the stairs home.

    Its easier for me as I've lived all around the world and moved from last assignment, Paris, France, to ground floor in a tropical garden Florida. My friend was born in and loves NYC and has to leave. Leave her home, city, culture.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I should note she is a retired NYC Public School teacher and was then a Peace Corps Volunteer at age 65,

      Delete
    2. Joan, we've not met either but I too can relate to the stairs. Last year, at 61 and 64 respectively we decided to grow olives instead of old. We purchased a home and grove on a Greek hillside. There are 28 stone steps from the parking lot to the house and many have asked if they hadn't been a concern (the silent 'at your age' lurking behind the comment). I've told them we will use the stairs to gage when it is time for our adventure to come to an end, right now they are better than our daily trips to the gym's Stairmaster and much more fun. Enjoyed your comment!

      Delete
    3. Joan, I have thought so much about this comment since I first read it. As a former NYer, I am also deeply saddened by the news of your friends enforced departure. And to think not too long ago I read an article in the NY Times saying that the population of those past retirement age has only gone up in Manhattan. No doubt, those are folks who had the wherewithal to buy their apartments in the past. New York City is her home...I find it heart-breaking and wonder if there is not an association that could help her find rent-stabilized housing? My Sister and I dumb-lucked into ours and it was such an amazing deal that it made it hard for us to leave NYC but we did. But how different for your friend.
      I don't know if this would be of help but look under the Affordable Senior Housing section at Columbia: http://worklife.columbia.edu/senior-housing
      And the Home Sharing program: http://www.nyfsc.org/home-sharing/
      Depending on her financial situation there is the Mitchell-Lama program:
      http://www1.nyc.gov/site/hpd/renters/mitchell-lama-rentals.page
      And a pdf that might be of interest:
      http://www.cidny.org/resources/HAFOP-Senior%20Housing%20Guide.pdf

      But then again, if she is your friend, she has probably already looked far beyond these alternatives. I hope so much that she is able to find a solution.

      xo
      H

      Delete
    4. Jackie, you are quite an adventurer, I think that in itself will keep you young at heart more than anything!

      Delete
    5. Heather, thank you beyond words.

      Jackie, In my late 50s, I was ballooning over the Sahara, my age being the last thing on my mind, when a very young couple from Germany asked " How long are you going to keep doing things like this?" As I had never thought of my life as a series of "things like this" they did have a point. But stopping, that had never occurred to me. As it was after quite a bumpy landing in the one rocky strip in the soft desert, I replied "Until my knees give out!" never thinking they ever would. After years more of those kinds of things on three continents, if I ever were to write a book, it might be titled " Until My Knees Gave Out" which has the advantage of putting it off "until." Happy olive growing to you!

      Delete
  3. While talking about your new friends, you almost describe White Tara! Rays of light come from her heart; they are/she is very healing. I'm so glad that you have the wisdom and warmth of these friendships! Your photos of Anthony's house are beautiful and a little haunting, non? I love the names and the play of light but it's all a little spooky to me! Perhaps mirroring the scariness of not always knowing where we are on the staircase? But you're right - we must keep climbing - luckily we have White Tara friends and family to help us along the way. Can't wait to see what lies ahead!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I realize it might seem scary, Sister. I almost published a series with a lot of sun in the photos (next time, I think) so as to banish away the "blue" theme but if you could see the house I think that you would see how wonderful the energy is...so calm, not in the least haunted and you know that I know haunted! :(

      I am absolutely crazy for your White Tara image and have changed the page on the Tibetan Buddhism pop-up altar that Mom gave me years ago (to take with us when we were traveling - and I did!) from Green Tara to White Tara....ah, such peacefulness...much needed! ;)

      Delete
  4. Ah to be 46 again. Ha! But I love that you not only have these older friends but you understand what you show with these photographs — that age, and its resulting patina, has a beauty all of its own.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think it is all relative Judith. I have been through some things in my 46 years that...

      Delete
  5. Oh, the stories that house could tell. The tucked away room at the top of the house - who climbed there and for what reason? The colours are full of the years.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know Lorrie but I think that Anthony is going to make that a special spot for la sieste!

      Delete
  6. Isn't it wonderful to see what mature age will bring at its best. And it will be a thrill to follow this neglected beauty revive

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is already coming along nicely Teresa Maria...photos for another day!

      Delete
  7. I AM SALIVATING!
    They will NOT cover the writing on the wall will they??
    Tell THEM NO!!!!THAT MUST STAY!
    XO

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well, they are reading these posts, so we shall see. Who cannot listen to a Contessa?

      Delete
  8. I love having friends from different generations. We all bring a different dimension to the friendships, and I treasure that!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I completely agree with you, Madame of the Blizzard!

      Delete
  9. A most evocative place - it embodies the beauty of age, and the potential of renewal is the enablement of the inner light.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lisa, you are another of my wise friends...also in such an ageless way. The last half of your phrase deserves a serious think or three. No, I didn't say drink! ;) xo

      Delete
  10. Phenomenal stairwell!!!- I have to go back a third time and look at the photos, what a beauty. I hope I might be one of your 'older friends,' having just turned 71 (hard for me to believe). I too,like you and some other readers, love having friends of different ages. I think age does have its benefits, hopefully along with more contentment, still lies a healthy curiosity and joie de vivre. Looking forward to every step you take in this grand project of Anthony's.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Judi...you know very well you are a dear friend!!! Although I am having a hard time believing that you are 71 too (although truly what does 71 look like anymore? Times have changed and as a Californian you must see that more than most). I truly think that friends can bring a lot to the table despite age differences. When I first moved to Manhattan I was "taken under wing" by a few people that were quite a bit older than myself and they really helped me to spread my wings.
      Bisous to you and Baby C.

      Delete
  11. Staircase is mysterious. Is someone or something waiting on top of the stairs? It's wonderful when neighbors are friendly.
    Lots of works to do.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Although one of the wonderful women that I had in mind lives down the street, I cast my net wide to the whole world over, Edgar! And it is worth it...

      Delete
  12. Fantastic photos Heather. My favourite one if the one with the little urn. I am intrigued by the little room that you have to reach via the ladder. In very old Maltese houses they had such rooms too - that were only accessible by a ladder. They call them birthing rooms and it's where mothers would go to give birth to their little ones. I am not sure why they would choose such a strange place to do so.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Loree, that is the craziest thing I have heard in a long time!!! How on earth could heavily pregnant women climb up ladders to give birth?? Wow. I wonder if it was to be able to breathe fresh sea air?

      Delete
  13. The staircase is beautiful...and so are you Heather. Reading over the comments I am not surprised how you offer suggestions for Joan's friend who has to move . I also remember how you came to my aid when I was so down. You are a ray of sunshine. I think your friend should let you add Heather 2016 on that wall!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your response touched me very much, Janey. Thank you and gros bisous!

      Delete
  14. Merci for the first part of your text about the age. I am 63, ha!ha! My building's elevator stops at the fifth floor, so I have to climb 17 steps every time to my sixth floor. Sometimes I am looking the staircase (usually when I carry groceries) and think of my old years to come...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maria, when I was your age, my classic old building in Paris had an elevator added on the back of the building. It stooped half way up each circular flight and not with a sliding door, but one you had to pull or push open, leaving you to balance on the edge of a wedge of step some feet away from the elevator. Doing it with groceries or suitcases was an art. Once one survived that there were 12 steps to landing and door to the apartment. I wish you the very best with your 17! PS I found being strategic helped, i.e., I shopped for kitty litter, bags of cat food, laundry detergent, soft drinks all on same day; if total wasn't enough for free delivery, I'd add a couple of cuts of freezable meat.

      Delete
    2. Many many thanks for your oh! so lovely reply! Yes! I have a cat too! He is black and white, his name is Pericles!

      Delete
  15. I love the yellow ladder. I paint interiors, sometimes with ladders for all that they evoke. Will be in Arles the first week of March if you would consider a walk around town with a former Californian, living in Paris for past 26 years, but about to move to south (Arles/Avignon,?).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, you are moving down to Provence? That is wonderful! Now is a very, very, very good time to invest in Arles...most likely as you are artist you are well aware of what is coming in the form of the Fondation Luma. Feel free to email me at robinsonheather (at) yahoo (dot) com if you would like more info about my guided walks or if you have questions about your pending move. :)

      Delete

Your responses are what makes this blog so special to me. I love hearing from you. Thank you for visiting!

* Comments left on posts two days after publication or more will be published after moderation. So not to worry, they will arrive and again, I appreciate them all so very much...Merci! *

If you prefer, feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com...