Friday, July 6, 2012

Parfum d'Antan

Even after so many years of living in France, I can't help but be drawn to the parfum d'antan, that ephemeral feeling of the past, one often wafting around me like the scent trail left behind by a beautiful woman. My eye roves towards that sense of time worn, time known.

It is little wonder why I am so taken by such beauty. Only those that are born here seem to be oblivious to it. And yet I wonder if all of this past pulls me by the arms at times, holding me back. My Sister is visiting. One of the fascinating aspects of seeing family members after an absence is that the changes in them stand out as if drawn in bright colors. Robin has been working hard on herself and seems so less caught by the cobwebs of the past than before. She stands clear in the present with an open face towards the future.

So best then to appreciate the past with its style and substance without letting it take roots within. To linger in the parfum d'antan without getting caught under its spell...

Bon weekend!

PS. As I was about to hit publish, I had a lovely surprise from my friend Virginia in Melbourne. She is a talented and successful designer and yet shares her world generously in her incredible blog, Glamour Drops. Today's post involves me and our friendship. And while the French have taught me not to say thank you for a thank you, what she wrote is just too beautiful not to acknowledge. And it also is very similar in its way to what I have been pondering here. So far away and yet on the same wave-length. There is nothing old-fashioned about that. Friendship lives out of time, doesn't it?


  1. Dear Heather, I love the way you see the world, right down to the tiniest details.
    ox, Gina

    1. Thanks so much Gina. Have a wonderful weekend!!

  2. I am always impressed by the small details that you pick up and photograph so beautifully. Thanks for sharing. Bon weekend.

  3. Have a wonferful week-end with your sister
    Thank you for the beautiful photos.

    The doorway detail with the little heads...I want to sculpt some to make my own dorway.

  4. As I read today's post I was thinking that I don't recall how I found your blog nor when. But your blend of photography, your writing and the way you describe your world has made it a definite 'treat' in my life. Enjoy your weekend and time spent with loved ones~

    1. Jackie, thank you so much for this. Your kind and thoughtful comments are what blogging is all about!

  5. Did you get a new camera or is it the lighting? Your photos are beautiful.

    1. I got my current camera for Christmas and love it so much! But the lighting was especially lovely that day...

  6. Well if it isn't done to say thank you to a thank you, that means I shouldn't now say thank you to this thank you either! How tangled it all becomes. And correct or not, I shall be a rebel and say it, because your words, as ever, cut straight to the point and yet are works of beauty in their own right.

    Now onto these images! You have outdone yourself here. Is it the summer light, Remi's teaching, having your sister around or just practice? Because these simply jump off my screen with their sunny vibrancy. And a love of the past, together with an appreciation of the modern - I think that is the true definition of culture, is it not? Enjoy your sunny beautiful weekend with Robin. xx

    1. Hello my rebel friend! Yes, manners or la bonne manniere is awfully complicated here at times. Best to just say what you feel and make someone (me) happy! :) And hooray that you like these photos so much! Yes the gorgeous lighting helps and so does practice. Remi is slowly showing me things by pointing out what doesn't work because he knows that if he tries to tell me what to do, I will just do the opposite!!

      Hoping you had a lovely weekend...

  7. Maybe I have had too much wine...........I read it twice.You love the past as I do but your sister is forging ahead.............NOT LOVING THE PAST?What do you mean she has changed?Is she loving your little abode above the ground floor with shutters to fling open wide?I best go the photos as always..........detail, light,Ben,that CAFE place...............all GRAND!

    1. No, no--you probably had too much wine!! ;) Just that my Sister is forging ahead without being too trapped or tangled up in her past. Trust me, she loves these old stones as much as I do!
      Bon weekend ma chere Contessa!

  8. Dear Heather,

    It's good to read that your visit with your sister is going so splendidly (not that I'd expected some "Streetcar Named Desire", Sister-Blanche-Comes-to-Town scenario).

    As for life hereabouts? Herve's gone to Berlin for a few days, which is just as well, since this means that he doesn't have to witness My Hysteria over the business of hanging 568 pictures (for those who don't know, we've moved to a "new" house....and, yes, I took the time three days ago to COUNT all the damn things).

    For the most part, the business (concluded, FINALLY, late last night) has been a Fete Worse Than Death.

    ...But, around 11 last night, I finally finished up with hanging the kitchen (so to speak). The kitchen's about 20' by 30', with twelve foot ceilings.....enormous by any standards. The rear half is all floor-to-celing windows on three sides of the room, looking out on the old boxwood garden. Lighting is, to say the least, tricky. Basically, it's like hanging pictures in a greenhouse.

    That said?.....I got what I said, a while back, I wanted. Smack dab in the middle in the middle of the main wall is a brilliant (both in coloring and technique) French landscape by the California painter Ginny Crouch....with two of Remi's photographs (the jubilant boy in Mali and the white horses in front of Chappelle de St. Croix in Arles) on either side of it.

    ....and THAT will be the first thing we look at each morning when we get up and have our coffee. Do, please, tell Remi how beautiful and plain-out HAPPY these pictures of his are. As you may know, Herve spent most of his twenties (he graduated from college at age 17 and medical school/residency by age 23) working in Faso Burkina...establishing women's clinics in rural areas (is there an even minimally- urban area in Faso Burkina?...and I should admit that I invariably have to struggle to avoid calling the country "Faster Bikini").

    In any case, Herve (who works too hard and, like many doctors, occasionally needs to remind himself why he took up the profession to begin with) LOVES Remi's photograph of that exuberant boy in Mali. I gather that it's one of his two favorite things in this house of all too many things. Before we moved this past month (and having had the picture since we gave each other photographs by Remi for Christmas in Tours this past Winter), he kept it propped up on his desk. Now, it's found a "home", so to speak.

    thanks, again, to you and Remi.....and tell your sassy sister that she has to be Very Nice to you during her visit; you and Remi could, at a moment's notice, simply disappear and go off to visit Your Admiring Fan Club in North Carolina.

    Level Best as Ever,

    david Terry

    1. Good morning David! Yes, I passed on what you wrote to Remi and it really made him feel wonderful. Having worked for the press for so long, he is used to just putting his work out there with little to no feedback. That is why it was so wonderful having the gallery and selling the prints--it made his photographs live and created connections. So, this is wonderful and it makes me happy too. A little bit of us (for I went back to that village in Mali with Remi and the young boy, then a young adolescent introduced himself, of course he remembered Remi's kindness, it was amazing) is there with you both.

      As for my Sister, well, if anyone is going about Blanching it would be me, alas. Robin is a sweetheart through and through. Actually, Blanche was one of the roles that I dreamt the most about playing--it would have worked perfectly in my canon of "go crazy then die" roles.

      And no, I was less stunned by the size of your kitchen (it is the States after all) than the revelation of 568 works of art!!! I understand, you are an artist and all but isn't that a bit crazy? ;) Thank goodness the house is so big! And the neighborhood sounds like a true dream. The best of everything to be so close and yet so quiet. All of those big thoughts swirling around the neighborhood has to do a body good.

      Bisous et Bon Dimanche my friend,

      PS. Fete worse than Death is up there on my list of all time favorite David Terryisms.

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  10. P.S. I'll have just read "20' by 30' kitchen", and you're thinking what-the-hell-?....

    It is, however, that big. Hillsborough isn't Arles, Paris, New York, or any place where 20x30 feet would be regarded as an enormous apartment in and of itself.

    Just for the record?....Hillsborough (established in 1740 and wildly prosperous, as the colony/state's capital intil 1830)has been, for at least 150 years, a complete backwater, despite its being only 20 or so miles from Durham and Raleigh (which has been the state's capital since the 1830's). NOTHING of any note has happened here since the Civil War (which pretty-much bypassed the town). walmart, no mall, no "development"....just a grid of six 18th century streets, and a remarkable cluster of lovely, old, 18th-19th century houses and a big courthouse with a clock given by George III.

    There are, to be sure, a gaggle of writers here (one magazine recently ran an article on the town, titled "The Best Little Literary Town in the South"). Allan Gurganus & Lee Smith (Dolly Parton's favorite writer, among many other accomplishments) live in houses that are a stone's throw from my front porch. About twenty other well-known littry-names live hereabouts.

    All in all, it's a lovely place to live, and we all get to have bigass kitchens.

    Next week, I'm going to the rest-home to have lunch with the 85 year old, last-surviving member of the family who built this house in 1790 and had it until the 80's. She was born in the joint when the kitchen wasn't even attached to the rest of the house. I don't know which of us got the better deal; the fact remains that, when she was growing-up here, you may have had to go outdoors to visit the kitchen, but at least it was manned by two or three folks who were paid to do all the work there.


  11. What a deceptively simple and yet important reflection. Le parfum d'antan. I think that is part of what I miss about France, about Europe in general, about where I once grew up but left. The texture of what is worn and gracious and quiet in holding back it's secrets and stories, but if we listen, we imagine we can hear them all.

    Just as we hear our younger selves in our idealism, our possibilities, our variations that aging may attempt to hide but in fact, the years add to our interest as we stand in the present.

    If only this country understood that - while in this country. Perhaps we would destroy and degrade less, and respect more.

    1. Isn't that true as gold? And as for the idea of our younger selves, I just sent to Tish something that is vaguely tangential to that idea. We go in, we shout out, it rushes back in.

      Thanks for stopping by BLW, as always you give me something to chew on. :)

    2. Dear "BigLittleWolf",

      What a lovely, wise response.

      thank you very much for that,

      David Terry (who, it now seems, is indeed capable of writing a comment consisting of less than 4096 characters....)

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  12. I loved all your photos, the were beautiful. Thanks for sharing them.

  13. Hope you & your sister are relishing your marvellous time together.

    ~ Clare x

  14. Hey Miss Heather.....

    While your sister's visiting (and I gather that, unfortunately, this isn't something that can happen for you every week), do take the time to cluster around the computer and listen to this song again (my good guess is that you recall it from the late 80's).

    I was just listening to this song on a Very Olde mixtape given to me by a Vermont friend years ago at Middlebury (yes, I still have cassette tapes, in addition to about 1000 CD's.....a hopeless music-junkie if there ever was one)....and I thought of your posting, your sister's visit, etcetera.

    I just love (as much as I did when I was 24 and first heard this song) the business of the husband's fondly asking his wife to add a postscript to her long-overdue letter-to-a-longtime-friend....."Leroy says send a picture/Leroy says 'Hello'/Leroy says 'You keep on rockin', girl/Just keep on rockin'......"

    That's just....lovely. Brilliant songwriting.

    Go to:

    Best wishes for a continuedly fine visit with your sister,

    David Terry

  15. Hi Heather,

    Such a lovely image "the parfum d'antan, that ephemeral feeling of the past, one often wafting around me like the scent trail left behind by a beautiful woman." I love the well-worn details big and small in this post.

    Speaking of the past, David's referring to you as "Miss Heather" reminds me so much of the dad of my best friend in high school. He was from Georgia and used call me "Miss Judy" or "Judy gal." His self-proclaimed moniker was "the old grouch."

    And the past keeps following me. My young man in Morocco has been offline this week and I sorely miss him. This is manifest in my dreams where he appears as his three-year old self with bright yellow, banana curls bouncing around on his busy head.

    I am so glad you are having a good visit with your sister. And I loved Glamour Drops post about the gloves. How elegant and what a wonderful item to collect!

  16. Oh, Judith (for those who don't know?...Judith interviewed me quite patiently a few months ago)......the only reason I address Heather Robinson s "Miss Heather" is her continued obstinance in regard to partaking of the delights and spiritual joys of The Blessed Sacrament of Marriage as administered by the Succouring Prelates of Our One & Only True Mother Church.

    Come to think of it, though....neither have I.

    So, you can call me "Miss" anytime you please.

    Advisedly yours as ever,

    David Terry

    1. Ha!! And the new house sounds positively fabulous. I love the idea of all that art and that you have room for it all!


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