Monday, March 28, 2011

About that belonging thing...

I do wonder about how it is a person knows where s/he belongs.  Agnes Martin was born in Canada, lived in Manhattan, and eventually became part of her Taos surroundings. Gertrude Stein said that she liked working in France, in isolation, late at night, in a place where English was not generally spoken, so that her native language was "fresh" as she composed. Paul Bowles moved between New York and Paris for awhile, but spent fifty years in Morocco.

*******"to be in different states without a change is not a possibility"--- Charles Olson**********

We thought we had moved to France, definitivement ... We stayed, the last time, nearly two years. We had bought a house and a car and fresh sheets and a farm table. We knew that, in recent years,  it had become more difficult (legally speaking) to simply move away. But we felt prepared for that, and we had always dealt well with bureaucracies, we thought.  (The representative at the French Consulate on East 74th Street in New York told me that I had put together our visa applications so beautifully that "it is just as if my mother had done it").  And in the end, it wasn't the paperwork.  While I will always wonder how exactly to put a ribbon around the whole process and put it away on a shelf, I do think that it was, as Gertrude Stein might have written about it, that "we did belong visiting to France, but we did not belong living there." I do believe it was the difference between exclaiming how marvelous and beautiful, strange or crazy, lovely or inscrutable things were ... and then, living in that same place, running out of discoveries, yet not quite being at home there either.  Not belonging. Not able to quite reconcile our French and American selves.

So, we are no longer near the Atlantic Ocean or the Mediterranean. We never saw redwoods in France, but we did see poppies. We drink the occasional Bordeaux now, but we are more likely to drink Cabernet Sauvignon; it is our "local" wine.  And objects and landscapes and people and life are all still here for the knowing.  A West Coast skyline (this one from Carmel Valley) can look the same as the skies above Saint-Tropez:

And we can find a door-panel in Carmel, below, just as if it were actually found around a corner, on an old house, on a back street in Paris:

But, in France, we never would have found a street sign -- that leads to the sea -- with Charley's Maltese nick-name stencilled brazenly on one side:

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