Finalement...à la fin...


Sunrise view of Argenton rooftops from my back door. Every new day had its challenges.
In the final analysis it was a "triple A" experience:  adventure, adaptation and, especially, the art.

I'm leaving France after a year and a half and moving back to the U.S. to re-settle in a less lonely, less rural,  larger town where I'll be less culturally and language-challenged, and have more accessibility  to friends, grandson and activities.  However, I don't for a minute regret what I have learned, done, experienced or spent here, and I shall deeply miss the charm and beauty of France when I return to the banality of the U.S.  I'll also miss living in a country where the public good is considered and matters, where health care coverage is a given, where gun-toting isn't considered a "right",  and where quality of life carries more weight than capitalism.  Sadly, however, both countries bear the burden and wear the stain of bigotry and intolerance for "the other", and France has as many social and political issues as does every other country.  It is not nirvana here, and it was much more reality than "living the dream".  Nevertheless...

The adventure was superb. I drove and traveled by train through so much of France, visited countless hamlets, villages, towns and cities and got lost on so many rural roads -- much of which I've documented elsewhere in this blog. I've spent hours in the countryside, along rivers, at lakes and ponds, at the Atlantic and on the Mediterranean, in gardens, fields and farms and in ancient ruins.  I've been to fairs and concerts and expositions and historical sites that amazed and touched me.  Paris became an extraordinarily ordinary day trip and I was able to use it as a base for traveling elsewhere internationally.

I've learned so much about the country, its culture and customs (much more than I'd known from having just come here numerous times as a tourist),  the language, and its people. I've made many acquaintances and a few friends.  In chasing after the French heritage I had been falsely taught was mine, I found the France that really is.

Indeed, every day was an adventure: I woke up each morning slightly (or more) apprehensive about what I needed to do or where I wanted to go, and went to bed each night at least relieved or at best proud that I had overcome my fears and misgivings and had accomplished something new and different.    However, when the adventure came to an end, there just wasn't enough to keep me engaged and moving to a larger French city wouldn't have addressed all the issues. It was time to go.

Adaptation isn't easy. Perhaps first and foremost, I learned what it takes to be an immigrant. Even though I spoke French fairly well and had some familiarity with and appreciation for the country and its culture, and I didn't have to work or raise a family or run a household, daily life was fraught with challenges.  As an immigrant, everything is either slightly or significantly different from that which is familiar, and I started with nothing and did it alone. I had to learn the systems, logistics, and always new vocabulary for, for example, setting up a bank account (getting money out of U.S. brokerage accounts was a nightmare), renting a house (a truly wonderful place in Argenton-sur-Creuse), buying a car and insurance and having car maintenance done, buying appliances (they don't come with the rental) and furniture and household necessities and shopping for food and going to the doctor and getting prescriptions filled and...!  I had to establish legal residency and get national health insurance (thank goodness it was available). France may well be the most frustratingly bureaucratic country in the world, and every step involved repeating steps already taken.  But, à la fin, I'd created a home for myself.






It was, though, the art that captured and captivated me, and will forever remain a part of me.  From visiting museums and expositions and churches...
Medieval frescoes (art on wet plaster) in crypt of church in Gargilesse
 (village where 19th c female writer George Sand last lived)

Murals by late Bolivian artist (but longtime French resident) Jorge Carrasco, church in Le Menoux, outside Argenton.
...to taking countless photographs of the charming villages and exquisitely lit "paysages" (rural landscapes)...
Collonges la Rouge

 ...to following in the footsteps of 12th c. Queen of England and France Eleanor (Alinor) of Aquitaine...
 and 19th c French female writer George Sand (and even stumbling upon a Joan of Arc site)...to exploring the length and breadth of the "Valley of the Painters" in which I lived, to having a brief and unpleasant personal relationship with one such painter... à la fin, it was all excellent.

I profited from all those experiences and from all my teachers, especially my painting instructor Janette and my drawing coach Glyn and dear drawing "mates" in our La Souterraine group.  We've decided to call my sojourn, "lived in France for a year and a half to study art" -- which pretty much turned out to be the truth.
We're actually a much bigger group, but these are the folks who went out for coffee one time. Foreground with cap, our instructor, Glyn; then clockwise from his left: Sally, Margaret, Pat, Janet, me (what is that expression?!), Hugh, Hazel.  Thanks to Lilieth for the picture!


I learned how Monet painted here and stood at the scene...
Uh, this is a photograph, not a painting!
I learned how to understand art in nature, both through the colors Peter helped me see and in Christine's French writing workshops.  I learned how to draw, vastly improved my acrylic painting techniques, tried oils with Madeleine, started portraiture and learned how to use my hand and arm as well as my eyes.

"Mussels" (acrylics on board; main accomplishments: the color blending and surface textures)
"Au bord de la Creuse" (acrylic on canvas, plein air, Fresselines). Followed along with instructor and copied what he was doing, so while it came out well, I didn't feel I'd learned much. More like painting by numbers.
"Karen's Hot Chocolate" (acrylics on board; main accomplishments: seeing the colors in the porcelain and
replicating the liquid and whipped cream textures)
You wouldn't believe how many colors are actually in this deceptively limited-appearing palette!

"Water pump in the snow"(acrylics on canvas, Les Grands-Chezeaux; main accomplishments: you can't tell the difference between my photograph and my painting, and it's not black-and-white; the colors are subtle, but they're there!) 

"Hibiscus"(oil on canvas, Roussines; love how oils blend, don't like the smell or mess!)
"Moroccan spices" (acrylics on board; main accomplishment: I was going for vibrant colors and finally nailed it --though they don't show as well in this photograph as they do in the actual painting.)
Teacher said this one good enough to sell!

"Terry" (acrylics on board; main accomplishments: skin tones, eyes/glasses, and the hat. Mouths are so hard!)
There is still much to learn and many more drawings and paintings to do.

Living in central rural France was a gift I gave my soul.  I think Gary would have been proud.  I know I am.  There was always something to learn, experience, appreciate -- and in the distance, if  you looked hard enough, there was always a château, that marvelous bit of French fantasy that never failed to draw me in and make me smile.

Au revoir.
***

Comments

  1. I am looking forward to having you back in this area - but I am a bit sorry you are leaving France! I love this post and the photos of your home bring back such wonderful, and interesting, memories. Your art is magnificent, you have blossomed in that area. I'm sure it will continue to be a great part of your upcoming life. I have an artist girlfriend I'll introduce you to - like you, art for her is really where it's at. Your photography has charmed me throughout your blog, and I enjoy going back thru and reminiscing with you. Much love to you. See you soon. Kj

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  2. A brief encounter in the great scheme of things. I admired your tenacity, bravery, courage and above all your vivacious spirit. I wish you well for your life back in your homeland.
    Au revoir Paulette.
    Bisous x x
    Janet Cook from the library art group

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  3. I am more than impressed with several of your art works. What will you do with them when leaving? Isn't it wonderful to continue adding experiences, master challenges and develop and expand skills in yourself at any age? I'm not jealous Thanks for sharing the adventures and little mysteries you explored in France over the past months. Seems that France is now another launching platform for continued adventures.

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  4. Ah, Paulette! I now how hard it is to start over, and in another country! (first, California for me, then Adams County...LOL...foreign places!) But, what an adventure! Always worth it, and retrospect will enhance those memories, believe me. I was so glad to re-connect with you in Gettysburg, and am pleased top hear that you will be in Frederick - not so far away. I am staying here in the farmhouse, with my son, so you are always welcome. Looking forward to some good visits, telling our stories. Safe travels!

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  5. Bravo pour ta belle expérience d'immersion française ! Tu es également une belle artiste chère Paulette ! See you in Fredericke... Xo

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  6. I always enjoy reading about your adventures, be it in Europe or Africa. Although you felt that you didn't know French as well as you would have liked, I am sure you got by well enough. I think no matter what country where one might take up residence, it probably means that you are always somewhat of an outsider. I look forward to your return and getting together.

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  7. I have tried to make a comment three times unsuccessfully. So either you get nothing or three comments. I always enjoy reading about your adventures, be it Europe or Africa. I look forward to seeing you in Frederick upon your return and catching up. Have a safe trip home.

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