Finalement...à la fin...
|Sunrise view of Argenton rooftops from my back door. Every new day had its challenges.
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, ancient ruins, museums and historic houses and châteaux. 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.
|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.
|Collonges la Rouge
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.
I learned how Monet painted here and stood at the scene...
|Uh, this is a photograph, not a painting!
|"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!)
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.