For whatever reason, I awoke at 1 am because I was too hot. So I opened the window and let the freezing air seep in for the rest of the night as I went back to my sleep. When I awoke at 7 am, it was for real and went through my daily routines. I love my slow morning coffee. While I savored it along with part of a leftover baguette from yesterday, I enjoyed something new today that eventually did not amount to a whole lot, snow. I pretty much hoped that I might see Paris in the snow while I was here. It doesn’t have much of a reputation for it, mostly light amounts. That is the way it was today.
At 10:30 am I went downstairs for my first French lesson. I truly mean that. It was my first French lesson, ever. Throughout all of my art history I confess that I have avoided it, tried very limited phrases, and learned the correct pronunciation of artist’s names. There have more than a few terms I have learned along the way; trompe-l’œil comes to mind. I really did not know what to expect but I was certainly prepared to make it clearly known that I knew NOTHING. I pretty much expected something like: This is a cat, where is the bathroom? I want that éclair see voo play (misspelled this one on purpose), or perhaps the difference between latte and café au lait? No, no, no…her approach was immersion, trial by fire, no translation, 100% conversation, and lots of gesturing, role playing, and pictograms.
The others in the class could converse! If they did not understand, well they sure could fake it a lot better than I could. I’m thinking that I am in an adverse placement. I’m thinking I should master the phrasebooks before I even start with this. I’m thinking I suck at this. Should I even be taking this class? At the end of class, 2.5 hours later, it was finally the end of class. Two of my classmates approached me and asked if I would like to have a synopsis of the conversations. I could tell that one was a discussion about the feminine and the masculine but apparently in went deeper and more opinionated that what I got out of it. Another discussion revolved around the yellow vest protests and I at least during class, I could determine that was the subject. These two classmates were offering positive feedback and actually encouraging me to stick with it. So, these two classmates, one a music scholar working on a dissertation, and another, a composer, and I went to lunch across the river at a nice restaurant. I ordered from the complete meal section and ended up eating more in one meal than I generally have in a day. I will say it was expertly prepared and delicious.
I came back to the studio to work; however, the fullness of the meal caught up with me, I reclined on the bed, and awoke for my 3rd time in one day an hour and a half later. At this point, I’m calling it a day after writing this blog.
I’ve also been reflecting on a short essay written by the late Mary Oliver entitled “Of Power and Time.” At some point I think all artists know what she is talking about. Creative work needs solitude. Within ourselves we have three identities: the child that we once were, the social self that demands consistency and routine, and lastly the third self, which shuts out all that is necessary to create. She concludes by saying that the regretful people are the ones who felt the call to creative work, and did not give it their power or time. The sabbaticals and residencies are in some ways artificial ways to escape the disruption of the social/daily lives. From experience, I understand the luxury. I understand the transition out of normalcy and the transition back into it. One of the challenges of the teacher/artist is to find ways to maintain the newfound/transformed self that both the artist and the academic community support and desire from the sabbatical process.
So today was a very different day. I took the risk with the French class and I think I learned something. Where else would I have the opportunity to learn from such a fluent native speaker? I met a couple of residents from other parts of the world. I had a great meal. It snowed in Paris.