Thursday, May 17, 2018

Rising and falling like breath

"What is built up, what is torn down, what remains," I say to describe what interests me the most in my work. Patina. In the immediate, on the surface and in ourselves. Save that there is no work. I am not writing and these are the few photos taken with my new camera which was bought with such hope in my wings. I am too tired from my day job to create. I cannot find the words, as much as I would like to, and that makes me very nervous. Pacing-like. Save that life is not always simple, there is light always too amidst the shadows that ache, and so I can throw like a flare against the sky, four words:

I have met someone.

Yes. I know you are happy for me. I can feel some of you clapping your hands, or raising them to your lips in little prayer, an automatic gesture. And even in the knowing of that, I am blessed.

Because here is the thing. Even when love comes all its beauty beyond divine...I now know that my own well-being is up to me. I cannot only be alive within another's arms, even if I feel the comfort with a recognition that makes me cry. He is. And he is beautiful.  But it is for me to find my way forward. With him, without him. Or together. On we go, with what we build up, what we tear down, what remains. It is so complex and yet so simple. Rising and falling like a breath.




Let me know how you are. I miss you.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Room for Joy

It is funny the moments that stand out, illuminated, after all is said and done. Sometimes, often with me, the smaller they seemed, the deeper that I feel them.

I woke up on the Christmas tree farm in a jet-lag haze, emotional to be once again in that bed that had held me during the most difficult of times. In lifting the blinds (I have to stand on the chair to make them stick, wobbly), I saw frost on the grass, orange early sun glistening and my Sister's car churning to warm up under a Michigan winter.

So, I hadn't yet missed her, she still hadn't left to teach her classes. She works so very hard, Robin. My Dad would have been so proud. I am too.

The staircase in the farmhouse is steep and so I gripped onto the polished wood railing while running down the stairs to try and catch her in my ski-socks feet. Through the living room, past Sweetie and Lucy, the dogs that I am so delighted to see again (and relieved, for neither are spring chickens), sliding across the kitchen floor and with a bang of the screen door behind me, I catch her. She looks at me with surprise.

"Have a great day!! I love you Sister!!" She is already getting into the car, she has to go but she is smiling and shouting back to me quick wishes in return. I know that she is really happy that I am home. And because my love for her is over-flowing and I want to make her laugh, or maybe because it is really, really cold out and I am in my pyjamas, I start to bounce around like I am on a pogo stick. Boing, boing, boing, boing. Hair flying, my breath in tendrils in the air as I am laughing. And then she has driven off to start her day.

I have countless such examples in my head, my heart, from my visit to see my beautiful family.

You know, I don't want to say something along the lines of, "this love is always there,"  - even though it is - because I struggle too. And it is to the motion of that struggle -  the flip side of the coin of my bouncing - that I want to say, "wait. No really, wait." For now back in France, even newly returned from being so loved, I have woken up quite differently, twice in tears this week alone with exhaustion from my current job and longing for the creativity that makes me sing loud songs of freedom. I look at the professional camera body that I bought in the States that I haven't yet touched - the biggest purchase of my life - with something edging towards bitterness, for which I sound the alarms.

"Wait. No really, wait." Because, can I be brave enough to turn the question that has been burning inside me into a statement? This one, the main theme calling to me...

It doesn't have to be this hard. 

Since I decided to try and stay in France, I have experienced much, little of it simple. "You are a warrior, " someone said to me recently. It isn't the first time I have been told so. But I don't wish to be a warrior anymore. I lay down my arms.

I had to go back to the old house the other day, my Ex welcomed me smilingly. He has grown so much in his new relationship, it is quite something to see. It was shocking when he opened the gate, for it was the Dday of pruning both the massive olive and magnolia trees that shadowed over our lives for years. A mountain of twisted branches and blackened olives slippery underfoot. Kipling, my crazy amazing dog that I had not seen since last September (we won't go into that now) covered me with kisses. And he is not the kissing kind.

There was light, and there was...there for joy.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Behind Vincent's garden

I needed fortification. Not only of a safe place but also a bit of strength to open up my lungs within that solid structure. And so I listened to my instinct, that voice ever whispering with the best of intentions, and despite my physical fatigue, hopped on the bus to St. Rémy. 

I have an odd relationship now with this village that is not really a village. I can both sense the potential of a shadow future for me there extending outwards, while well aware of the phantoms of the past, even if they are along the lines of Casper the Friendly Ghost. So it felt, as I slid into the booth at the Café Tabac, having been welcomed by the owner with his steely memory and smile; for once, I had been a fairly regular customer. 

It was the first time eating there on my own, and as it was cold with the Mistral insistent, I splurged on the gigot d'agneau served with a separate terrine of potatoes dauphinoise. A small pitcher of red. All for warmth. I was served two slivers cut off from the copious cheese board while waiting for my dishes to arrive, a little nod of recognition that did not go unnoticed by the couple in direct proximity to my left. 

We started talking. It is one of the things that I am most proud of these days, in this new life, that now, apparently, I can converse easily with anyone (or perhaps it is not so new but a remembering for my Mom says that when I was little I found new buddies wherever I went.) They unveiled their story. Friends (but with a palpable tension hinting otherwise), they were close as their respective others had left them for the respective other...of the other, after many years of marriage. And so they had banded together, at first in their grief and now in something still to be defined. She, with died orange hair and a leopard print coat and he, dignified in cashmere covering a sharp wit, made an odd couple. But a connection is a connection, not to be denied.

Mine is with nature. 

Filled up on conversation, I headed out into the cold, only slightly wondering why I had chosen this day of all to walk. But the heart needs what it needs. Out to Vincent's garden I went, to the asylum that fills me with peace each time that I visit. I left the sidewalk to cut through the olive groves that he had painted and over to the paths poking fingers extended into the forest of the Alpilles. I felt linked to him in my need to drink in the vibrancy present, for me of a burgeoning spring, for him of an interior autumn. For both of us, certain storms played out to greater and lesser degrees amidst the contrast of a landscape beauty filled. 

I walked until I could only hear breathing - mine and that of the trees. 

Standing still in a golden light, a gift always, I saw myself again, seated at the Café Tabac. And next to that Heather, I saw the Heather of only a few years before settled in next to my ex. She was listening. Not talking. She was pretty and interesting but silent as the conversation flowed around her. So different from the Heather of today, who had provoked as well as consoled, and yet with the same foundations. But everything has changed. I had written during that lunch in my journal, "I am redrawing the map of my heart." 

Behind Vincent's garden, standing on land that I had walked many times, I saw a territory familiar, a fortification of the oldest stone, and yet one full of promise. As with my tortured painter friend, despite the challenges present, I am still able to see the possibilities of hope in its many-colored hue.


I walked back to town filled with knowing, one that I carry with me now, wherever I go.

With Love and Gratitude, always,

PS. I know that so many of you wish me well, I feel it. So a bit of good news to share...I am taking the plane to Michigan next week to be with my family. I am thrilled...

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The dating pool

You might have guessed.

But just in case you haven't, I will admit it. I am starting to date again.

I know.

I signed up for a site here called "Adopt un Mec" (yes, adopt a guy) where the woman gets to be proactive, but still...all of my insecurities are coming back up. Popping like popcorn and I definitely feel on the fire. Tears have fallen. But there have been moments of fine delight too.

Last Sunday, it was warm enough for my date and I to have a glass of wine in the sun on a café terrace. We would talk and then hold each others gaze. It was within that look where words were not needed that inspired me to lean over and kiss him. He hadn't seen it coming. It was such a good kiss that an elderly man walking by stopped to say, "Bravo. c'était beau ça." We laughed and I shooed our observer away.

I have worked so hard to get here. Even if I am at times struggling mightily not to slip back into old patterns of being - and most certainly to risk in trusting again - I feel sparks of pride too. For I am trying, not always doing and I took over a year to just be with me. I didn't rush and as much as long to be held, I do not want to fall into anyone's arms either but act knowingly.

It is such a waltz of advance and retreat.

The most confusing element for me is disappearance. A contact will start to be established, launched by the man, and when "the mayonnaise starts to take hold" (as they say here), poof! No further sign of life. It has happened so much that I finally asked some of my guy friends about it and they responded that some people just want that reassurance, to know that a certain woman finds them interesting.

Admittedly, I stumble too and patience has never been my strong point. I can reveal far too much too soon if I am interested in someone but I also can blow my lips in frustration if it feels like making conversation is akin to pulling teeth. I have had far too many messages that say simply, "Comment ça va?" and I don't really know what to do with those, well-intentioned as they may be. There is a musician who has left me his phone number, I don't know why I haven't called him yet.

This is not completely new. I was seeing someone for three months and did not write about it here as he is an exceptionally private person. I can be too. It is a line that we all find, over and over again.

It feels strange and wonderful and vulnerable to be meeting men anew after so many, many years with my ex. And yet, oh how I love them. Men. There is the age issue. I have been contacted by a lot of younger men and conversely I am not 100% confident about sharing this 48 year body yet, especially with men my own age. Sometimes it feels like work to write in French when I don't want it to and long to just jot off a quick reply in my mother tongue. We shall see were this goes, if it even, finally, goes anywhere.

The question is: Can I do this and remain true to my own sweet self? I don't know yet...


But I wanted to share this, just in case you hadn't guessed. I am starting to date again.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Where the tears fell

My heart is not on my sleeve, it is in my eyes. I have the opposite of poker face, I cannot hide. And so yesterday, the tears fell at will; I let them fall.

At 1:15 I was still in my pyjamas, I hadn't done yoga and was staring at the sky. I shook myself and instinctively called Le Violette; Corinne answered. When she asked, "Ça va?" I replied, "No, I am tired and sad. I know it is late but can I come for lunch?" "Of course. We will wait for you." I can get ready very quickly these days, shower to makeup and dressed in ten minutes. I felt trembly in my hurried steps out the door, little under a big blue ahead.

I jokingly call Alex "my fiancée." It is a running gag that we share. Half-Sicilian, half-French, he wants to work in the States. I want to be sure that I can remain here. So we have decided that a wedding would solve our problems, this despite his being 25 (making me definitely old enough to be his mother). He is a ferocious flirt. When I walked into the restaurant, his face narrowed, "What is it? Love?" No, I shook my head. "I hate to see you like this," (it is rare that he is this serious) "I will punch whoever did this to you. Do you want me to do that?" I shook my head again but with a smile, my lips pursed tightly to hold back the tears.

They spilled over when Corinne gave me the bises and we agreed that this eclipse was shaking us from the inside out. Nicholas, her usually stoic husband, admitted that he wanted to throw a chair he was so full of unlikely emotions. When Alex delivered my plat du jour, I didn't care about being the crazy American crying over tandoori chicken. The room was full of regulars, as I am too. They had to come out, those crystal little drops and so they did.

It was the same later in the day, the record on repeat, when I took myself to the salon for a blowout, a once a month treat. Sabrina retracted from her smiling hello quickly. "Oh, vous avez un petit mine." It is slang. To have a sad expression. The opposite of having "un bon mine." "I can't talk or I will cry. I just came here..." "...pour changer les idées?" She finished my trailing sentence. Again, all I could do was nod but still the tears fell. All through the shampoo and often through closed eyes as I sat in her chair. She did a wonderful job. She always does. She doesn't mind if I don't talk. I tip.

Even though it is now the day of the eclipse, they are gone now, the tears, having run their course. I feel more solid and will do that yoga that was ignored in a bit. Root to rise, as they say. And the why of them? There was a reason. Some not so kind things had been said and it opened up that gaping yawn of questioning about the future and what am I doing? And where will I go? Yet again, it wasn't linear and it never ceases to surprise me what buttons can push others, hidden.

I am trying so hard to harbor trust that all will work out for the best. And to not knee-jerk look outwards for approval but within. I keep running up against the challenge of patience, as I want change to happen now. But I have to participate, to do the work on my end, both practical and dreaming in order to arrive. And all of this in my manner for there is none others that matter, no standards to be heeded. I forget that. Sitting in the sun at a café post lunch yesterday, I scribbled in my journal about a gesture that I had offered: "It came from the heart. I come from the heart...I come from the heart."

 *These photos are from a singular extraordinary door in the Marais. I could have stayed longer in the looking. May whatever doors feel closed in front of you open willingly under the bright light of this Blue Moon...

Thank you for being here,

Monday, January 22, 2018

What I learned in Paris

...My hunger is currently not for material goods but rather experiences and I can dine contentedly on the shifting beauty of a molten sky ahead. Le Bon Marché is no longer My Happy Place. It has been replaced by a wicker stool at a random streetside café. I watch and listen.

...that I am no longer intimidated or apologetic to meet an Instagram friend and to make that contact real; And that I agree with what said friend stated as we parted ways, champagne double-clinked, that I will make things good wherever I go. That I bring color to Paris makes me blush, however, still.

...that Art is a fraction of the biggest Dream made solid. And we might die without it (or perhaps we already are, yet fighting it). And I don't care how dramatic that sounds. The wings are there if only we let them lift.

...that I am strong enough in my sense of self to go to the Hotel Crillon as if I belong there. Because I do. And that isn't about money. Every seat at the bar was taken but I will return and try again. Even the oldest classics can be reborn.

...that I am not afraid of the rain.

...that I can introduce myself at an event at Déco Off as a writer and a photographer. Because, despite appearances, I am. I tend to forget.

...I saw that I can talk to anyone and engage with them as human to human, direct. And what a gift of existence that is. One that I have earned. I had to go all the way down to know how connected we are and how simply.

...I remembered again, again, again. That I am Open and that I am Stronger than I think. 

This trip was an invitation by my friends at Atelier Vime as part of their self-pronounced "Make Heather Robinson Great Again," program...which made me laugh so hard. It still does...I am a ready and willing recepient...thank you, friends.

And thank you for being here.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

These things called books

I am writing my life. 

Not literally, not yet at least, although I hope to get there at some point. But in the every day, in the choices I make, I sculpt the words of my existence. In stringing them together - as Shakespeare taught with consonants to punctuate meaning and with vowels to express emotion - I write.

(And on really good days, I create songs to sing.)

These things called books.

Last night at work, I wrote in my journal. I am definitely not supposed to be doing this, but I had the time and needed to be responsible to myself. My heart was hurting at the end of a budding relationship, my first attempted since leaving my ex. It ended abruptly. I felt betrayed in trust. I turned to words to understand. They told me what I already knew, reassured me, comforted me. 

These things called books are sometimes of the air, invisible but older than time. Destiny has a bad reputation, it feels so heavy, iron-bound and I am a believer in the errratic, ectsatic human mess (at least for me it is often a mess) of free will choosing. But there have also been connections made of late where words were not needed. I am remembering the beauty of friendship. It feels rather special to be able to feel someone far away without having to write a line, as if fated.

In my mind's eye, I can see my book starting to form (even if there are days, many, when I leave the pages loose lying around, I walk over them unnoticing on the floor). If I open the cream cover, I can nearly trace what is written on the dedication page with a pinky finger: "This is dedicated to...loving myself." And oh, that feels so vulnerable that at times that I am ashamed of it, I want to erase, erase, erase but I can't, for it is written in gold.

This breath, this moment, I just exhaled. I am here, I am here and I am writing my life.

And oh, the stories within.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Venetian blonde

I come from a family of redheads.

For quite some time, we were four. And yes, we would turn heads as we would bop down the street together, each of us adorned with their certain hue of ginger. You can almost hear the musical soundtrack accompaniment can't you? Bop, bop, bop, bop. There we went.

It put us apart this, made us slightly "other", reading special, save for schoolground torments and blissfully, I did not get too many of those. It was and is a defining part of who I am.

Even today at my current work in Avignon, I will gather the two - far, far younger than I - fellow creatures of the flame to proclaim us L'Équipe Roux and banter about facts that leave them blinking. "Do you know that redheads bleed more than other people? That we feel pain more accutely? That we actually have more Cro-Magnon in our genes than other people?" I can go on endlessly in this vein. Pride, swinging its invisible tail like a whip.

Of course, we rare birds have long been a matter of taste, hotly debated. We have been banished and burned or depicted as Mary, the height of magnificence. I remember one of the guides during an expedition in Mali, the one who drank hot sauce, telling me casually, "You know, because of your hair you are ugly. At least we all think so." And yet there were moments in Manhattan when the taxi drivers would shot out, "Yo, Nicole!" thinking I was a Kidman, a compliment if ever there was.

It was impossible to move around anonymously for so long because of the banner of my hair. But no longer.

You see, apparently, now, I am blonde. Un blonde vénitien. 

"What do you mean?" I snap at those who label me so, despite it being a statement always offered with admiration. "I am a redhead," I insist. If Team Red happens to be standing by when this happens, they tend to say nothing.

The white in my hair is copious and earned, the tips are indeed blond and I find that odd, this despite having seen my Mom's hair lighten too. I had a momentous (for me) lunch with my ex as of late and it was the first thing that he noticed. This change.

So you see, in everything that I have lost over this past year or so, it would seem that I have also lost this too - an incredibly important part of who I thought I was. It is all up for grabs these days (and seriously? I give up. I surrender). Because - and this is crucial to impart - I love my hair the way it is now. Strangers stop me on the street - as I bop in singular - with a compliment for its strange uniqueness.

That is me. Whoever, whatever that me might be.

I came to peace with this new definition utterly when I realized with a gusty laugh that my color - translated as Venetian Blonde - links me to Venice, one of the greatest gifts, one more than I could have imagined, during this time of losing. Something eternal gained. Now, wherever I go, I am literally living with my dream not only in my heart but on my head. The beauty in that lesson is not lost on me. Hope/trust is patient, waiting for me to remember her at any moment.