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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention


Chasing Matisse: The Book

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Matisse, France, Travel, Creativity, Adventure, Expatriates, Dreams, Reinvention

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January 8, 2003

A New Year

The diva stepped into the light, her bearing regal, her posture erect though not unbending. She wore a long lavender dress of rustling satin that flattered her blonde hair which was done up in a towering coiffure. The audience burst into applause before she gracefully bowed and began her song, a melodious and rich soprano trill.

It was 2 o'clock on New Year's Day, and we had chosen to set a cultural tone for our 2003 start on this adventure to find the creative life, to see ourselves and the world in new ways, to shake and rattle the lethargy in our systems. We rarely got ourselves to musical events at home, even though music commands my senses. It gives me energy. It relaxes me. It transforms my being as art is meant to do.

We sat in folding chairs of the Eglise Saint-Julien-Le-Pauvre, the oldest sanctuary in Paris (in use before the 6th Century, so claimed), and one of two Greek Melkite Catholic parishes, of which I'd never heard before. The lighting was subdued as Catherine Manandaza thrilled us through Mozart and Ave Maria, and the chamber orchestra of violin virtuosos (there were five and a viola) led by Alexandre Stajic flawlessly performed Vivaldi's Four Seasons. The music was divine, and the listening was seeing in our hearts and souls.

After the concert, our stomachs were grumbling. We walked over to the rue de la Huchette, and after much looking through windows, we chose Les Argonautes for its festive atmosphere-brightly colored lanterns and meat roasting before our eyes-for a very late lunch. Those Greeks know how to have a party. They gave us unglazed plates to crack on each other's heads and sparklers to play with along with a gargantuan salad with fresh feta and smoking grilled meats and prawns. It was touristy but fun.

We drifted back through the animated streets where we'd been a few days before-rue de Bussy, rue de Seine, rue de Mazarine, Saint Andre des Arts-to Jim's Holy Grail, the gallery where The Painting was. We studied it again, delighted by its color and composition. We chose a sidewalk table at Le Bistro Mazarin across the street for a coffee and dessert to gaze at the masterpiece. Rue Mazarine is quiet on this end, and the bistro holds a choice corner position. Couples stopped by as well as two groups of men who were obviously good friends and regulars. One of the men brought his little dog who sat in a chair between two people he didn't know. The proprietor came out in a suit to greet everyone, proud of his establishment. When we left, the fresh seafood cart was being unveiled for dinner.

Then we ambled back home to our little apartment, Ste. Croixe, which is a tasteful jewel. in the heart of the vibrant Marais (as opposed to our quiet street of Perche). It is a haven on our street that bustles with life constantly. There are more cafés and restaurants, nice boutiques of jewelry, clothing, shoes, paper, teas, and olive oils and less art galleries here. The location is prime for crossing the Seine to the Ile St. Louis and the Left Bank as well as the Right Bank. We have found the Marais to be an excellent location and a wonderful neighborhood to come home to. We have been happy here, and again, so pleased to have found the wonderful French Home Rentals. When dealing with all the problems of getting set up and settled, Michel Tessel and his staff have made our lives comfortable and well-placed. We climbed the stairs to our loft and cozy nest of beds.

The next day we left in two different directions for missions of our own. Jim headed back to Gallerie Daniel Besseiche and Pierre-Humbert's painting. He'd hoped to be able to meet and talk with Monsieur Humbert. He found that the artist died 10 years ago, but with a little luck in timing, met his widow, and we have another appointment with her. The glorious painting had sold for only $5,000, but Monsieur Humbert had made a living as a painter, and as is often the case with art and artists, his exhibition is causing a stir though he isn't here to enjoy it.

I felt compelled to go to the Jewish Museum to investigate my dream. Trying to explain to the man at the door what I wanted was a public task. He was behind a glass and his voice booming to me (and everyone else, a line of people) on a microphone. I was timidly trying to inquire about what was in the museum, if there was someone with whom I could speak about some historical questions about the Marais, trying not to sound like a nut-Madame Bubbette, the terrorist. Tres embarrassment. A man in the line asked me what I wanted, and I told him, going into a little of my dream about the children and what I thought it meant, and saying I wanted to know some history. I might sound crazy but wasn't (at least not today). He directed me to the Jewish Contemporary Documentation Center, saying I would find what I needed there.

I traipsed with conviction, Madame Bubbette, the private eye. Again, I was faced with a glass case and a man inside, explaining my predicament and truly sounding like la nut this time. He asked an older gentleman about his English speaking skills, which were few, and then a petite woman in jeans who told him to take me inside. She handed me a sheet of paper about the center, and I told her that what I needed was historical information about the Marais. Okay, and then I went through my fantastical litany again. She listened intently, then took me into the library and pulled out a thick book by Serge Klarsfeld, a memorial to the Jewish children the Nazis deported from France, page after page of children, tiny to big, who left never to return and many from our neighborhood. She said, "The children wanted something from you." I said yes I thought so, and I wondered if any specific incident like the one in my dream had occurred. Was it a specific quest they wanted or needed me to do or a general remembrance that they had been here and were cruelly killed? She took my address, so she could send me any other information that might help.

I was elated to find I was not la lunatic. But what does my dream mean? What do the wispy kites of children want from me?

posted by Beth on January 8, 2003 | View All Diary Entries

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