Tuesday, June 12, 2012

take the time

Another week has gone by in the life of my France residency. I've been wrestling with all kinds of fear. Fear that time is going by too quickly and all the things I want to make will not get made while I am here.  And then, fear that I seem to care more about getting down to the beach every day than I do about making stuff. Where's my drive, my ambition? In the face of a clear blue sea, I have neither.

the beach at golfe-juan, 8 am
I realize that this residency is all about tapping into another well of work, but not today (pas aujourd'hui) . And not tomorrow either (et pas demain) (Sorry, but these are actually phrases I've learned from my French audio tapes.) Maybe next month, or at the end of the summer, or some other time that takes place in the future. I like the idea of letting go of the need to tap my well, the creative reserve.

 After a few days of waffling around last week, and feeling some guilt that I was working on my tan instead of ideas, I figured out that it is best to just stay in the moment. Open the mind and heart, that's all.
picasso in antibes
While I'm at the beach, it's another opportunity to observe the French culture in action. There is one thing I really love about the beaches around here: they are pretty packed with people, but they are very quiet. French people, in general, are very quiet compared to Americans.  That's not a big surprise. I notice the same thing at restaurants. The place where I live with the other artists-in-residence is right next door to a very busy and popular restaurant, and dinner service can easily go past 11 or 12 at night. But again, the patrons are so low-key that I often fall asleep to the sound of French voices, babbling so quietly that it almost sounds like a stream or a fountain. Very soothing.

rae and chris at cafe du coin
I love the pace of eating in a restaurant in France.  Lunch usually runs for 2 hours, easily. Dinner can go for 3- 4 hours. And the staff expects that pace, there is no hurry to flip your table, that's not how they clock it. As an American, the pace can be a little disconcerting at first, because we are used to very fast and attentive service, and if you have no idea what to expect, it can seem like you are being ignored. Mais non, that's not the case at all. You are being allowed to take your time, the biggest luxury and gift that you can ever be given.

When the residents all go out for dinner, we've started making it a game to see how French we can be with our eating habits.  To make a dinner last for 3+hours, you have to take a tiny bite of food, and then put your fork down while you chew.  When you are done chewing, you talk for a bit.  Then you take sip of wine and talk some more. Then, another small bite.  Food usually comes out pretty slowly too, and in courses, so you are not suddenly flooded with a big plate of food. We were very proud of ourselves last night: we were seated at 8:15 for a special dinner of bouillabaisse, and we walked out of there way past midnight, outlasting all the French people who were seated around the same time. I may not go home with any new work, but I will definitely go home with a new approach to how I'm serving Thanksgiving this year.

studio, neglected