Monday, July 26, 2010

Two Arenas and a Tormented Painter

I can't help wondering what it's like to live in a place where there's an ancient Roman arena right smack in the middle of the main thoroughfare.  Do you just get used to it like the corner newspaper box?

I'd think it would be pretty hard to ignore...

Les Arènes, Nîmes

Torero (bullfights are held in the Arènes also)
There's an amphitheater at Arles too. In the Middle Ages it became a fortress with a little town nestled instide, and a few towers were added...

 Here's the view from atop one of the towers.  That's the Rhone River in the distance.

 Longing for a place where he could work in serenity and also invite other artists to come join him, Vincent Van Gogh rented a house in Arles.  His most cherished dream was eventually to found a cultural center that would be a place of support and fellowship for artists. As you probably know, he was only able to stay in his beloved little house for about 18 months, during which time he created about 300 drawings and paintings before being forced to seek treatment at a mental hospital for his bouts of severe depression.

I visited the Fondation Vincent Van Gogh, which houses many touching works of all sorts --paintings, drawings, dioramas, photos-- created by other artists in homage to the painter who started out as a minister to the poor.

The sculpture at the entrance is entitled "Vincent Crucifié" by Louis Cane.

This lovely garden is part of the Espace Van Gogh.

Tomorrow, on to Bassy (near Mâcon) to meet my longtime cyberpal Daniel...

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Meeting for worship bilingue ... et le Musée du Désert

Connectivity has been problematic, but I'm online at least for moment so ... faut en profiter.  I'll have to upload photos later.

The Spirit breathed its presence into our bilingual meeting for worship here at the Maison Quaker in Congénies in the south of France.  (Trilingual, actually, if I take into account the crickets who gave nonstop vocal ministry the entire time!)

 We were Friends from Scotland, England, Ireland, New Zealand, and Philadelphia (moi, bien sûr !), gathered by Louise and Françoise of the Quakers Languedociens. Françoise, who lives just up the road, had invited us for a welcome, refreshing dip in her pool last evening.  Felt so good after dragging my heavy suitcase around Nîmes all day yesterday.

Themes that emerged from ministry ranged from a reminder to live in the eternal now, since the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist, to the words of  Teilhard de Chardin who reminded us that "Nous ne sommes pas des êtres humain vivant une expérience spirituelle mais des êtres spirituels vivant une expérience humaine." We are not human beings having a spiritual experience but rather spiritual beings having a human experience." Coffee and conversation followed.

  The garden at Congénies is bursting with greenery. Tall, narrow cypresses live side-by-side with short, silvery olive trees. Jacqueline is the jardinière and has been working for several years to tame the former weed heaven.

Friends-in-residence Deborah and David

Deborah and David are the current Friends in Residence, come all the way from New Zealand. Also staying the weekend are Susan and her lovely daughters from North Carolina.  They've been kind enough to share the food they brought with them, as I failed to take into account that the town épicerie would be closed on Sunday!

In the afternoon, Arthur generously gave of his time to drive Deborah, David and me to the Musée du Désert, about an hour away in Mialet, in the mountainous Cévennes.

The birthplace of the Camisard rebel who came to be known as Roland, the museum houses the largest collection of artifacts attesting to the period of religious persecution suffered by the Huguenots of the south from the time Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes until the Revolution. Those Protestants who were not won over either by money provided by the crown or by a sword to the throat went underground. A generation later, a bloody period of Camisard guerilla warfare was waged for about two years, followed by continued suppression during which the Protestants were again forced to practice their faith in secret.  Little pockets nestled between the mountains served as their places of worship where they could assemble to sing the psalms and hear their ministers' sermons, as look-outs kept watch. Men caught doing such things by the authorities were sent to the galleys...if they weren't hanged, burnt at the stake or broken on the wheel. The women were sent to prison. But as one of these steadfast believers declared, "Je ne changerai pas !" (I will not change !)

  On to Nîmes again tomorrow to hop a bus to Arles and see the haunts of the fou roux, Vincent van Gogh.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Le Festival d'Avignon

Très rapidement, because my battery quickly running down.
a preview of one of the a few of the characters

Avignon saute aux yeux, saute aux oreilles, s'anime, sautille, scintille pendant le Festival ! Costumed actors roam the streets all day long, handing you announcements of their performances. The outdoor cafés couldn't be more packed, and everyone in the boutiques and restaurants is super friendly.

A bientôt !

 More photos:

a wall plastered with announcements

Friday, July 16, 2010

Last Zumba before Paris

Went to what will be my last Zumba class for at least 2 ½ weeks…I return from France on a Wednesday. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll have recovered sufficiently from jet lag to go to Zumba Thursday evening. Said à bientôt to my teacher. à bientôt, l'espagnol too…getting ready to spend my time speaking en français.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hope (thanks, Emily)

Hope is the thing
hanging by a thread
from the mouth of an oil-caked bird

A thing with black feathers
bathed by loving hands
and returned to a purer sea

A tear riding a blue-green ripple
keeping her promise
to the tar-bruised beach