Monday, October 29, 2012

Unstuck in Time

Le Fort Saint-André - Villeneuve-lez-Avignon
Like Vonnegut's Billy Pilgrim, I have become  unstuck in time, randomly experiencing the events of my trip with no idea of what part I will visit or re-live next. I have taken this blog from Carmel's house in the Lot to Helene's house in Villeneuve-lez-Avignon in one giant leap, without a chronological transition. I have time traveled from the 21st century to the 13th, from 2012 to 1991, all in the blink of an eye. It is as if the mistral, which is blowing wildly today, has whisked me through time and space in an Alice in Wonderlandish fashion.
Le Chartreuse -Villeneuve-lez-Avignon

As I write, I feel as if I am looking out from the covers of a hand bound, medieval book written in  one of the small cells of Le Chartreuse, an ancient Carthusian monastery built by Pope Innocent IV in the late 1300s. Today it is a historical monument, and the 40 small monastic cells are reserved for writers and artists in residence. As fate would have it, I have my own little writing space in the  Chartreuse without going through the stiff, selection process! Our friend, Helene, lives inside the walls of the Chartreuse in what used to be a granary. It is a very narrow, deep, and high house, attached to the seven others that make up Rue des Greniers. Her bedroom looks out onto one of the gardens in the cloistered monastery, and mine looks out on Rue des Greniers with Fort Saint-André off to my left. The Fort was built in the 1200s to defend France from the forces of the invading Holy Roman Empire. You can feel the history in those walls, almost hear the frantic voices and the clinking of armor as the battles raged. At night, when no one is looking, I put on my paper knight's helmet and cardboard sword, and take my rightful place in Villeneuve as Duke Deek IV! Thus far I have not been wounded nor I have injured anyone else. I am considering starting the Order of Pacifist Knights Templar, an organization that could rewrite the history of the crusades! While we were living in France in the early 90s, we visited the fort with Joa and Quena. As any good parents would, we tried to make it a educational experience for our kids, sharing what we knew about the Middle Ages in the south of France. It backfired a bit with Quena, however. There are holes in the side of the rampart walls which, we explained, served as latrines for the soldiers stationed there. No plumbing, just a straight drop about 100 feet down to the earth below. Quena was scared half to death, and would not go anywhere near them, fearing that she would either contract the plague or fall many meters to a very unpleasant death on the stained rocks below. Another child marked for life by the good intentions of her parents.

A poem of a house
Marie & Helene "decompressing"
Villeneuve was one of Marie's favorite places in Provence. She loved Helene's house and the medieval village that surrounded it. It was here that she would come to "decompress" after her sketching workshops in La Coste or Pont St. Esprit. Her sketch to the left calls it "un vrai poeme la maison" (a true poem of a house). And it is, its pale blue door and shutters contrasting against the azure blue sky and verdant green of the vine shading the entryway. Marie would sit against the wall directly opposite Helene's house and sketch whatever caught her eye at the moment. There was so much color, so much history, so much beauty, it was hard to stop sketching! I apologize, Marie, these scans do  them no justice, but they do help tell the story.
"I want to feel it all, capture everything"
La Ferme de l'Avellan - Lacoste
And there is a story to tell. Being back in Provence again has unleashed a myriad of memories and nostalgic feelings. It was here in the early 90s that Marie wrote her first book, Les Quatres Saisons en Provence. It was here that the idea for her sketching workshops was conceived and where she fearlessly organized her first one in Lacoste, not knowing what to expect. Provence was the beginning of "un nouveau chemin" for Marie, one that changed her life and mine. The years pass, but the memories do not fade. They are sketched in my mind in permanent ink, moments captured spontaneously that are so vivid and colorful they can only get better. Like the soft blue shutters and doors of Provence, they only become warmer with age.

The mistral continues to blow relentlessly through the narrow streets of Le Chartreuse. In the distance I hear the bugle calling from the Fort Saint-André. That can only mean another attack in progress, time for Duke Deek to don his paper helmet and cardboard sword and try to pacify the combatants.
A duke's work is never done. Goodbye 21st century, the mistral has caught me once again. More later (I hope!)             Duke Deek IV

Whoa! Was that a white rabbit I just saw flying past me in this tunnel?


Faye said...

Hello Dick,

I am enjoying your colorful posts. This morning I have been transported from this gray, rainy day into a sunny world.

Happy trails to you... Faye

Quena said...

You can't tell a kid: "Hey fun fact: Everyone here died of the plague!" followed by the statement:"Hey sit on the toilette so I can take a picture!" I still have nightmares.

Fran said...

Beautiful DD IV, have you thought about writing a book? Have you come across a book called 'This I know', you might resonate. Fx