New Month, New Life? We're Packing! On Fait des Cartons!
Tuesday, August 01, 2017
"Let every belonging see the light" -- an epiphany I had while packing up my Mom's paintings. (photo of my Mom taken in Roussillon, around 2010)
"faire des cartons"
: to pack boxes
Click here for today's soundfile:
On fait des cartons mais, surtout, on se débarrasse de tout ce qui ne sert plus.
We are packing boxes but, especially, we are getting rid of what no longer serves.
A DAY IN A FRENCH LIFE
From here on out whatever we have in our home should be living! It doesn't have to have a heartbeat, but it should not be crammed under a bed, pushed to the back of a closet, or flung into the storage room--that horrible magnet for homeless items (and spiders and mice).
We have begun packing in anticipation for our move to La Ciotat. We've not yet signed the final papers, but we are so close we can taste it. Looking around our jam-packed cellier, I wonder if we can still taste what's in all those jars? Do I take the conserves with us? (Didn't I lug them here from the last move, 5 years ago? I lugged a lot of things here 5 years ago, and they haven't served since!).
Rule No 1, when you become hesitant during a packing session move on to another item. My eyes fix on my Mom's oil paintings. What are they doing in the storage room? OK. This morning you are going to gather all of Mama Jules's paintings and deal with them....
Mom's paintings are partout. In the guestroom, in the kitchen, in the entry--but mostly in the dusty storage area besides the pétanque court. I assign Jean-Marc the job of bringing all the toiles up to the house, and brace myself for the job I have been putting off for so long: Choosing which ones to keep.
The works are large and many of them are sticking together from the heat. A first wave of guilt sets in. Rule No 2: don't let emotions slow you down! I begin dusting off Mom's paintings, and soon realize the vacuum (with brush attachment) will work better. When the aspirateur runs out of charge, I remember an astuce from the artist herself....Taking the oil paintings outside, I lean them against a sturdy row of lavender and turn on the garden hose!
It's 32 degrees out (in the 80s) and the water feels good. But will it feel good to Mom's oil paintings? I just have to trust her (as I watch her, in my mind, cleaning all her artwork in her bikini--carefree and just a little bit destructrice. Focusing in on one of Mom's altered paintings, I now see how sabotage has its place in creation).
I leave Mom's oeuvres to dry in the sun, along with the laundry and all my pre-conceived notions. And when it's time to collect Mom's paintings and sort them by size, I have the chance to see her art for the first time in years.
Washing down those canvases a few droplets of water must have landed in my own eyes, clearing my vision in time to appreciate an artist's travail. I break Rule One and allow myself to linger on something I am supposed to be packing away....
By the way, in my new life I do not want to pack away anything!
"Everything in our next home will be alive!" I say to Jean-Marc, an innocent bystander who happens to be passing through during my epiphany. "Nothing should be stored away--dead in a corner, on a shelf, under the bed!"
"D'accord ma chérie," my husband says, pouring some ice tea before heading back out to pack up his wine cellar.
My eyes and my heart (Rule No. 2, broken!) pour over Mom's work. The dark jewel tones were never right for our farmhouse with its low ceilings and narrow rooms (preconceived notions!). Suddenly each painting is finding a home in our new place as I begin to picture this one in the kitchen, this one in our bedroom, this one in the entry....
A prolific painter at times, there are oil scenes on the back of boards, cardboard flaps, paper (Mom's even painted over the covers of magazines).... Looking closely I see a story of our vineyard life. From the laundry line to Smokey bounding through the vines, Mom has documented everything!
Jean-Marc is back for more iced tea (it takes gallons of thé glacé to pack boxes during a heatwave!). "Why don't you organize a vernissage? You could sell some of your Mom's paintings.
Sell them? The panic I felt earlier over which ones to keep... took a funny new twist: which ones to part with? As I mull over that question, I will try to stick to a new golden rule when we move in to our new house: No more storage. Let every belonging see the light!
(And if you don't long for it, don't keep it.)
faire des cartons = to pack boxes
le cellier = storeroom
partout = everywhere
la toile = painting (also cloth, linen canvas)
déstructrice = destructive
une astuce = handy tip, trick
un oeuvre = works (art)
un travail = work
d'accord, ma chérie = ok, my dear
le thé glace = iced tea
le vernissage = art exposition
T-Shirt I Don't Need Therapy I Just Need to Go to France
La Roche-Posay sunscreen - rated top by Consumer Reports
French Macaroons dish towels, whimsy for your kitchen
Harney & Sons black tea, Paris - change up your iced tea...
Some of Mom's painting are unfinished. "Just toss them all together and I will sand them down. It'll be a new canvas to work on!" Mom enthuses. (I'm glad I'm the one dealing with the artwork. Now to hide the sandpaper!)
Mom used Jean-Marc as her model for her "Tango" painting, below.
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety