February 25 Tuesday
Equipped with sunglasses to cover my still badly bruised eye, I visited the Henri Cartier Bresson Foundation in the Marais. This gallery or museum is exactly my cup of tea- just a few rooms to explore. The two exhibits of women photographers, Bresson’s wife, Martine Franck and Marie Bovo who lives in Marseille were stunning. Martine Franck photographed older artists believing the images might change ageism, that these faces would be seen as interesting, perhaps beautiful.
Marie Bovo used extended time exposure to film Marseille and it’s refuge camp at night: she finds beauty in the ordinary. I want the images to stay with me, to live inside me.
Perhaps, trying to recapture the past, I walked a few blocks to Camille’s. An old haunt of my daughter’s when she lived in Paris. On cold rainy days, we would find ourselves there in the late afternoon ordering snails, pate, a glass of wine.
Seated by the window, I enjoyed potage crème de celeriac and watched pedestrians along Rue Elzevir. Paris is home.
Like last year, I wrote during the quiet of late afternoon. Satisfying- today at least.
February 26 Wednesday.
Spent the morning researching my Irish grandmother. I jump from country to country. Why am I looking at her information while I’m in Paris? Overwhelmed by the subject, I jump back and forth: double consciousness of W.E.B. Dubois, the famine in Ireland.
I discovered some new information from the materials I brought with me about Nana, that is, Molly Daly. The County Roscommon 1901 Census indicated she lived with her grandmother, two uncles, and an older sister in a house that had just two windows and an outbuilding, probably an outhouse. Also, they didn’t own the land, as I thought, but rented it. I’ve asked the artists in residence here at the center if they knew of any books or journals that depict the lives of Irish women on small farms during the late 19th and early 20th century. No luck. They attribute this deficiency to the lack of education for the poor who, therefore, may have been illiterate. Yet, my grandmother went to the eighth grade in Ireland. Also, the census listed her grandmother and uncles as able to read and write.
Decided to have lunch around the corner at Au Port du Salut on Rue Saint-Jacques. There weren’t many customers, just two older white French men and a younger black man. At the end of the room was a piano. From the bit of eavesdropping I understood, it seems the younger man is a musician and they were discussing a gig, maybe at this restaurant.
Au Port du Salut
The room is partially underground, the windows looking out on the feet of passersbys. It reminded me of a jazz club or cave as they were once known on Rue de la Huchette that I visited when I was 21. The colors are the same, red, black, dark wooden beams. As I drank my coffee, I looked more closely at the photos on the walls: Serge Gainsbourg, Francoise Hardy, Barbara, French singers of another era.
I asked the waiter if they had visited? He answered yes, they had performed in this very room. Formidable!
Later, I saw Bela Tarr’s Satantango (Part 2), a Hungarian film in three parts, each two hours long, shot in black and white, and focusing on life in a poor village. The opening scene is close to 15 minutes long as the camera follows cows wandering around a muddy field. Although tedious, another long take, this of an older, overweight doctor watching and chronicling the movement of his neighbors, captivated me. Did I picture myself, writing, drinking, looking out the window?
From Bela Tarr’s film Satantango
Tonight another artists’ gathering, this time in the painter’s studio. Much of her work is located in the forests of Sweden where she feels more attuned to the landscape than Galway where she’s lived for 16 years. Another interesting discussion about place, it’s effect and the position from which it is observed. Satantango is also about a place “that has such people in it.”
I’m always looking for “place.” The place to write? The place to…? Is my longing to live on an island a desire for a place from which I can’t escape. A dilemma. A fantasy.