We are ending our first month in Paris and, with plans to make a change next week (more on that later), maybe it’s time to take stock. What is it all about, living away? Why is the ex-pat life so appealing, especially to artists? Hemingway wrote wonderful stories about his Michigan childhood as an adult living in Paris. His sad and lovely Paris memoir was also written from the distance of time and place – he was in Cuba (or Tahoe?), any way, far from the City of Lights. It’s about getting perspective, but also freedom. Picasso couldn’t be Picasso in repressive Spain. In fact, there were more foreigners amongst the great modernist painters living in Paris in the first two decades of the 20th c. than Frenchmen, for much the same reason.
Strangely, we work so hard to build up a life, to root ourselves in a workplace and a community, to create the ties that bind us to family and friends, and then it is such a blessed relef to cut loose and head off. Being away we confront the Other. His ways of living, of eating, of talking, of buying and selling. His past.
We mostly admire what we see, and feel different from the Other. We are always thinking about that. So, we are also confronting ourselves.
It’s us, but we’re already a little different. We have different routines. I stay in bed in the morning and Alan reads to me while we sip coffee. We have finished an excellent history of Napoleon by Paul Johnson. More than ever we are learning everyday. Today, for example, I learned that restaurants are a French invention, one more gift to us of the French Revolution. How is it I didn’t know that? And little things – yesterday I learned to reboot my “Dartybox”. That was scary. So, this sense of constant challenge, of being slightly off all the time is both the challenge and reward of living away. Two more months will bring more adventures and more lessons learned, I hope.
Please come along.