|Payne Art and Paris Dreams||
I checked out "Paris Was Ours - Thirty-two Writers Reflect on the City of Light" by Penelope Rowlands (and 32 writers) from the library the other day. I couldn't put it down, reading it cover to cover - that is, until the last chapter. At that point I had to stop. I couldn't read the the last story, whatever that may be. I had to stop and reflect on what SHOULD have been the last chapter; My contribution to the reflections on the City of Light.
I'm very aware of being one of "les etrangers" in Paris. Mostly from my college experience living near the American University in the 7th., hanging with other students from all over the world, each of us bringing a part of our country and ourselves to our collective group. I ran around Paris feeling like I knew the city like the back of my hand (with my trusty Paris Par Arrondissement in the palm of my hand), but, at that tender age, never realizing the depths and layers of history the city had to offer.
After college, many years later, I began to immerse myself in french history. I read every history book I could find at the library, read Proust and Zola and Maupassant and everyone I could get my hands on. I studied the minds of Voltaire and Rousseau, read and re-read countless biographies, and know Napoleon as if I served in his Grand Armee. And then I turned my attention towards the Americans who loved Paris. I read Hemingway, Henry Miller, Edith Wharton, and yes, I even READ Gertrude Stein, among many others.
I became an endless bore to my family and friends spouting french phrases, facts, and generally claiming everything great in America is French in origin. But mostly I dreamed of becoming French. I collected all the (what I refer to as) "how-to" books. I looked for my "Inner French Girl" and tried to become "Impossibly French"
I walked through "Lost Paris" , "Quiet Corners of Paris" and "Literary Paris". When reading "Paris Was Ours" today I saw myself in every author's chapter. I had LIVED every one of those chapters. And the thing the authors had in common were that they are all etrangers seduced by the city of light. It's really true that once you've been to Paris you can't go home again. Paris changes a person. I've accepted the fact that I will never truly be a French woman, much less a Parisian, no matter how well I speak the language or if I own a pied a terre in the Marais. But I'm willing to be myself in Paris. Because that's where I left myself years ago when I was a college student. I will live in Paris again. Because now is the time for me to write my own chapter on being seduced by the city of light. Stay tuned.....
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I believe everyone is an artist. If you appreciate beauty, love, life, food, art, friends....the list goes on....you too can be an artist.