Tuesday, June 22, 2010

life imitates art

We bought the book, Katie Meets the Impressionists, at the museum shop the first time we visited the Musee D'Orsay in Paris. In the book, Katie, in search of some flowers to give to her grandmother travels in and out of several classic impressionist paintings, including this one, from Renoir.

Having read the book so many times, even adding our own fragrantly irreverent twists to it, and having seen the original poppy paintings at the museum, made it extra fun to finally stumble across the magical sight of a real live field brimming with real live poppies.

When I found out that the French word for poppies was coquelicot, pronounced, coke-uh-lee-koh, I repeated it over and over, like a child. What a perfect word for a perfectly flirty flower. They call to you like bold coquettes, but their beauty fades in an instant when you try to make them yours.

As much as I urged the kids not to bother picking them, because, so attached to their birthplace are they, poppies do not live for more than half an hour when plucked from their turf, both Esther and Isla got back into the car clutching magnificent flashing-red bouquets in their fists.

I can relate to the poppies tendency to sag and wilt when taken away from all that they have ever known as home. I have been feeling a bit wilty, a bit saggy, lately. Even when looking upon the most perfect pastoral scenes, hillside orchards, swaying oaks, green meadows filled with black and white cows, I still can't help smelling the air of foreignness that hangs heavy, like a flooded tent roof, over everything. Still.

And I wonder if I might just weep upon crossing the instantly -recognizable border into Vermont from Massachusetts when we go home, for a visit, in August. And after weeping, I wonder if I again may grow plump and bright, alert, like a poppy, magically returned to her soil. And I wonder if it will be hard, or easy, for me to return to France after having dipped my toes, and my naked body, once again, into the icy, fresh- mountain streams, and breathed in the sultry air, smelled that third cut of freshly- mown hay, and slapped my first mosquito of the summer.

I wonder and I wait.

And, of course, I keep submitting posts over here.


Joy said...

What beautiful photos! We love the Katie books and your girls look like they're starring in one with those poppy field pictures. I hope your visit home leaves you feeling refreshed and ready to finish your year abroad. :)

cbs111 said...

The field of poppies makes me think of The Wizard of Oz. My kids and I love that movie, I wouldn't be able to talk them out of picking them either.

I can only imagine how good it will feel to be home in August. I'm sure it will be hard to leave again.

mooserbeans said...

Such beautiful pictures. Enjoy your visit home!

Betsy said...

Thanks, Joy: I'm sure it will. Though my year abroad has mysteriously stretched into two, thus the visit home for refueling.
cbs111: Yes-- "poppies will make them sleep."

6512 and growing said...

Beautiful musings on "home."
Sometimes the adventures of new lands is better than the familiarness of home. (I am a total home body, so I understand your pain).
And holy poppiness!

Karin (an alien parisienne) said...

Ah those fields are fantastic, and how wonderful to have life imitate art! :)

I agree with you, "coquelicot" is a terrific word. Thank you for my New French Word of the Day.

Will Esther try to re-create the experience in a drawing, do you think? And if she did, would she agree to your posting it here? *hint hint* :)

I mostly thought of that as she is the age of my friend's daughter who is about to become very BORED with school vacation starting! I thought it could help to have some ideas for the kids when vacay starts next week.

Thanks for posting these photos and the link to the Renoir painting, too. It's great to see the comparison.

Empty Refrigerator said...

Yeah, I can't even imagine doing what you're doing - new land, new language, new culture (that whole kiss-kiss thing, for example, would just throw me for a complete loop and make me want to run back home to my bed). I admire your courage.

Hmm. Not a very comforting comment, is this? Sorry.

Emma said...

Betsy I'm so glad you are having a visit home, and yes I'm sure you will weep and weep when you get there, which is precisely what you need to do. That whole stiff uper lip thing gets tiring after a while. Enjoy your summer, it looks like you have lots to look forward to.

Betsy said...

Karin: I'll get Esther right on that poppy painting. Actually, she's been more into making things out of garbage lately. I always find her picking through the recycling so she can "make something."
Emma: Thanks for the permission to cry, I need that. I always feel so much better, so much clearer after a good cry.
And, empty refrigerator: as for that kissing thing: It's only gotten worse. I was criticized (by a Brit, not fair) for not making the kissing sound when I do my kissing greetings. So not only do I pronounce everything wrong, I don't pronounce my kisses properly either. Seriously. Maybe I should just go all wacky American and start hugging everyone I see...

txwinter said...

Going wacky American-is that like going 'Postal'? teehee I have a French friend and still haven't gotten used to the kissing thing. I do make her hug me goodbye in addition to kissing cheeks though-only fair!

Beautiful poppy pictures-they are my mom's absolute favorite flower and she's an avid gardener.

Anonymous said...

Actually, if you pick them before they lose their pre-bloom sheeth, put them in water and let the sheeth come off by itself, you can keep the bloom for quite a while. Don't touch the sheeth! Don't even try to help it along! It won't work unless you have the patience!
I love those poppys too!
Thanks for writing such lovely blogs. I found you on BabyCenter, and enjoy reading your blogs.

Meowmie said...

Beautiful photos.

MT said...

Lovely post again. I think rural France looks a lot more idyllic than downtown Geneva. I know that there are certainly trade-offs between city and country living, but the grass nonetheless seems a little greener where you are :)

Two quick comments from the BC post that I didn't really want to leave on BC:
First, I never had any trouble knowing how to pronounce Isla's name. I love both Esther's and Isla's names. One of my regrets of never having a girl....so many lovely girl names. Lovely boy names too, but my husband and I could never agree on a boy name so we have very solid, traditional names. The middle names we went a little crazy with :)
Second, you are freaking me out with the Germany vacation. We will be leaving for a campground outside of Nuernberg next week and then will spend some time in Munich.

Betsy said...

MT: Don't freak out too much. I'm a bit of a dreamer. I do have a friend in Munich and we've been going back and forth all winter with when, how, where to meet, etc. And I have a friend in Bern whom I promised I would visit in July. Seeing as how we are leaving this Saturday for two weeks in England, then the girls and I are going back to Vermont mid August, I have no idea how I will fit all this in. It might have to wait until fall.
I also want to check out the Alsace region of France, not far from Stuttgart. What I really want to do is speak some German and not feel like a mute fool anymore. Though my French is coming around....

Living Down Under said...

Hi Betsy - I usually comment on your posts over at BC but today I came here for a completely different reason. It is kind of related to your recent post about reading books to your children. There's an article that I found about a little boy who has an interest in science and met Stephen Hawking while out and about in his home town. Anyway I thought you might enjoy it coz you never really know where your reading to children can take them and it also goes to show you can never start too young!

I tried putting the link in but wasn't able to. Anyway, if you're interested the article is on TheRecord.com and it's titled: "Pint-sized physics fan meets hero Hawking on walk in Waterloo Park" Hope you enjoy it. By the way, the poppies look gorgeous! I can see the temptation to pick them up and take them home! :)

Andrea Frazer - Pass the Zoloft said...

Your journey is so exciting, but I can see why it would be so homesick inducing also.

It's also funny that you mention that you have no comfortable place to sit down. We have a mountain cabin, and it's a great getaway, but there is not ONE comfy chair here.

Today, on a whim, money be damned, I bought 8 patio chairs from Rite Aid. Nothing fancy, but I can sit outside and enjoy!

A recliner is next... Yeah!

tavequin said...

Oh my, I hear ya! I've been feeling a bit wilty lately too, all the while dreaming about all the wonderful things to do with my 2 children this summer--not realizing there's not much summer left (and the kids just aren't interested in the same things as me)... I myself am an ex-pat living in NW France, lost in the middle of nowhere. Hope your trips this summer revigorate you! "Courage," as they say!

Olivia said...

Pretty photos