28th May 2017, St Avit Senieur, France Dear Friends
I have landed in beautiful countryside France, and at every moment a perfect vista is before my eyes. In some respects the greenery reminds me of various parts of Australia, surprisingly. A forest drive yesterday revealed little tree ferns not unlike the drive up to Mount Dandenong, but the little villages are something else indeed.
People live here at St Avit just as they have always done. St Avitus settled here long ago (12th century) seeking answers from God in a cave close by. I am so glad all of these pretty places have been preserved from the ravages of war(s).
Avitus was a Visigoth prince taken captive and made a slave for 18 years. It is said that he was loved for his healing abilities and was set free, for one could be set free to become a monk.
He found his answers in a cave up on a hill under the bigger hill where the abbey sits now. Near the cave is still considered by many to be sacred ground with a picturesque fountain/spring is a wonderful and refreshing place to sit (and just be or paint).
And yet other stories tell of him being asked to leave a religious order for his austere way of interpreting the way of the monk, (life as a slave probably taught him this way, and he translated that to his religion).
It is also said the cave where he sought ‘the way’ for him to live and work as a monk, was very near his ancestral home – and what a perfect plan after 18 years as a slave to return home. A divine plan.
I am here in the village on a painting holiday, but finding it difficult to get into the spirit of painting, and this is my 9th day. To come to terms with such an experience, thousands of miles from home is not easy, how to come to terms with it is also not easy either.
I knew on day one this was a challenge, funny how we know, but why didn’t I know beforehand? It is hard when things don’t go according to the plan in your head and I was so excited as I thought I’d prepared well!!!
I’d been a Facebook friend with the artist for some time and the website revealed a wonderful world of art, gathering, adventure and tuition. It is all of that so I’ve had to look within to explore the inner mind that is leading this charge of discontent.
Do you know that feeling of being lonely in a sea of faces? This was a fear I expressed before I left. Also, I know I am introverted in nature – I seek to restore and balance in solitude, but I hadn’t factored the strength of my need to be centred in a nurturing environment. So the combination of not connecting with these beautiful souls I find I am journeying with, and the alienation I am feeling, it’s nine days in to the emptiness.
So, how do I deal with this? First thing for me to establish firmly within is that – This is no one’s fault – not mine, not the artist’s and not the other students. They are all so happily painting and getting along so well. This is a conundrum. Sit with it and see if it is a journey for reasons other than art. Maybe to experience such events under extraordinary conditions is to lead to myself contentment with the ordinary life? It is okay to feel alienation. I judge not (others nor myself) and allow the discord to be, it will not hurt me. What is the nurturing environment that I seek that is different from here?
How do I come to terms with these things though? I’m not sure to be honest, I am a long way from home but am well and the sun is shining and no one walks past without saying bonjour; (how sweet eh?)
It is all a bit of a getting to know myself experience I guess (I didn’t ask for that!). I had an inkling of doubt as I said, being lonely in a sea of faces, and here it comes to pass and it is seriously uncomfortable. I have painted – not a lot – the brush does not sit with passion in my hand.
They say keep on going, it is a global skill that takes time to develop, but that’s not what I am meaning and when I try to voice that, the words will not escape me. It’s a challenge to talk and to paint right now.
Of course one needs to paint if one wants to learn and to improve but if the will has been left back home, then not even 10 horses could drag me to these painting tasks today. Just the way it is and I find joy watching the others faces as they work tirelessly on their canvasses. They’ve got it!
The sunshine is something I love and there’s been a good few days of it here (not so good really as it should not be over 30c at this time of year)
I will take to the stunning rock walled walking tracks I think for it is amongst the green scenery that I feel peace.
The kind of nurturing I think I was expecting or seeking, is in the gathering with those on a similar path – the spiritual, the meditation and I notice that I am not into painting virtually non-stop. I have notions of this gathering, but not enough to express just yet, so I’ll sit with that.
And writing helps me to bring the darkness to the light. I don’t think I have felt this alienation before – I am welcomed here and so I feel embarrassed and exposed for not wanting what I’ve come here to do. But so be it, I am not going to beat myself up over it (maybe just a little). Nor will I try to explain, as no one wants to hear such things and it might seem too dark and contradictory to what they just love.
It makes no sense to feel like this. Sensibilities, are they more than preconceived notions of what is right and wrong? An exposition of contrasts where what we imagine to be so, is a contrast to the realities experienced.
A painting on another level you might say which leads to concordance or discord.
Sensibilities - I am in the illusion of discord for there is nothing out of order.
Let it go, enjoy France and move through the days with Grace. To paint or not to paint is no longer relevant, I shall paint a perfect picture, with words, a stroke of a pen or a brush or whatever other medium I fancy.
Such is life, a great Australian once said – I concur – bonjour mes amies :)