Thursday, May 12, 2016

Unfolding the bloom




I think that today I am ready to tell you what is going on. I have been ghost-dancing around this decision for quite some time now. 

I hope that you will be patient and understanding. Because more than ever I realize that "the only way past is through."

So. I am writing you from the United States. Michigan, to be precise.

Remi and I are "taking a break" or a trial separation, if you prefer.

Do you remember when we had the head-on collision in the beginning of January? While we both were so fortunate to walk away physically unscathed, it became apparent, within days, that a lot of important emotional issues had been shaken loose and brought to the surface. 

While the details of those issues only concern the two of us, the outcome was that we would take these months apart. To be clear - we did not fight, both of us are at "fault" for lack of a better word and these are issues that developed over a long period of time.

However, I can tell you that I did not see this coming and I was devastated. It all happened quite quickly. This is, by far, one of the most challenging periods that I have been through in my life. 

I miss Remi, our home, Provence and our dogs.

But. But, this is an opportunity. And I am taking it. 

My friend Stephen joked that I was going to "rehab" before I got here and that is really kind of perfect in its way as I am taking a good long look at my life and my behavior. Stripped of so much of what has been my world, there is plenty of room not only for introspection but also for action.

And so that is what I am doing.

I am incredibly grateful to have had a safe place to land. My Mom and her Husband have welcomed me into their guestroom, my Sister is close by. They have literally held me up when I needed it.

At 46, I am learning to drive. I am petrified, especially after the accident, but am breathing through it. Actually, so much of what I am going through is about facing or "leaning into" my fear (as the very wise Tara Brach puts it) and shining a light into the dark. That includes my well-being so I started therapy and am attending Al-Anon meetings. My Sister has sponsored me for a class in Tibetan Buddhism and I have started meditating. I bought a stack of books before arriving to help me understand me better and have been reading voraciously. My tennis shoes are getting put on every single day as I exercise. My diet has been completely shifted to eliminate inflammation (more on that soon) and I have lost over twenty pounds, safely. I have never eaten so healthily in my life. My pen is my friend as I have been journaling again. And alcohol has been completely cut back so that I can think straight and hear my heart. I don't want to hide. I am learning so much.

On Monday, I ran into someone that I had not seen in a few weeks who said, "It makes me really happy to see you doing so much better, Heather." That felt good.

Many of you have been through this or similar or harder already in your lives. I am well aware that this is just my current story but I wanted to let you know about it before diving back into the beauty of Provence. Of course I am going to keep the blog going, am staying up to date on all that is happening and prepared material before leaving - such as these photos of the magnolia tree in the courtyard, taken with the hopes of one day having the courage to make this post happen. I didn't talk about this sooner only because I was a) frankly too much of a mess to find the right words and b) afraid that I would lose all of you when I admitted that I wasn't in France. But again, I am tired of fear running the show. I also remember how you remained loyal during those months when I was in the States for visa reasons in 2014. And it is just better this way.

Yes, I do have a return ticket for France.

Do I know what will happen? I have no idea. But I am doing my best to stay positive and open.

Let's keep moving forward then, yes? 

It is never too late to unfold the bloom.

****

To those of you that have known about this, thank you so dearly for all of your kindness, wisdom and support. 
Some of you have gone above and beyond, including an amazing friend who I am going to meet very soon...I may not post for a bit but not to worry, I will be having a very good time!
Thank you so much for being here and I ask that you are considerate of all parties if you leave a comment, much appreciated. Your responses to my previous post made me feel wonder-ful and full of hope.











Be well.

Bisous,
Heather

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Let's remember, love wins



Hello there, today's post is about Provence in the visuals only. The text is an appeal for a cause that will touch many of you though, so I wanted to write about it. If it isn't your thing, no worries and see you soon...


 Our personal stories can take up so much of our head and heartspace that the rest of the world can seem so far away. Of course, it isn't really. We forget sometimes. That we are all connected.


Mes amis, I know that some of us have been going through really challenging times of late but think about it for just a moment, most likely it is nothing compared to what is happening for the refugees in Europe (wait, don't leave just yet for there is something really positive and happy in this post). This is the most drastic situation of displaced peoples since WWII and it is horrific and far from over. As most of us already know, these are folks like you and me who had homes, jobs and families but were forced to leave everything behind to flee the atrocities of war or chaos. For so many of them, all they want to do is go home but to one that is safe and sound. As borders have closed, many are trapped in a no man's land and are literally starving. The situation is far more desperate then it was last year when the media brought it to our attention. In some camps, the percentage of women and children by themselves is staggering (65% in Idomeni in Greece), the number of children that have been separated from their families and are now alone in this world, heart-breaking.


As many of our biggest humanitarian agencies are either not able to offer effective help or are unable to fill the needs, Glennon Doyle Melton formed the Compassion Collective along with Elizabeth Gilbert, Cheryl Strayed, Brené Brown and Robert Bell. You can read more about the amazing work they are doing here: http://thecompassioncollective.org/


Since last fall, they have distributed 1.4 million USD in aid - every penny of which goes directly to assistance as they are working with specialized groups directly on the ground so there is zero overhead. Among their many life-saving projects, they are currently feeding 6450 refugees a day (!), providing tents, clothing and light in the darkness but after a massive donation of 714k, the funds have now run dry. 

So today, May 3rd, is a drive to prove that Love Wins. Because who is making the difference by sponsoring this collective? We do - yes, just normal people like us - by giving $5 to $25 (the maximum limit of the donation as this is not a competition about who gives the most but about us being in this together). By doing so, you can literally help save lives. Their funding for Refugee Rescue in Greece, for example, is essential - over a three-day period, these partners assisted 25 boats and helped 1200 people safely to land. That is just in three days! And, as the Compassion Collective is ever expanding its reach, this drive will be the first to also benefit America's homeless youth. Those statistics are frightening. Again, you can get more of a specific breakdown on who is being assisted and how by reading here.  The personal stories and the photos included are amazing as well.



So I hope that you will consider helping our fellow human beings who are suffering mightily, if you can. And if you can't make a financial donation, would you consider passing along the word about today's event? I would truly appreciate it. If you are seeing this after May 3rd but would still like to help out, not to worry, it is never too late to do some good. I know that this situation seems so huge as to be impossible. But it isn't - especially if we reach from person to person, just like we know how to do best.


You have already shown me over and over and over again that you are a loving, caring community. 


If there is one thing that I am sure of, it is that love wins.

For more information or to donate, please click here:


Thank you so much for reading,
Heather

 *PS. In no way am I affiliated with any of the above, I just believe in this and the good it can do!

Friday, April 29, 2016

On the rue de l'Amphithéâtre - Arles



Sweep out the cobwebs, shake out those shadows. Sometimes we need to go right back to where we started.

In Arles, after moving in and wandering the cross-caught streets, I fell fast in love with the tales of its shutters and doors. Cliché, absolutely, and some would say that I should now move beyond those facile waters...but...but...there was a day, not so long ago, when the sky was so blue that it tricked me back to the beginning of seeing one street as I had in the before of before, allowing me to dip in just one more time.

Instead of hurrying along the far too narrow sidewalk, I stepped out into the rue de l'Amphithéâtre, camera in hand and lifted. I had easily half an hour to spare before my doctor's appointment. All was quiet, the tourists still sleeping. The light was flirting. A passer-by gave me a slight nod of recognition, someone else from the center of town. I love Arles before showtime. When history stretches and yawns before settling in to be admired.

Now I can add my own little histories to its two-thousand some years that are more patient than I will ever be. On this particular stretch alone I remember...my mom and I struggling with our suitcases on the bumpy pavement against a winter Mistral wind on an early descent from Paris to visit an apartment that would not work out. Being invited to a party where rooms opened upon rooms until fading into darkness and everyone was trying too hard to be casual. Pulling Ben and Kipling out of the way of a roaring car, music blaring, with only inches to spare. Perfect imperfect these memories, just like the patina scribbled on the surrounding walls for all to see. No need for them right now.

So I snapped back, quite literally with a click-click, present-bound and looked without judging and felt a tiny lift of joy without judgement too. The worn faces above the doorways winked conspiratorially before I turned into the shade of an alley, a short-cut but also a window closing. It is funny that it is no longer one of the more fashionable streets to live on, despite leading directly to the Arena (or maybe because of it); it clearly once was and perhaps will be again. Sometimes, we need to go right back to where we started.









 

Arles, eternal and ever the heady mix. Who says all roads lead to Rome?




Still no news about Teddy, friends. I will let you all know...
Bon Weekend.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles - Très Traits and Giorgio Griffa - plus Teddy update



Teddy update:
Thank you so much to all of you living in the United States who expressed an interest in adopting Teddy. Unfortunately, I have heard back from the shelter and they are not willing to let him be adopted sight unseen by anyone so far away. 
This doesn't surprise me, as I know that they are very careful about who they let adopt their dogs - in the best possible sense there is. 
I do want to reassure you all that the shelter is a good one. It is located in the beautiful Alpilles region in the woods behind Les Baux de Provence. From what I remember from previous visits, the dogs are on earth and not concrete with platforms and doghouses to use as needed. They are usually housed with buddies and walked by the many truly committed and loving volunteers at the refuge. And yes, it is a no-kill shelter where many animals have lived out their days. 
Of course, this is not what I hope for Teddy because I know him...but honestly, there are so many special animals there. Rest assured that I am still doing all that I can to find a home for him in the region and am not alone. We had a close call thanks to Julie Mautner at The Provence Post who can cast a bigger net in Provence than I can. There is still plenty of hope.
So let's not give up and keep spreading the word to those we know in France. I will let you know more as I do. 
Merci encore mille fois for all of your kindness and concern!



With everything that has been going on, I nearly missed out on telling you about two wonderful exhibitions at the always stellar Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles but still want to mention them for those of you in the area before it closes on Sunday. And even for those of you on the other side of the world, it is always refreshing to keep up with what is bubbling in the art world, n'est ce-pas?


First up we have "Très Traits" whose title rather bluntly announces the focus of the show, one that re-examines the importance and meaning of line in contemporary art. To say that we have come a long way from the Neo-classical proportions, always "pleasing to the eye" of an artist such as Ingres is an understatement...


...and yet not entirely. It all depends on how you handle the act of looking. Let's take, for example, "Untitled XI" by Andreas Gursky, which was the starting point for this group exhibition. In this over-scaled photograph, a detail of Van Gogh's "Wheatfield with Reaper" becomes the focus entirely, until the brush stokes that sent the signals to our brains to understand "wheat" transform into a visual dance all on their own.


The same can be said for the joyful movement inherent in "The Sower," where Roy Lichtenstein distills Van Gogh's lines and iconic color ways to a comic book sensibility that has nothing to do with laughter...


...just as Adrian Ghenie's "Lidless Eye" literally strips Van Gogh's self-portraits to reveal a pain connecting both artists across time and space.


French artist Isabelle Cornaro took the process even further by erasing the need for lines in creating a landscape mural by spray-painting directly onto the wall. As the catalogue incites, her work, featuring interpretations of video productions that she has created, are "almost fluid images between everything and nothing." I nearly pressed my cheek up against the wall, hoping to dive in.


I felt the same for the four works by the late Eugène Leroy, whose use of impasto seemed impatient to the point of mania (something Van Gogh unfortunately knew all too well), all while representing a harmony rising above and above the chaos of the everyday.


And finally, I was amused (in this context) by Christopher Wool's embracing the furthermost rejection of the line by celebrating...the accident. Or the accidental, something that we can all recognize bits of ourselves in, yes? But again, it is all in how you look at it...


The lines seemed to solidify once again as I walked up the stairs...


...and swam into the very organized yet talismanic world presented by artist Giorgio Griffa...


...where many of his canvases had been pinned discreetly on the walls, the lines where they had been folded up after being painted a purposeful part of the overall effect.


While Mr. Griffa, who was born in 1936, is considered a major figure of Italian post-war art, this is the first time that I had seen his works (they have been rarely shown until recently) and I was absolutely enchanted by them.


Again, from the exhibition: "They are the fruits of a simple and deliberate operation, one characterised by the fundamental components of painting in order that this latter may fully express its essence. Griffa's formally ascetic works are hallmarked by the repetition of signs, lines and numbers modulated to infinity, which add themselves to the intaglio motifs left by the folding up of the canvas."


Can I ask you, when ever did something so simple look like it could be a map to so many elemental secrets?



Most moving of all was his interpretation of Van Gogh's "Starry Night" - a part of his Golden Ratio series - that was especially commissioned for the exhibition. As with all of Mr. Griffa's work, I felt a strong sense of peace while tracing his trail of sky and stars. Such a wonderful discovery. Grazie, Giorgio Griffa...et merci à la Fondation.

The Fondation Vincent Van Gogh Arles
35 Rue Docteur Fanton
13200 Arles
Tel.: +33 (0)4 90 93 08 08
Opening hours: Currently Tuesday to Sunday from 11am to 6pm 
Last admission at 5:15pm
Price: 9€ adults, 4€ for youth and students, free for children under 12

"Très Traits" and "Giorgio Griffa"
Both on view until April 24th.
 The museum will be closed from April 25th to May 13th.


Friday, April 15, 2016

Do you want to adopt Teddy?



Please listen up, friends, as I have a very important post to share with you...

I had a great surprise earlier today in that I had a long phone conversation with my friend Ellie. Now, quite a few of you know her story already but for those of you that have just arrived at Lost in Arles (merci!), let me tell you simply that she is one of the most incredible people that I have ever met. I am honored to know her. She is currently in her sixth year of living with ALS and inspires thousands of her loyal friends and followers through her blog, Have Some Decorum. You can read more about her by clicking here and about how we met, here.


To give you an idea of Ellie's strength of will, she got it into her head that she needed to leave Paris for Provence last Summer and had moved into an amazing property by October. That it was less than a fifteen-minute drive away from my tiny village was a wonderful surprise to us both. Of course, she immediately wanted to adopt a dog. I suggested that she visit the Refuge SPA des Baux de Provence where we adopted Kipling and the rest of the story is nothing short of magical. I will let you read about it in her own words, here.


Teddy had grown up at the refuge; we had walked right by him those years ago. It was meant to be that he and Ellie found each other. From the moment that they brought him home, he was an angel doggy. He was potty-trained, was a great guard dog, he didn't misbehave or chew on the furniture - if anything he made himself right at home on the antiques! And best of all, he understood instinctively that Ellie was physically fragile and not only never jumped up on her but would put that beautiful head of his on her lap. 

Teddy is one of the most loving dogs, ever. The first time that I met him, when he understood that I was a dog person, he wanted to give me so many kisses - to the point that when I held him back for a second, he kept kissing the air! He truly has an exceptional, exceptional spirit.


But. Life does not always go according to our hopes and plans. This winter, Ellie's ALS took a drastic turn for the worse (this was not predicted by her doctor but it can happen with the disease) and she was forced to move back up to Paris and immediately into palliative care. This all happened very, very quickly. Her puppy Valentin and kitten Iris found loving homes. Teddy was initially placed with extended family but sadly, it did not work out so Teddy is back at the refuge and is waiting for a new home.


Here is a recent photo of him from their website. He is going by his previous name of Bidule and it is estimated that he is five years old. As you can see, he is still a happy boy. The Griffon in him means that he is a big guy but one with a tender heart. I know from a friend who volunteers at the refuge that he has always been a favorite there. And of course I can understand why. Unfortunately, due to Kipling's aggressive behavior, there is no way that we can adopt another dog, no matter how wonderful he is.

But...can you?

I had the idea for this post a while back but as Ellie was fighting for her life, in no way was it appropriate for me to inquire if it was ok to do so. Today she brought him up and so here we are (and I hope she doesn't mind that I used these photos from her blog - the ones that I took of him on my iphone are a complete blur as I was laughing too much). I am sure that you can imagine how hard it was for her to have left him behind. He will definitely make someone very happy again one day.

If you would like further information about adopting Teddy:
-- feel free to email me directly at robinsonheather@yahoo.com and I would be happy to connect you to people at the refuge, especially if you do not speak French.
-- if you do, by all means contact the SPA des Baux directly and ask about Bidule. 
http://www.spa-desbauxdeprovence.com/les-chiens/
-- you can also see more photos of Teddy by clicking here.


I realize that many of you, most of you, are far away but I still want to put this out there for those of you in the region or visiting soon. Because, you never know. I will keep you posted.

And for those of you who have been praying for Ellie's well being, thank you with all of my heart. I love her dearly.

My friend Elizabeth, aka La Contessa, is working with one of her readers to raise some funding for Ellie's incredibly expensive health-care. You can read more about it: here as well as a beautiful post about Ellie by my friend Tish here.

In typical form, Ellie has just moved into an apartment in the most perfect spot of all Paris, directly over the gardens of the Palais Royal. To read her instagram updates, you can find her here.

Please feel free to pass this along on all forms of social media as you see fit. 
Ellie and I both will thank you for it!
Heather






Thursday, April 7, 2016

My first photo credit



Well, I have a fun surprise to share with you. It certainly was one for me! My friend Anthony hinted a while back that he had something up his sleeve, so imagine my delight when he sent me a gorgeous magazine with an article about the new company that he is forming inside, only for me to discover that the photo used to illustrate it...was mine!


Now, those of you who have been reading here for a while know that I am not exactly a portraitist...to be more precise, I never take photos of people - ever - as I am far too shy. But there we were together, talking, at the end of a glorious afternoon where I had been photographing his amazing new renovation project and the light was streaming across his face so perfectly that I dared just a few. Of course, it doesn't hurt when your subject matter is not only a dear friend but an occasional model as well...

Anthony especially appreciated one of the photos in particular and I sent it to him to use as he wished. As he is truly a good egg, he just so happened to get me my first photo credit and in a very cool publication to boot.


I Heart magazine comes out once every three months. Their objective is to take you to the center of a specific city as described by locals and established expats so that you too can be "in the loop" enough to push beyond the clichés and postcard platitudes to hit the pulse of the current scene. When I am fortunate enough to travel, this is the kind of "on the ground" fieldview that I aspire to, so it is right up my alley and I still haven't finished pouring over its thick, matte pages.


The Spring 2016 issue is all about Tokyo...



...and I love all of the surprising ways that this mythic metropolis is portrayed through art about artists but also foodies, fashionistas, pop and street lore.


Because who doesn't love to love? Or to discover a destination with a fresh perspective?

I Heart will take you there. ;)

"But isn't Anthony...French?" you might be asking. Yes, and so is the magazine! Eh oui, c'est en français mes amis. And there are tons of tidbits spread throughout its pages about places and events of interest all over the world, not only on the featured city.

For more information about the current numéro or to order it online, click:

It is for sale not only in France but also in Austria, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the UK.


I could have never imagined being published for my photography instead of as a writer! This is a serious thrill for me.

Thank you again, Anthony, for this wonderful surprise and for being such a supportive friend...