October 19, 2011

Time Passages

We said a goodbye to Martel this week. After so many goodbyes there, this one was surprisingly poignant as we handed over keys to that life. Point Finale.
We have left behind many homes, moved onto others, re-scripted our lives down the street or over oceans, but there was a profound difference on this shift. 
We bundled up our stuff, taped a few too many boxes, and said goodbye to pieces of wood and plaster more painful to leave behind than some of the friends.  Certainly it was a culmination, it wasn’t really the stone sink in the powder-room, or the tile frieze in the bathroom, nor the massive beams or the stone niches, it was simply the last straw.  Saying goodbye to this home was saying goodbye to those friends, saying goodbye to that town, the town which raised our only child into adolescence. These were the streets he learned to ride a bike on, here is where he learned to throw a snowball and had his first kiss.  This is the town that taught me how to speak french and to cook a bourginon, and this is the life I joined 8 years ago, this is where I fell in love with a second country. This is where Oscar doubled his age and left many marks on many doorjambs. 
Patricia and I supported each other as we kissed that home over to the next family, and turned our back like we’d just buried a good friend.  This “serial dwelling” has a price, and it just demanded payment.
It would be sad if we weren’t doing this adventure as a team, and if the next spin wasn’t already proving to be such a rich one. Pass go, collect your deposit, splash some water on your face.
I felt the beat of my mind go
Drifting into time passages
A long way down

So we did our nomadic thing and rented a truck....I like to think that I remember each move, but never well enough to avoid the next one.  This move to Bordeaux was an interesting one by nature of the altitude; 4th floor without an elevator  We rented a “monte charge”  (lift load) which for a pile of euros, does the heavy lifting. Its really just a large ladder with a mechanized sled that carried all of our Frenchly possessions UP and the accumulated piles of renovation debris DOWN. This took an impossible task and made it simply difficult. It was a solid days work for us with our team of local friends. 3 tons of debris came down and then to the dump. 15 cubic yards!  But now I have a clear project site and I can restart with something of a clean canvas.
The years run too short and the days too fast
Theres the team, plus Patricia with the camera
It is hard to imagine that we are in our ninth year here in France, after tricking ourselves into a 5 year adventure, it just keeps getting better. The years have flown by like the cartoon calendar in the wind. There have been slow and lonely minutes, but the challenges of doing life in a new place has always kept it interesting. When the pictures on our computer start to scroll through its randomized library, it seems like the fast years become a wonderfully pixilated slow motion parade of incredible days with incredible friends, I’m sure those will continue.
Hear the echoes and feel...
The new project is advancing now, there are days where I spin in circles wondering what to do next; wire a few outlets, plaster a wall, repair a window, sweep-up...repeat.  The catharsis of getting rid of the 100 boxes of debris on the wall was great, but now I need to wrap up the small tasks and get back on the critical path.  I will bought some antique doors today and I can soon order the plaster blocks to start building the remaining walls around them. Then the new ceilings can be built and the radiant heat installed, then the Venetian plaster, the stone refinishing, the floors, the bath and kitchen.....  It’s just a puzzle of distraction.
It's just a game that you play

Old Bordelaise doors
I had a great experience today buying those doors above, I stumbled upon this small salvage yard, neat piles of stone and arched windows and spiral iron stairs that would have pleased Gustav himself!  Greeted by Erik, a ferronier (blacksmith), then introduced to the purveyor of the salvage bits, Eric, and his son who I think was Daniel, but they could have been talking about me. They each had their own shipping container in different corners of the yard, each with a different personality. Anyhow, Eric had these doors and they will work splendidly once refinished and reglazed. When I came back later to pick them up and strap them onto the roof of our red Mazda, they were all eating lunch among the trees in the back of the lot and I was given a glass of wine and a piece of pipe to sit on while they wrapped up this daily ritual (cheese, baguette, pouches of tobacco, red wine and coffee), and I was part of it and somehow I felt IN my element. There was also a Natalie there who was someone’s fiancee, but I’m unclear if that person was present. She was a glass cutter/artist who is going to teach me how to cut circles for those windows. We shared our stories, complaints about french politics and support for Occupy Wall Street, which has given the french a shadow of encouragement for there allies across the pond.  It just seemed so random and easy!  All in service to this latest renovation.

It will become a great apartment and I think we will really enjoy living there. We have gotten used to such grandeur in Martel and here in our year of living tangentially (renting), the change will be nice, and I’m building closets everywhere, and trying to think through the details and not miss opportunities for something better.  It takes a conscious effort to step back and rethink an idea, but when I do, or someone else does for me, it invariably gets better.
Well the picture is changing
This is the view of our new neighborhood
Our hope is that this new life in this new town will be an attraction to all, friends and buyers alike.  That if we want to rent, sell or attract visitors, we will find it an easy effort. The real estate in France is as depressed as it is in the US, but there are always exceptions and pockets of outlyers. Bordeaux is one of those, in a moment of huge growth, while most of Europe is digging in.  Its almost time to start looking for the next project
and the music's loud
I wore this vinyl out in 1978
Thanks Al


Bordeaux is no longer NEW, we have been here for one year, but NEWNESS abounds!
Oscar has started his 9th year in what you call the 9th grade (here its troisieme) and here its the last year of middle school and it’s not new.  He is in the senior class of this middle school, 3 classes below him and high school ahead, but its not new.  When we moved to France he was the new kid in kindergarten, three years later he jumped a class and became the new kid in 6th grade, then once more into the fire, we moved him into a new school last year, so he gets this one year away from newness, this one year of familiarity, this one year of belonging. 
A friends wedding in Bordeaux...that's Pat on the left
But intimacy with ones life is not imperative, change is good, and unfamiliarity breeds strength, at least that has been our recipe for these past 9 years, a near decade of change. Perhaps the years of change in Oscar’s life, our lives, is the winter wood and the years of stability, where we find it, is the summer wood. Growing tall through the seasons.
This feels like our year of becoming Bordelais, we have walked most of the streets and can usually find our ways home. We are in transition still, between one Bordeaux home and another, but its all in our own back yard, so it seems like a year of stability.  We are in contract on our last Martel home. Last week we were there moving that life into a box and preparing its transport to this new life, it felt like closure. That home was great, and for the first time in 9 years we felt the sting of closure. 
Its kind of like the transition from that Martel life to this Bordeaux life has taken a year, and its just sinking in, so this newness has been a gradual one, come into focus only here at the end.
Susan and 19 of her loved ones
We changed our franco-american life this year and ventured home for the summer. Bordeaux is an easier city to leave in the summer, as that’s what half of the population seems to do. In Martel, everyone arrived for the summers, and it was a hard season to miss. We spent the month of August travelling, 3 weeks in the Bay Area taking care of our home there, trying to convince the tenants that we care about them. One week in Columbia eating brisket and reconnecting with the close and extensive family there and another week beach hopping in Costa Rica to celebrate my mom’s birthday. 
Oscar wanted ths Miami Beach T-bird for his own....good taste!
Our return has brought us back to the newness of france with new eyes and new perspective. Again like the winter wood, the chance to step away and return brings much of the contrast between our franco-american lives into sharper focus.  The faces are different, the energy is different, but this may have as much to do with the patterns we have and return to in America, where we are sons and daughters and pieces of an entirely different puzzle. We are pieces in a large web, surrounded by friends and family which create an order. While in France, there is an order, perhaps greater of a different shade, but the daily order of our lives is one defined by ourselves, it is more what we make it and less where we fit into a more complicated society??  Our friendships in France are all new and shallow of root, exciting, as new friendships are, but compared to the handfull of friends we have had for 20 or 30 years....