Sunday, November 16, 2008

I love Paris in the springtime

I spent time this morning looking closely at a map of Paris, locating the address where I'll be living next year.  Hard to believe but true: I have arranged to take the spring 2009 term away from teaching, my house is sublet between April 1 and September 1, and late on April 1 I fly from Toronto to Paris, to a small apartment that belongs to a family friend.  It's near the Jardins du Luxembourg, one of my favourite places in the city, and will be my home till mid-May - six weeks.  Paris in April.

I was born in 1950, that tidy mid-century year, and in my adult life, big changes have always come at the turn of the decade.  In late 1969 I became a professional actor, which was my work through the seventies until a trip in 1979 convinced me to change my life.  In 1989 I was unhappy in my marriage and thinking about therapy; a few years later I was divorced and in life-saving psychoanalysis.  And on December 31 1999 I deliberately spent New Year's Eve alone - years of therapy over, teaching a joy, children growing up, my book underway, the chaos at last beginning to settle.   

As 2009 approached and the cusp of my 60th birthday, it was important to mark the change between my previous life and the one to come - the old one as a single mother of two living in a time-consuming old house working on a time-consuming book, and the new one: two adult children living their own lives, the book out and about, and the house - well, decisions to be made there.  A new life of writing and travel.  Things fell into place for this dramatic five month trip to Europe to work and to play, partly because I want to write about the year my family lived in Paris, 1964, and will be able to revisit old haunts.  And walk and walk and walk.  And eat and eat and eat.

Then to England for around two weeks, and then to the south of France, to live with my friend Lynn and her family.  Lynn's daughter and my goddaughter Jessica, who's 29, has decided to get married in July, so I'll be there for a joyful family wedding.  And my children will come at some point to visit, walk and eat too.

One of the Irish writers who spoke at Harbourfront talked about his own exile from Dublin to Paris, where he lived for ten years.  "I was at an ideal distance from my own past," he said.  "I went there to find anonymity and detachment.  It was personally hard but artistically liberating to be completely alone and detached like that."  

Artistically liberating - that's for me.  And, of course, vast quantities of cheese.  

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