It's always wondrous to me when a life experience can handle even the most intense expectation. I've been daydreaming about Alison and Mallory being here for months, thinking through what I would show them, wondering what they would think of this, that and the other, wanting so much for them to find their own beauty here. And these past two days, to have seen la Bretagne weave its spell, offer up its lushness and possibilities, its tranquility and assurance, and welcome them, I feel as though I've been embraced anew by this wonderful place, as I catch glimpses of it through my friends' eyes.
We returned to La Gacilly, driving through hilly landscape and, in the final approach to the little town, beneath a lush cathedral of trees (all of these natural forms as interesting to Alison and Mallory as those made by human hands we were about to see) and it was my first time seeing it under the sun - et oui, it's even more beautiful: the flowers emerge from the stone walls more, the cobblestones create little patterns, and the passers-by slow down and say hello. We spoke to many artisans, but had our longest conversations with the silver artist and the filagree jeweler. The filagree artist came from Russia about 13 years ago, and made Mallory's exquisite ring.
The silver artist's father is from Burgundy, and we spoke of everything from seeing Los Angeles at 13 (him) to the joys of graduating from high school (Mallory). He made the unbelievable bracelet that Alison is wearing which was, in another incarnation, a silver fork, but is now an object that flows and suggests shapes - delicious in other ways. He also made her necklace which surprises us into realizing that spoons have very pleasing shapes and are in fact quite modern in sleek line and curve. The pleasure today was aesthetic, but it was also the pleasure of time, of letting conversation go here and there, of lingering (yes, that's the word, that's exactly the word), of becoming familiar with the space and person of the object's creation before having it move into your life. And if I sound as though I am romanticizing objects, giving them biographical trajectories, or at least being very aware of their spatial presence, it's because I live in a world of industrialized objects which emerge in no time from no particular place and (quod Marx) by no particular someone (so alienated from their labor have most laborers become). So yes, I will stand in admiration looking at the studio in which every single object around me was made, yes I will marvel that the objects everywhere here were made by the same person. And being here with Alison and Mallory who see so much more than I do (Alison truly does see the artist's gesture in every turn of the metal and twist of the design) was a dream come true. Why do we romanticize these objects? Because here, at this pace, in this kind of conversational space, they form a connection between one person and another, and it's based on beauty and labor - and it's marvelous to see those two qualities operate together.
Dear Alison gave the girls beautiful necklaces worked in wood. Even on a small, child's scale, that meticulousness and its time are visible. Iris was deeply touched to receive a dog (her most fervent dream), and Eleanor embraced her idiom of the duck (and is sleeping with a plush duck as we write).
For those of you who follow Mallory and Alison on Twitter, I am hoping that you will find a photograph of where they had dinner this evening. La Table d'O, here in town: wow!
As we threaded our way back to Josselin along tiny roads, the reunion of a lifetime was happening over here. As Mallory and Alison and I leave for Paris tomorrow, Pedar and Jakie arrive for a few days of megaliths and friendship.
The kids were pretty enthusiastic about life. Vive la France!
Jakie is Oliver's best friend in the entire universe (without exaggeration) and their reunion had the stuff of legend. I am humbled by the fullness of their joy. This is as valiant an image of friendship as I'll ever see.
17 hours ago