Picnic in the Park

Posted on 30 June 2005

Picnic in the Park
Originally uploaded by Barbara Y.

Yesterday I wrote a long blog about the heat – it had risen as high as 38 degrees – about the artists who came here to paint the illuminated landscape (Cezanne and Van Gogh and even a Canadian, Jack Shadbolt), about the writers who came two years ago, shed every item of superfluous clothing, and wrote steamy tales (myself included), and about me here now struggling to move, do anything, and feeling like I’m accomplishing little. But the whole damn entry disappeared before I could post it. This new computer is more temperamental than my old one.

I told about going for coffee on Tuesday morning, sitting beside the farmers and artisans who were having coffee before setting up their stands, and holding small conversations in French. I bought the pizza man a coffee as I’ve been trying to talk him into playing his music for the workshop feast on July 5th. He is a wonderful musician as is his son who serenaded Gill on the street outside our house. I spoke to the restaurant owner/chef who will cook the feast and he offered to make something special as the writers will be eating at the restaurant most nights and will know the menu too well.

And I wrote about dusting, sweeping, vacuuming, polishing, waxing in preparation for the workshop and Gill, in the “Light” house, doing the same. I noted that we come from a long line of Irish women, wives of farmers and weavers, who took pride in a clean house; about how I dismiss such activity as menial but, in truth, love the look and smell of sparkling furniture and floors; and how my mother always said that “cleanliness is next to godliness”. She was raised a Quaker, went to church twice a week, was not allowed to wear makeup, drink, or dance. But, she once told me, that she would sneak out, put on lipstick when she was out of sight of her father’s farm, and attend dances. She said they were a god-fearing people but I think that they were a father and husband fearing clan, based on her sneakiness around her and my father.

I wondered about the voices inside my head – do they stem from generations of housewives who, before my mother and grandmother, could neither read nor write (they signed their marriage certificates with a X), who worked their “fingers to the bone” (my mother’s expression), and who believed, like her, that life is not about fun but about responsibility. Am I fighting them when I rouge my cheeks, hold a glass of wine to the heavens, and climb on tables? Or is it their husbands? The whole damn lot of them were too dependent on the good opinion of others. And how did they really feel, deep inside themselves, about all that work and no pleasure? They could not even speak of their bodies without shame.

Well, that was the gist of my lost entry.

Last night, after a hard day’s work, Gill made a picnic and we drove down to the lake and set our salad feast on a picnic table and ate from plastic containers. There were hoards of teenagers roaming around the grounds, having a barbeque, celebrating heaven-knows-what and playing music (good music Gill informs me.)

So we, today, will take care of last minute details for the workshop. Tomorrow we go to Gaillac market. As I sit at my small desk looking out over the garden with coral flowers, I feel, with relief, that the day is cooler. From the front of the house, I can hear the garbage tractor ( a tractor with two small trailors that weaves through the streets) driven by a robust Frenchman with one top tooth. (A picturesque detail of French country life.)

I look forward, in just two days time, to the arrival of Marlene and Ursula, and half a dozen women from Canada, the States, and England… and gathering in “the writing room”, our salon, and talking and writing, writing, and writing… the third year of a dream.

After posting this blog, I opened a book to the following poem by Judith Duerk. It seems appropriate to this entry and a discussion I have been having with Vaughan:

“If I am so perpetually terrified
of being called a bad girl,
so externally blown about
by the winds of my inner judges,
that I must cling to any authority
that grants me marginal approval,
then I risk that I might never, ever
turn towards that within me
that guides and orders my existence,
that lets the truth of my life emerge.
Oh Grant me courage to become myself!”

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