I could go everyday for year and still not get enough. It’s a subtle experience, yet all the pieces are there if you are a devoted student and go with appreciation for the four corners of it all. A Disneyland experience it is not. Still, you drive up into the woods and enter through what could be described as a well maintained mine shaft. One thing I didn’t know about Lascaux is that is it a subterranean cave and it was discovered when a tree uprooted in a storm, leaving a hole, that a dog fell into, that four boys found, when they tried to find their dog. They threw rocks down into the hole where the dog disappeared, heard the rocks falling downhill, knew there was a cave. They returned several days later, with a knife and torches and would make the hole larger and then slide down the cave floor into ringside seats for the first showing of ‘Cro-Magnon Man’ in 17,000 years. The first human beings inside the cave in over a dozen millennia literally fell into a prehistoric peloton of bison, stags, ibex, horses and bulls. So this completely appeals to my raised-in-North-Idaho-childhood self, where we roamed the woods and the hills, floated the rivers and swam the lakes, explored with unabated curiosity and courage and never, ever got tired of the endless summer that was our Idaho. This is Lascaux. The find of a childhood.
The art is as it’s described: dazzling. big. colorful. The created perspective is startling. After spending a week with Joe McNally talking incessantly about light and depth of field, I like to think I had a better experience today than I would have two weeks ago.. Life is sheer serendipity sometimes, c’est non? As McNally would say, ya gotta light up tha front without blowin' up tha back. So I was utterly flabbergasted to see how they used the contours of the rock and the size of the animals in relation to each other to make a deep and wide panorama, like looking up at the starry heavens in the Big Sky on hot August night. What I didn’t know about the art is that it’s layered; there are up to four colored sets of animals, layered over each other in exquisite fashion, not unlike fused glass. And once your eye calibrates to the darkness, you see each layer without being prompted. It’s spine-tingling.
What’s not described is that people will bring their very small children. The children will cry and whine because they are scared or bored. It’s a short tour. Only 45 minutes. The art was probably fashioned by men. I tell myself that these young parents just don’t know any better and when those children are 20 they will say to each other what the hell were we thinking? I tell myself I will go back tomorrow and get another 45 minute tour. And go back the next day and then again whenever I can until I get enough. And I tell myself that virtually every artist in the Renaissance was male and that most of their patrons were male.
It’s still too big and too wide to fully absorb. I will continue to think and read about the caves at Lascaux for a very long time. And in the meantime, if anyone suggests that this is not an experience where you feel the earth move under your feet, I’ll just smile and say to myself, if you actually get a chance to go, you better hold on--because you just might fall down a prehistoric rabbit hole on one of the most thrilling rides of your life.
Today's the day. We will explore the caves of Cro-Magnon Man. Last night before dinner we ran a scouting route over the area and there were surprises. Like this: who would have guessed that if you blink your eyes you think you are near the Cataldo Mission or on the north fork of the Coeur d'Alene River? No kidding. I'm a little smug this morning, knowing that the place on this earth where earliest man was known to live and create art looks exactly like home. Funny what springs your righteousness. North Idaho is my pride and prejudice and this morning, I walk with the Coeur d'Alenes, despite being in the mountains of southwest France.
I reread my last post and want to drop back for a moment. First, I should not presume to speak for Joe McNally; you can read his book where he succintly lays out The Tao of Joe for you. 'The Moment It Clicks' is available on Amazon.com and at JoeMcNally.com. It's a great read; see for yourself what he says about lighting, framing and positioning your shot. I'd like to amend my original comments to say that Joe is old-school. If you light it just right, keep moving to play the angles and push your camera to the edge, PhotoShop will be unable to add one thing to maximize the visual impact of your image. Joe McNally above all is a respectful person and I regret I may have represented him as scornful of PhotoShop. He is not. But don't take my word for it; buy the book and read his story. Here is one more shot of somebody I talked to at St-Paul Clinique, who like me, is waiting for a break through. Click on the image for full disclosure.
One thing I wanted to pop in to note and annotate is this: in the McNally School of Photography, thou shalt not use PhotoShop. Only one of these pictures has been color enhanced; I bet you can tell that the shot of Fontieille was punched up. It was the only one I had and it looked like it was covered in ash. So I fixed it so you could see what my new hometown will look like. McNally says real photographers don't PhotoShop. He teaches you how to take these pictures and utilize existing light. Told you I was a E/V comp ho.
There have been all kinds of things come up this week. First, I am moving to this town here:
It's called Fontvieille. I'm reasonably sure Joe Montana will follow me and pretty sure The Pup will visit regularly. Benihana will want to negotiate, of course, so I will introduce him to her:
She's on my side. Second thing, and I never saw this coming, is this: I'm pretty sure I am an E/V comp ho. First, it was just once or twice and then, all the time. Now I can't stop. But until I start making good choices about my F-stops, I am driven, I am compelled, I really don't have a choice, oh hell, who am I kidding? I am an E/V Comp ho. sigh.
Yesterday, we went to St. Remy to St-Paul Clinique where Van Gogh committed himself when his illness began to take over his life. I was deeply moved to see where 'The Starry Night' was painted and walk in the garden where the iris, the sunflowers, the olive trees grew that inspired so many iconic works of art. As I absorbed the harsh, unrelenting, beautiful and provocative landscape, I knew how deeply Van Gogh suffered and how his work must have soothed and tormented him, all in a continuous slide show that just kept dropping in new frames. In the stiffling heat of the late afternoon I walked through the mounds of lavendar softly swaying in a hot, hazy breeze and felt his pain and his isolation. And as I looked to the hills, I could see a black sky swirling with constellations of difficulty and disaster. It was time to leave but I turned back for one last look and this time, the sky was a panaramic ocean of swirls of delicately choreographed fireworks, splashing periwinkle, yellow, blue and silver across a navy night sky.
We all suffer, I guess, but when we are doing our best work we just keeping painting the next picture as we can see it, with ambition and resolve, and know that outrageous beauty can be born out of pain and solitude. So my love to you tonight, my darlings; I know it's hard. But step into the night sky and and look for stars. The one that's twinkling at you is me.
I am in Arles, France taking a photography course from Joe McNally. Yes, indeed. THAT Joe McNally. And for me to be taking a photography class from Joe McNally is like me training for Bloomsday with Carl Lewis. A funny, engaging, generous Carl Lewis. Yes. THAT Carl Lewis. What just happened? What am I doing here?
Went to the market this morning and watched women shop for jewelry from a table in a cafe as I sipped caffe glacier. Angelina and Brad have taken a house down the road and wait for the birth of their babies. It's hot and lovely. Mostly surreal. Took 300 pictures today; Joe only liked four. sigh. I have a whole 'nother week.
So we came to Avignon. The trip here was heinous. More than ever, in international travel, you gotta want it. You don't want it, really, really want it, you will not make it. Because getting to where you want to go these days is damned, damned hard. Two red eyes, 4-hour delay out of JFK, 6 strikes in Paris and one high-speed train ride later, we arrived in Avignon. At a point, I sat on the floor of Gare de Lyon in Paris, surrounded by backpacks and bags, and cried. Just plain cried, in front of all those people. Gave it to aching muscles, fuzzy eyes, scratchy throat, dim gaze and sore outlook. Had a cry and a nap. Woke up, limped down the platform of train #6135, hoisted 110 pounds of duffel and camera gear aboard and crawled on.
And so finally I made it here. Avignon is the gateway to Provence and is gorgeous. A southern Oregon climate of sorts with blooming flowers, deep blue skies, no light pollution and absolutely zero American tourists. Oddly, we have been pegged as Americans. Never happens to me, but it has happened this time. At lunch yesterday, waitress gave us the classic French youareDIRTundermyfingernails routine. Took the orders of three tables who arrived later than us first; brought our food when absolutely nothing else needed to be done, including reset those three tables whom now had left. Didn't bring the coffee. Made us wait for our check for over 15 minutes. The usual. I paid the bill, left no gratuity, blew her a kiss and went on my way. It's all good. It's one of a variety of amusements in the day that make everything so interesting. Fortunately, most of the other amusements are quite delightful in a sensual way. Like the freshly baked croissants and cold, hard kiwis at breakfast. The pastis and tapenade before dinner. The olives. oh my! the olives. Noon mass at St. Pierre. The tablecloths in bright hues of blue, yellow and periwinkle. Even the cab driver who said "George Bush" when I said to him, "Know who my best friend is?"
So the Irish bounced the EU back into a rework of their treaty, President Bush would like to reopen oil wells off the California coast, and the economies of Britain, France, Germany and Italy may actually be deeper in the tank than the US economy. I don't know how much any of that matters here, certainly doesn't matter to me this morning as the sun streams through the French doors of the patio and the richly perfumed air lures me into the seduction of a new day. For all the pain in getting here, on this day at this moment, Avignon is everything a vacation should be. And for that I'm grateful. Call it all joy.
Je pars pour un aventure magnifique avec Le Christ Child. La Provence. Les appareils-photo. L’aïoli. La bouillabaisse. La tapenade. Le Grand Schisme/la Crise Pontificale. Et les grottes. La nation Chow reste à la maison sans moi et vous serez accuelli au Brunch de dimanche comme d’habitude sans perturbation. N’y téléphonez pas; on vous téléphonera avec votre réservation. Le seul détail que j’ai oublié c’est l’état des roses. Je pouvais arrêter le courrier quotidien et le journal quotidien, mais on ne peut pas arrêter les roses. Elles fleuriront à la folie sans mon regard. Mon dieu. C’est pas juste. Attendez-moi. Je rentrerai. Je penserai à vous et j’allumerai des bougies. Jusqu’à ce moment-là.
It was chilly out but the participants in the cruise received anything but a chilly reception. It's become one of the best parts of summer here. Special shout out to my girlfriends; this pink and black Lucy and Ethel car would become us. Big Time.
June 26, 2005 was the day my life changed again. I wrote my first blog entry. I was sitting at a kitchen table in NoPo, one of my favorite places in all the earth. I can't remember exactly how it was that I decided to create a blog or don't remember reading any blogs that inspired me particularly, but no doubt in part I was inspired by a journalist in my hometown and his romp of a blog, Huckleberries Online. This guy and his tact were interesting to me because he obviously was not a native of Coeur d'Alene yet he wrote with such authority, swagger maybe, about Coeur d'Alene. One thing I liked about him and still do is that he doesn't live in the suburbs and does not have a suburban outlook on life and culture. Coeur d'Alene has suburbs you say? Hey, watch it. Coeur d'Alene has nasty suburbs that give cruel depth and breath to the toxic definition of suburbs. And I will not go into how provocative and dangerous suburbs are. Anyway.
I do remember wanting my children to have some definitive memory of me, as my own memories of my mother were slipping away. And I couldn't remember how she looked sometimes or what she said about some things. Also, I have completely forgotten what her voice sounds like. So, certainly as a measure of coping with both my mother and my children gone off to different places, Notes From The 'Kan EWA was born. I have no idea where the title came from or where the idea to co-author the blog with The Chow Nation, with whom I spend lots of time, came from. And I admit, it was and is a selfish effort on my part because right here at Notes From The 'Kan EWA, it's all about me. All me, all the time. It's just great.
If I had to name one thing that I was not prepared for when I began writing a blog, it would be the blogworld's reception of anonymity. I write anonymously because it suits me. It's all about me, remember? And to those who knew me before I wrote Notes From The 'Kan EWA, I am anything but anonymous. I am many things, but I am not hard to find or unavailable. So it's hard for me, really hard some days, to understand why the blog world can't accept JBelle at face value. I don't understand why people have to have me rather than know me through what I write. Why is that?
Some people, and you'll recognize yourself immediately, have to have your phone number to call you up and continue the dialog. I bet by now, you 've already guessed that I do not like, do not prefer to use and do not feel comfortable on the telephone. Except with a very, very few. Not even the Chows call me on the phone. I do not regret having traded phone numbers with exactly three people who read my blog that I didn't know on June 26, 2005 but I still freeze when it comes up. And it comes up quite often. I just don't give my phone number out. I don't do it. Why is it important to jump on the telephone when our acquaintance was made in the blogworld?
Then there are those who want to come by and see the garden and meet The Chows. Those that want to meet for coffee. Those that want to have a drink. Those that want me to come by their house. Those that have said openly to me, "Where's your hospitality?" I'm not even going to get into the group that calls itself "investigative reporters".
My impression with all these people, and I suspect they are very, very nice people, is that they aren't smitten with JBelle or even the idea of JBelle, they are frantic with an anonymous presence. Like with instant gratification, they absolutely must know it, must have it, must comment with their take on it. NOW. Because lingering anywhere over anything is ... ! well, oh my. It's simply not done. Only thing worse in the blog world than lingering is something, wait for it, unknown. There is no time nor patience for lingering or for not knowing in the blogworld. Problem with all their efforts is this: they scare me. People have gone to the cemetery trying to find out who I am. They visit the hairdresser, making inquiries. They dig deep into public data bases to figure out the mystery of JBelle. They pout. They make inappropriate remarks. They talk at neighborhood cocktail parties and barbecues. Interestingly enough, these same people very, very, VERY seldom comment on my blog. They prefer instead to stalk. They get to the other people who actually know me and honor my claim of anonymity to make sure I know they are trying to find me. The ironic part of this is, I am just about certain their gestures are made in friendship, or at a least a social effort, but they end up being anything but friendly or social. They end up being scary.
They drive me deeper into the sanctity of my life. I have beautiful, intimate relationships that have taken me many, many years to build; I have wonderful, fulfilling friendships that sustain and inspire me; I have neighbors and colleagues who challenge and incite me with their ideas and thoughts and I have the Chows to sit with and the telephone that never, ever ceases ringing with cute, lovely people on the other end, saying Hey, what's up?
So I have a life that fills me and that reblesses me each and every day. In another irony, I am highly adventurous. But not with intimacy. Intimacy you take, not one step at a time, but one brick at a time. You build it. Over time. With trust. And faith. You cement it with shared hopes, disappointments, pain, joy and grief. And you never, ever, ever violate the implicit covenants of your relationships and friendships by putting your need-to-knows first, before the well being of your experiences and life together. You just don't do it.
So today I salute and celebrate Google and Blogger. Thanks for doing this. Thanks for having me. I am having so much fun. I think your cultural contribution to the new millennium will be one of the most positive and important. And to Tennessee and Transportation Relations, out of 'em all you two are the ones I'd see. Particularly if you brought Cuniff. At least you guys are honest; you definitely make me laugh. A lot. So if you're ever at a table in Coeur d'Alene and someone sends Jameson shots, look around. That's me--ducking out the back door.