Monday, February 18, 2013

A Carnaval Tradition~ en Provence

My sketch, 6 X 9 inches
One March, in the hilltop village of Venasque in Provence, while on an immersion trip with Valérie Guillet & the Language Exchange (click here to see this semester's French offerings) we were surprised by music & costumed villagers (des villageois déguisés) parading through the streets. It was le Carnaval de l'école (school children's carnival), which occurs each year on a Saturday about 40 days before Easter, just about the time that other cities are having Mardi Gras celebrations. Some people in the parade held signs that had messages like "No to war" (Non, la guerre) or "Neither violence, nor misery"  (Ni la violence, ni la misère). The final destination of the parade (le défilé) was the square just outside of the rampart, the defensive wall built by Romans in 1347, where a huge paper maché "evil" octopus une pievure maléfique) was waiting.  

Photo taken by Jean-Paul Guillet, the father of Language Exchange's Director, Valérie

The villagers, especially the children had written messages about things they wanted to let go of. Perhaps they were wrongs they'd commited, perhaps they were cruel aspects of life, I didn't know for sure because they were written secretly & folded up. They were gathered & placed in the lap of la pieuvre maléfique. La pieuvre had a log (un bûcher) under it which would have been set on fire, so that all would be burned, except drizzly & windy weather didn't allow it (we heard it got done later in the week). This ritual's purpose was to chase away evil spirits (pour chasser les mauvais esprits).

You might ask: How much power can a ritual like this really have, be it Christian, pagan or any other religion? Well.  I came to Venasque on the previous day with 3 mauvais esprits: a toothache, (mal aux dents), a backache (mal au dos) and broken out skin (une maladie de peau). By the next day, all 3 had disappeared! I'm not kidding (Je ne blague pas)!!

To my French readers, including Professeur Guillet: Please excuse any errors of French, &, as always, corrections are welcomed!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Maine's Valentine Bandit

Portland loves Valentine's Day.
Three Valentine Fairies walking around, blowing bubbles, spreading cheer.
Students from the art school? Naaaaah, Fairies.
Note the heart on the door behind them.
It is the work of Portland's Valentine Bandit.
 Each year since 1976 the Bandit tapes hearts everywhere in Portland:
On shop windows, statues, even parking meters! One TV station caught the Bandit during the night,
but to their credit they did not reveal his or her identity.  

This tradition has spread to other cities such as Bangor, & Montpelier Vermont,
but Portland is proud of its Bandit: the first in the country!

The hearts make us feel good, & they also get us to slow down & really look at details in our city.
Valentine's Day in Portland. Better than Christmas, in my opinion!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Abstract Snow

I knew it was to be temporary, but I didn't know exactly what I'd find.
Yesterday I went wandering with camera instead of sketchbook at Portland Head Light. (Today it's raining.)
The play between the drifts from the previous day's blizzard & the shadows from the mid-morning sun created a landscape that I identified as part some other planet, not my little world of the expected.
I found myself knee deep in snow in places, & on bare ground in others, sometimes with sudden transitions.
 It was no longer snow or drift or shadow. I was a part of a magnificent natural masterpiece.
If I was a bit disoriented, it was with pleasure.
Several other dramatic landscapes & formations revealed themselves too, all within the very small area of this seaside public park! More to come tomorrow!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Making Valentines in a Snowstorm

 Today's view from the kitchen window...
What do you do when you are snowed-in?
Make Valentine's Cards! These cute 3X4" graph paper bags (hearts added by me) are by Whisker Graphics, bought at my favorite papeterie (translated, "stationer's boutique", but it's so much more) this side of France. It is Rock Paper Scissors in Wiscasset, Maine. Anticipating today's storm, we took a trip up there yesterday & I took photos! (I will show you next time!) I am so happy to have permission to "hunker down" (translated "s'installer" by Wordreference...), but am wishing & hoping that we don't lose electricity...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Looking Out the Window

Just before I got sick I was planning to spend a day in Boston. Apparently last year at this time I had the same desire... It's cold there this time of year, but there aren't many people.
You get to see a bit of the skeleton of the city.
The Public Garden is gorgeous at any time of year!