by Beth Arnold
An ongoing series about uprooting our lives in America and moving to France. For what's happened before, see previous Jours of Our Lives entries here.
COMING AND GOING, staying and leaving had defined our lives for many months. For me, the leaving always carried a bit of sadness—losing a new territory (in both France and in myself) that I'd only just found. Almost invariably, I wanted to experience more than the sites we had to see for the purpose at hand, but there weren’t enough hours in the day to fully explore. I want it all. Whether beauty or culture, history or cuisine, something always intrigued me. I wanted to know the meaning behind the vistas. I researched and read, asked questions of anyone I could, and tried to "get" enough of the landscape and its people to feel that I knew them. But there was always much I still didn’t know.
Leaving was also the most difficult for Jim, because he hated loading the car with the scads of baggage we were now carrying. It's not that I blamed him, but he grumbled and moaned until he was in a foul mood—and took his sweet time getting over it. Leaving Vence was especially hard. Matisse’s house, Villa Le Reve, was a raw jewel. More than 50 years after Henri Matisse had lived there, it still held a piece of his creative force, and we hadn’t even begun to mine all its secrets. As I’ve said previously, we could’ve happily stayed for months. Joelle, Villa Le Reve’s manager, had been spectacularly kind and generous, essentially giving us the run of the place. We even had our own house key. Returning to the road meant tearing ourselves away from Matisse Mecca. Once again it felt like leaving home.