The first time we drove along La Corniche, the radio was playing. I didn’t understand the language. The more the announcer talked, the more the view disappeared. It’s hard to see when you’re drowning. Each word was an anchor. It was so hard to breathe. What was I thinking? This couldn’t possibly be for me. This view. This bienvenue. No, not for me. I couldn’t see the blue, the turquoise… I was going under. Each word I didn’t understand said you don’t belong here. It’s funny when we don’t understand something how quickly we can translate. Create our own narrative.
“Use the back door,” she said. She knew I didn’t belong to “the club” – The Alexandria Golf Club. That was obvious. Wasn’t it obvious? I would never belong. “Breathe,” I told myself. And walked around.
We drove along the sea. “Use the back door.” I hadn’t thought of that in years. And now that’s all I could hear. Each French word was pushing me down the back stairs, and the water kept rising.
That weekend at The Alexandria Golf Club, I was there to sell my not yet refined art work. It was simple, inexpensive, full of my heart and hands. I entered through the back door, terrified. What was I thinking? It was me.
The world can surprise you. I sold everything. People smiled, and hugged and clutched their pearls, and “oh, that is so me,” they said. “So me.” So me. “Entering through the back door me.”
It took me years to claim my hometown. Maybe I should say, claim myself in my hometown. And I expected to enter France through the front door?
Some lessons we have to learn again and again, and I would learn this one…again.
I grew up across the gravel road from Lake Agnes in Alexandria. I painted Lake Agnes in France. I painted the blue, each stroke stepping through the front door. This was my hometown. It was not theirs. It was ours.
I claimed it. My heart. The most terrifying thing, can sometimes be the most beautiful.
We’ve driven along the sea more times than I can count. I begin to see it more each time. The colors flowing in my heart now, not over my head. The blue. The turquoise. I see it. It is not theirs. It is ours. And it is beautiful.
We came home to Aix, and I grabbed my brushes, my blues, and wrote a love letter to Marseille.
Us. (Did you know that includes you? As terrifying as that may seem, it is twice as beautiful! And it is ours.)