"Vincent's Room" (St. Paul de Mausole; St Remy de Provence. 2010)

 Oil pencil, watercolor, and pastel pencil

11"x13"

2013

 

Oddly enough (to be as old as I am) I can recall only three times in my life when I was irrevocably touched, so to speak, by the place I was in and what was happening in it.....so that I can't forget the place.

 

(1)  Sitting in a conference room at a fancy boarding school, back when I used to teach in those things.....and a newly-arrived boy told me that he knew everything that was in his "file" (he knew that every teacher was given a copy of the damned thing),and then he kept on telling me (we'd only just met that afternoon) more, and more about his life...and more. I recall every specific detail of the room in which I listened to him for two hours.  I  would have been about 26 at the time. I think he was 15.

 

(2)  The first time I heard the entire festival of lessons and carols in the chapel at Sewanee. I'd never heard or seen such a thing. It was really beautiful. It's probably the only thing I took from the place that's still of real and irreplaceable value to me at this stage of the game.

 

(3) My first visit to St. Paul de Mausole, in St. Remy de Provence.  Of course, it was Herve who took me there.  It was beautiful.  I don't, as a very general rule (and having visited more than anyone's share of "Jane Austen's House!" and similar literary/artistic shrines over the years) care much, one way or the other, about such places.

 

St. Paul de Mausole (which sits a mile or so outside St. Remy and is still is a functioning and very productive mental hospital) was just......different. It's the only writer/artist "shrine" where I've ever found myself suddenly stopping (as we walked through the buildings and the gardens) and thinking "Oh....he was HERE....THIS is what he saw......he was HERE....and not so very long ago")    

(SCROLL DOWN FOR FURTHER COMMENTS)

 

 Van Gogh was trapped there, of course (as was Albert Schweitzer, of all other geniuses, thirty or so years later; the room was closed-up after Van Gogh's death, and Schweitzer was interned in that room as a foreign national during WWI.... and Schweitzer slept on the same iron bed and looked at the same view through the window in the left corner of this room 

When Herve and I visited St. Paul de Mausole, the inevitable moment came when, despite the call of Art, the call of Nature spoke more forcefully to Dr. Herve. He went off in search of a public bathroom (this is, for so many reasons, just NOT a place where you'd pee in a corner of the garden). I was, at that point, feeling fairly overwhelmed by the whole place (this is definitely NOT something that happens to me a lot). I went off, walking quietly on that quiet morning, to look around outside the main building.

I walked into one of the small courtyard gardens and saw, from behind, an American (hard to mistake, given the logos on her t-shirt, baseball cap, and backpack) woman sitting on a bench.

She was sitting there....all alone, not moving, and very-softly singing Don McClean's "Starry, Starry Night" to herself.

I heard her, started to say something (I didn't want to spook her), stopped in my tracks, and I simply started silently backing-out by the way I'd come. I didn't want to interrupt what was obviously a very special, intimate moment of hers.

Of course....that's now my own favorite memory of the place....one of my favorite memories from all my travels, in fact.

 

Of course, the only song to go with this picture is this one........go to:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PsxfvwuCqxo

 

...and thanks, as usual, to my friend Heather Robinson (who blogs wonderfully at "Lost in Arles".....google and go to it, also)