Wednesday, May 13, 2009


Sunday we observed American Mother's Day with a visit to the Villa Rothschild. I like it because it feels familiar, like another museum I know well, and because it is ridiculously beautiful, sitting on the saddle of Cap Ferrat, with views of the sea both east and west. This time, we took a guided tour, which allowed us to see the second floor of the mansion, and even more porcelain and delicate French furniture than are in the downstairs rooms. In the Louis XV room--two rococo marquetry desks, one with porcelain inlays; a suite of chairs from Louis XVI; an Aubusson rug; bits of Sèvres--he pointed out one of the 200 year old Gobelins tapestries hanging lining the walls. I'm not that much of a tapestry girl, I'm afraid, and I know that that is a mark against me in the Book of Culture. But something he said made me take notice. For a weaver at the Gobelins factory to finish one square meter of tapestry--all this is two centuries ago, mind you; it's what made by hand means--took one year.

This tapestry covered one entire wall in a large room.

We are in the middle of High Visiting Season here at La Bastiole. Two sets of (old, dear) friends have come and gone in the past six weeks; significant branches of my extended family were here last week; Madame Mère is with us now; in two weeks' time, the girls' aunt L will be here. She'll be our last visitor: when she leaves, on the last day of May, we'll have six weeks of packing and savoring and preparing and sorting before we close the gates.

We've been lucky in our visitors to La Bastiole. Our immediate families have been, almost everyone more than once, as well as many of our chosen family. And old friends, from different parts of our lives, people we've known at different times and in different places. They've all made the journey--a long journey of multiple flights and time zones for most of them--to see us, to sit at our table, walk our dogs, look at the olive trees, listen to our stories and tell theirs.

It has sometimes seemed like a lot of laundry and grocery lists. But now that I am on the tail end of all the visiting I see it differently. These connections have been a part of the warp and woof of our life for a long time. We've woven, by the Gobelins count, two square meters of tapestry since we've been at La Bastiole. Our visitors have helped us to weave it: although there are new colors in these squares, the old colors show up, too.

Now, without laboring that particular metaphor much more, let me say that, by our guide's reckoning, it must have taken the anonymous weavers of that tapestry as long as a decade of their lives to finish it. Ten years out of 60 or, if they were lucky, 70: births, deaths, marriages, wars, flu epidemics, economic crises, bad harvests, feast days and fast days. Ten years at the loom. We've been here for two, and it feels like a lifetime. It's not, thank goodness. If, as my grandmother used to say, the lord is willing and the creek don't rise, we've got a lot of square meters left to weave. What I am grateful for today is all the help we've had with these two squares, these two years: all the people who've come to see us, who've said to us, we love it here, it's beautiful, we're so glad we came to see you.

When we get back, when we start our next square, there will be new colors again. But also some of the same: colors that have been part of our story, our tapestry, for decades, part of our beginnings and part of these two years and, if we're lucky, part of many yet to come. For that, for all who have been part of these two square meters--for all the expense and jet lag and airplane food and ziploc bags of toiletries, all to come here and bear witness to our lives--thanks. And thanks.

1 comment:

  1. A touching sentiment conveyed beautifully. I wish I could count myself among the visitors.