Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances Mayes

Back in the days when I was briefly the wife of a NZ Airforce officer, living on Base Woodbourne up in Marlborough ('up' because I came from 'down' in Dunedin) I bought a book that has traveled everywhere with me ever since.

I devoured Frances Mayes Under the Tuscan Sun as we moved off base and out of that airforce life down to Fiordland, in the south west of New Zealand ... through the crazy days of packing moving and unpacking.

It's a beautiful book, one that I dip in and out of when I'm looking for beauty and some kind of peace ... a book that takes me wandering even while grounded.

Some years later and I was flying between Istanbul and New Zealand on my summer holiday break from teaching ... Under the Tuscan Sun was there as a movie choice on Singapore Airlines. I had at least 19 hours of flight time ahead of me so I selected it as a movie to watch as I flew round the world ...

It's not like the book, never expect it. It's a nice enough movie but it contains none of the depth and richness I find again and again when I go back to my tattered copy of the book.

I've been reading it lately ...

An extract: I remember dreaming over Bachelard's 'The Poetics of Space', which I don't have with me, only a few sentences copied into a notebook. He wrote about the house as a "tool for analysis" of the human soul.

By remembering the houses we've lived in, we learn to abide within ourselves. I felt close to his sense of the house. He wrote about the strange whir of the sun as it comes into a room in which one is alone. Mainly, I remember recognising his idea that the house protects the dreamer; the houses that are important to us are the ones that allow us to dream in peace.

And this: 'Choice is restorative when it reaches towards an instinctive recognition of the earliest self. As Dante recognised at the beginning of 'The Inferno': What must we do in order to grow?

(The photographs are 2 homes I lived in after my divorce before flying into Istanbul, Turkey.)


Mark J said...

Never got invited to the second one ;-)

Where was I when you came back to Dunedin? I totally blame you for the lack of communication by the way :)

Dont you think it's ironic that we talk so much now - now you're not 15 minutes away in a car?

V-Grrrl said...

I read Under the Tuscan Sun and was struck by her meditations on place and home, but I always felt she didn't fully inhabit her own story, was unwilling to really tell it, to talk about her divorce or her relationship with her partner and the life of one who moves between homes on a regular basis. She describes where she is physically in great detail, loves history, but I felt she herself was distant, like a narrator observing her own life.

Yes, the movie was an entirely different story, wasn't it? I did love the drama of it though.

Manic said...

The first house looked lovely, the second house well it looked like the scary house on the top of the hill.
So you came from down there, gosh when you decided to move up, you really pushed it ay.
I liked the movie, never read the book. I want a house in Tuscany :( or Spain, or New Zealand (you don't have dangerous snakes or those pesky Australian spiders and people ay?)

womanwandering said...

Well my neglectful friend, I think you were busy with your life ... you have an open invitation to my homes, you know it :)

Hmmm that is ironic, the talking more now thing ... then again, as I recall, I always felt I had a clear vision about you getting out in the world ;) and you probably feel safer now that I can't gently lead you out to buy that plane ticket.

Hi v-grrrl, I noticed that lack in Frances' story but I think I like her book more because of it. It's a concentration of experience and thinking that I find beautiful.

And 'place' has always been all important to me. After my divorce I spent some time living in a tiny cottage on the edge of the harbour and I know for sure that, had I written a blog back then, it wouldn't have had much, if anything about the things I was going through or had gone through, it would have been about 'the place' ... about the sun came up some mornings, the bird song, how I the felt there with my rocking chair by the big window, the long beach walks, my dog and the satisfaction I found in occasionally spending my small income on a good slice of parmesan cheese to have with fresh pasta and a drinkable red wine ... about a book I had found in the secondhand bookshop ... it would have been about the beauty because how could I have ignored it.

Hmmmm I did go on, didn't I :)

But yes, I thought the movie stood alone as entertainment, I watched it on the way back to Istanbul too.

womanwandering said...

Hmmmm maybe I need to change the photograph of the house on top of the hill ... it was a cute little place (although Diede might say otherwise)

And no, NZ doesn't have snakes (maybe a few spiders) but my brothers both moved to and married Australians so we have plenty of them ;)