“Five Quarters of the Orange” and Documenting Time

“Green-tomato jam. Cut green tomatoes into pieces,like apples,and weigh them. Place in a bowl with 1 kg. of sugar to the same weight of the fruit. Awoke at  three again this morning and went to find my pills. Forgot again that I’d none left. When the sugar is melted,stir with a wooden spoon. I keep thinking that if I go to Raphaël he might find another supplier. I daren’t go to the Germans again,not after what happened. I’d rather die first. Then add the tomatoes and boil gently stirring very frequently…”

An excerpt from Five Quarters of the Orange – Joanne Harris

And so the mystery evolves in this book by Joanne Harris (she also wrote Chocolat). The above passage was written in a recipe journal/album left to the main character, Framboise Dartigen by her mother, Mirabelle. She describes the album as “not a diary…there are almost no dates in the album,no precise order. Pages were inserted into it at random,loose leaves later bound together with small,obsessive stitches….My mother marked the events of her life with recipes,dishes of her own invention or interpretations of old favorites. Food was her nostalgia,her celebration,its nurture and preparation, the sole outlet for her creativity.” The album also contained secret messages encoded by her mother based on personal events and tragedies that took place in her village of Les Laveuses during the German Occupation of Paris.

I truly enjoyed reading this book –  it was my summer read. I found it intriguing that the character, Mirabelle Dartigen, who was a widow, chose this creative way to document such a hard time in her life. She struggled with personal demons during a turbulent time in history. She used food as a bridge between herself and her three children to keep them connected to her. But her children, especially nine-year old Framboise, had some special secrets of their own and so the story unfolds. Joanne Harris weaves this tale so beautifully with her descriptive words and imaginative plot.

So I started thinking about my travel journals,”reflective thoughts” journals, poetry journals, recipes scribbled onto scraps of paper journals, notes/photos/drawings/pressed leaves and pansies tucked into gardening books or art books, half-finished songs and stories in spiral-ringed exercise books just waiting for a stage and a scrapbook marked “Christmas” containing holiday cookies and  fruit cake recipes, music recitals and present lists. I’ve always felt good about writing things down on paper and  documenting movements of time,thoughts, moments and memories. Today we have technology to help with documenting time – hence the reason I also write a blog. It’s slightly different, yet somewhat the same – it’s meant for sharing, it’s meant to inspire.

© 2012 Ann Ivy Male

“Arriving at a Landscape” – Bobbie Burgers

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“Painting en plein air is scanning and letting your eyes condense. Condensing all the senses:the smells, the dry winds, the sunshine, the warmth, the rustling grasses, all of these terribly romantic scenes.” Bobbie Burgers

An excerpt from the artist’s latest book  – “Arriving at a Landscape”
This series of paintings was inspired and started “en plein air” around Provence – then finished back home in Canada. The exhibit was at the Bau-Xi gallery in Toronto.

“The Paris Wife” meets at “Midnight in Paris”

                       “The Paris Wife” meets at “Midnight in Paris”

© 2012 Ann Ivy Male

       Three travelling clocks……Tick

       On the mantelpiece………Comma

       But the young man is starving.

       Earnest Hemingway ,1921

Ever wonder what Paris was like in the twenties? We’ve  all heard that it was a magical time for artists, writers and musicians. Every café, every street corner and every bar had its usual suspects scouring the joint for inspiration and intellectual stimulation. The music was lively, the champagne flowed and the extravagance of the “roaring twenties” seemed indulgent but with a price to be paid at the end of the decade. Wouldn’t it be intriguing to experience what that time period was really like? Well then it certainly was appropriate that both, director Woody Allan and author Paula McLain gave us just that opportunity in, respectively, the film- Midnight in Paris and the book –The Paris Wife.

In the movie, Midnight in Paris –  Gil, a successful screen writer, finds himself in Paris with his fiancée, Inez, and her parents. He, like many writers, feels restless and uninspired. He’s writing a book but is protective of it and is unsure of how good it really is. His fiancée seems to be in her own pretentious world, oblivious to Gil’s aspirations. She is distracted by an old friend, the arrogant and scholarly, Paul. Understandable, Gil doesn’t connect with Paul and is quick to disengage himself from the group. One particular evening, Gil is lost and wanders the streets of Paris and as the clock strikes midnight, a vintage car pulls up beside him and a smartly dressed couple inside the car motion for Gil to hop in. Moments later, he finds himself in a confused yet exciting state of time travel when he’s at a bar and is introduced to the likes of F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Cole Porter and Earnest Hemingway. Gil is baffled yet intensely intrigued by his fortunate situation.

In a casual conversation with Hemingway at the infamous restaurant, Le Polidor, Gil nervously talks about his book and invites Hemingway to critique it. In true “earnest” fashion, Hemingway is quick to turn down the offer stating -“If it’s bad, I’ll hate it. If it’s good, then I’ll be envious and hate it even more. You don’t want the opinion of another writer.”  Instead he passes the book along to Gertrude Stein to read.

Now enter – The Paris Wife.  Paula McLain wrote this beautiful historical fiction from the perspective of Hadley Hemingway, Earnest Hemingway’s first wife. The pair married in September,1921 and a few months later set sail for Paris, on the Leopoldina. 

We are immediately immersed into Hadley’s world as the supportive and naïve lonely wife of the brilliant yet moody and insecure budding writer. “We fell into a routine, rising together each morning and washing without talking, because the work had already begun in his head. After breakfast, he’d go off in his worn jacket and the sneakers with the hole at the heel. He’d walk to his room and struggle all day with his sentences………I missed Earnest’s  company , but he didn’t seem to miss mine, not while there was work to be done….” (The Paris Wife)

And as the story unfolds – Hadley’s life with Hemingway is filled with nights out at cafés and bars, socializing with the same ex-pats that Gil, from the movie, encounters in his time travel. Her days are simple and that of  individual survival.  She is sometimes resentful but strongly supports her husband’s desire to become an aspiring writer. The couple travel around Europe and even settle in Toronto temporarily, where Hemingway takes a job as a reporter for The Star and Hadley gives birth to their son, Bumby. As time moves on, Hadley continues to live in the shadows of the writer, often putting her own aspirations aside.  Their relationship is compromised many times as they endure the dark journey the writer faces on his way to being respected and eventually accepted as a true artist and a writer for the common man.

Both The Paris Wife and Midnight in Paris are insightful, entertaining and thought-provoking stories. They offer a glimpse into the struggles and self-doubt that writers and other artists face when trying to create authentic work. Earnest Hemingway and Gil Pender eventually find their true calling in life however, in turn, they both lose something precious along that way. The saving grace for both men is that they shared a passion for Paris – the magical city that ignited inspiration, curiosity spontaneity, creative solace and a temporary escape from reality.

Divas Make a Difference

From left Tricia Aziz, Tera Codispoti, Mona Engeset-Faustino, Melora Parker Pistore, Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak, Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean, Iwona Kozibroda-Saniternik, Kathryn Alton, Ann Ivy Male.

Words by Ann Ivy Male

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
– Pablo Picasso

A group of female artists who collaborate under the name Art Divas have found a way to keep their creative expression alive through art, and in turn help support a foundation they believe in. The Michaëlle Jean Foundation (www.fmjf.ca) focuses on “celebrating the power of arts to bring about positive alternatives to at-risk youth across Canada and bring a better quality of life to their communities.”

Art Divas, based in Port Credit, is spearheaded by Halina Wyluda-Kazmierczak, a trained artist and a good friend of mine. Halina runs a local art school            (www.i-impressions.ca ) whose students are primarily children from as young as three years old to teens.

Mme. Jean with Ann Ivy Male.

“The whole idea of Art Divas came about when mothers, who would pick up their kids from art class, would be so impressed and inspired by their kids artwork that they would ask if I could do weekend workshops for busy moms,” Halina explains.

A few weeks later, Halina offered a weekend workshop that gave moms an opportunity to take a blank canvas on Friday night and walk away with a finished piece of original artwork by Sunday afternoon.

Eventually, these workshops turned into weekly art classes that were frequented by the same core group of women who were enthusiastic about their new creative outlet but also wanted to give back and support a meaningful cause. Melora Parker Pistore, one of the Art Divas, attended a lecture series for women, the Rt. Hon. Michaëlle Jean’s “Unique Lives & Experiences,” and was inspired by the presentation. Mme. Jean and her husband, Jean-Daniel Lafond, are co-founders of FMJF. They are clearly passionate about this endeavour and they promote it as: “Arts for Action. Arts for Change.”

Melora recalls Mme. Jean, Canada’s former Governor General, speaking about the importance of supporting Canadian youth, especially those in under-serviced communities. For example, helping Aboriginal youth keep their native art alive in their communities instills a sense of personal pride, supports their local community and gives them a voice. The FMJF recently partnered with the Arts Network for Children and Youth (ANCY) who have initiated the first ever National Youth Arts Week which ran from May 1 to 7.

Melora talks with Mme. Jean while Iwona and Kathryn enjoy the moment.

After the lecture, Melora took these words of inspiration back to the Art Divas group and they all agreed that it was the perfect foundation to support. So, last month, Art Divas held a Spring Art Show and featured a collection of pieces—each depicting the unique style of the artists themselves. The pieces were all successfully sold at a silent auction with the proceeds given to FMJF. The team at the foundation was very appreciative of this initiative and Carole Chabot, Director of Development, sent an e-mail to the Art Divas informing them that Mme. Jean wanted to meet the artists to thank them personally.

“I could not believe this, what an honour,” Halina says.

This special meeting took place last Friday when Mme. Jean was in town to address a large group of educators from the Dufferin-Peel Catholic District SB as part of an Elementary Professional Development Day session held at the Toronto Congress Centre. Carole advised the group that unfortunately due to schedule changes the meeting would be a short one but nonetheless the artists were thrilled to be given such a privileged opportunity. When Mme. Jean finished her speech to the teachers, she made her way outside the hall to meet with the Art Divas.

The meeting area was bustling with teachers on a quick break, however when the group came together to shake hands and introduce themselves, Mme. Jean had everyone feeling like they had her undivided attention. She had an aura that exuded grace and humility. She thanked the group for donating to the foundation and reiterated how important it is to support our youth, especially through the arts.

Original artwork sold at the Spring Show – http://www.artdivas.ca.

“Divas make a difference!” She said with a genuine smile. I asked Mme. Jean if she paints and she told me, “No, I do not paint, but I love to dance and I also play the piano.” Moments later, the group posed for pictures, Mme. Jean gave each artist a warm hug and then her team apologized and informed them that they had to leave. When all was said and done, everyone concurred that in such a brief fifteen minute encounter, Mme. Jean made them feel special.

Halina showing Mme.Jean pictures from the Spring Art Show.

During the car ride home, the group felt euphoric and inspired. A discussion came up about children and art. We wondered why sometimes adults put up barriers to creativity whereas children approach the creative process with endless amounts of freedom. Have you ever watched a toddler dip their fingers in globs of paint and smear it on paper? Brilliant!

Some of us are reluctant to designate a space for the creation of art in our homes for fear of the mess and paint splatter to walls and floors, but in the end all the artists agreed that it didn’t matter how or where you express yourself creatively: what’s important is to try it and see where it can take you. For these Art Divas, it brought them to a place of personal creative satisfaction, camaraderie and an incredible moment of meeting someone inspirational who is advocating for positive change through the power of art.


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