Another September

Author: Eileen Reynolds

A change of life for a middle-aged woman

My life changed on a sunny morning in Brittany, when a pair of brown eyes smiled at me from a market stall. Pierre de Kergorlay winked.

“Bonjour Madame! You wish to see my work?”

His paintings were a riot of colour, celebrating the Breton coastline. The exuberance and joy that he captured in painting the sea and flowers were a revelation to me. I returned to his stall every market day, and each time I could see new colour and meaning.
When he asked if he could paint me, I thought he was making fun of me, Jane Henry, a plump woman who never cared much about image and less about limelight.

“Your expression is haunted by dreams, light and dark, what my canvas longs for�”

And so began our portrait sessions.

“What is it you long for so much? Life is for living, Madame, not for longing. You heard of “carpe diem?’I have yet to see you accept �and smile!”
My portrait was now a centerpiece in his stall at the Auray market�”a priceless woman,” he used say “never to be bought.”
The painting I bought from him myself was a yellow and orange frenzy of wild flowers, growing on a grey cliff away from the crashing waves below, free and lifegiving ―reminding me of my dream world �
Pierre was so moved by my silent appreciation, that he asked me if I’d like a badly paid job at his stall!
“For how long?”. I asked. “Forever”, he said, his face crinkling into that radiant smile�
Could I, would I leave my home, my job, to embrace Pierre’s world? September was looming �another September of teaching, timetables, codes of discipline�
Yet, who among my friends really knew me?
The real me that had emerged in Pierre’s portrait was a dreamer, a woman with a sense of belonging to the earth in depth of thought and colour�nothing to do with that sense of duty and foreboding that had been thrust upon me. Pierre had found the woman whom home and work had crushed. He was appalled by my “life sentence” in Ireland.
“I was the dutiful daughter who lived at home to mind my parents.”
“And why did you not take your freedom after their death?”
“Because I was forty then and lacked the courage. Besides, I liked teaching.”
“And now?”
“Now� we don’t speak the same language, me and my students. And I have lost heart.”
“For two months, you have regained heart �with me! Why can’t you live with me? You will not tire of wandering this coastline, setting up stall in the market and sharing my cottage. I will teach you to paint, to capture the beauty of the universe!”
Pierre’s craggy face crinkled into that smile, which had lightened my life for two months� “go back home, Jane consider your secure position in Dublin � with all its bleakness and pretence. Compare your existence there with life and creativity here.”
Back home, I tried several times to unpack my case. Distractedly, I glanced at the agenda for tomorrow’s Staff meeting �and shivered. I thought of the frenetic activity about to launch the school year into another September. I seemed to hear Pierre’s voice asking if it was it not time for me to put away the rules and regulations�
I gazed at his painting of the cliff flowers. Their wild beauty mocked the careful contours of my life. Trembling in anticipation, I put the painting back in my suitcase.
“Yes Pierre, it is time for me –time to live life to the full!