If I asked you today who is the one, very important person that you would like to meet face to face, have dinner with and get to know better – who would that be? I mean here somebody who you could never get enough of, somebody you could talk to for hours and ask all kinds of questions. Do you already have somebody in mind? Would you tell me then or would you rather keep it to yourself?
Some of you would most probably mention the greatest politicians like Winston Churchill or Margaret Thatcher. Others would think of Hemingway or Camus. There would be also a group who would choose genius painters like Vincent Van Gogh, Monet, Cezanne or Picasso.
I can imagine there are also people who would choose their favorite singers or actors.But there is something I am almost 100% sure of. Namely that none of you would come up with an answer – ‘I would like to get to know MYSELF better’. It may sound selfish, egoistic and odd – but “ME” is where we all should start from and this is where we all, strangely enough, try to escape from. The big question is – how could we find a way learn to “speak with ourselves” without having the strange feeling of getting close to inanity.
I’ve always known there are many ways or reaching deep into the soul, including meditation or exercising yoga which I used to practice . But somehow, along the way, leading a busy “business and family life” I overlooked one more, very powerful “tool” that could bring me closer to the voice of my “spirit”. Actually there is something quite old-fashioned, strongly recommended by many therapists and authors of the self-development books. The key words would be here ‘writing a diary’. For many reasons keeping track of our thoughts may result in a better understanding of our “inner self”. And even though life if full of paradoxes – still it makes much sense to think of how could others understand our needs – if we do not understand ourselves at all. How could we expect our friends, relatives or co-workers to make us happy if we don’t really know what does ‘the happiness’ mean according to our “inner dictionary”. But here is the ‘trick’. If you write a diary regularly you have a unique chance to learn more about your most hidden fears and desires. For some people (including myself) starting to write a diary was a big step ahead – as I realized this activity works like a lift that can bring you to the top of a very high building where one could find the own mind. Once the thoughts, the consciousness are “reached” we start looking at the world in a very different way, from a different angle– seeing the bigger picture.
We can compare it to the way we visit the world’s most beautiful cities. The real greatness of its architecture could be fully appreciated only from the top of a high building or a tower. Anybody who has seen Paris from the top level’s upper platform of the Eiffel Tower would know exactly what I mean here. It is worthwhile to get to have “the bird’s eye view”. From this perspective you could notice that the city is like one body, one organism made of many organs, linked together and full of life, where each part is important. If you start writing a diary – you get closer to your ‘inner voice’helps you to recognize what does matter and what does not, so you can finally stop blaming yourself for not doing hundred other things that the world and other people expect from you. You learn to draw a line, stand up for yourself and appreciate yourself more. And this is where the lives profusion lies.
As much as I like philosophy and some of the philosophers – it is also important – to start to “practice what we preach”. This is where usually most of the time things get much more complicated than they seemed at the beginning. For me, personally The New Year has been a perfect moment ‘for a big change’. I decided to accept an ambitious challenge of writing my diary. And it really started to “work” as this way I learned to put things that matter to me on top of my priorities. You will all agree with me on one thing – we all tend to make repeatedly one terrible mistake. It is very annoying and frustrating indeed – but we all keep postponing our dreams for a “better, more convenient time”. Sadly enough we seem not to realize that overdoses of “later”, swallowing it in bigger amount like a vitamin C can cause a serious damage to our life. For “later” could be nothing but an empty promise. ‘You’ll get a salary hike later. I’ll call you later’. ‘You’ll be happy later’– now it’s still time to sacrifice and “bite your mouth”. I am not adverse to being patient. But on the other hand – who does enjoy waiting for things that may never really happen? What if tomorrow never comes? We should focus on “now” as this very moment is all we have.
So my diary was my way to focus on what I want having in mind the Moloco song “The time is now”. It helped me to make up my mind – and buy a beautiful French Antique Louis XV Solid Oak Queen Size Bed from the end of XIX century that I’ve always dreamed of and an antique bookcase from the early 1900 that my collection of books about the Art and Artists and have always deserved.
After coming back from work on Friday I couldn’t wait for the dawn to come so I could spend the first night in my new bed ( which seemed quite exciting). I was sure it will make me feel like I was a real princess, looking at the beautiful, hand-made ornaments presenting grapes and other fruit made me feel very special. And I loved to smell “the scent of time”.
Despite of my excitement I still did not want to neglect my ‘new habit’. Therefore – just like every other night –I took my notebook and pencil and begun to write. This is how my enthusiasms and new desires “spoke to me” growing like flowers in my head. One of the main points on my list was “The Big Art Theory”. In my new blog I wanted to study different paintings and share with my readers the result of my research. All the art-related books I’ve gathered so far weren’t enough. It felt like they’ve shown me only the top of the iceberg. As it was getting very late – I thought it is time to sleep. When I finished my last line I decided to write one more quote that I heard from the old records of Alan Watts: “Be careful of what you desire – you may get it”. For some strange reason I found it very important to write this down – so I could get back to it and reflect on it later.
And here comes the best part. I did not wake up in my apartment in Wroclaw, Poland but somewhere else, in a strangest place that I have ever seen in my entire life. When I opened my eyes I found myself standing in front of the door of the house with the address written on a board, 4100 Pine Street. Everything around me looked “quite vintage”. There was also a little boy and his dog in the neighborhood having fun and I could not belive my eyes – they look like they were from an old, vintage photography.
I thought that the worst thing is to panic now – so without thinking much I knocked at the door and instinctively looked at my hands that did not look like mine. When I looked at my reflection in the window – it became clear – it wasn’t me anymore. The reality was that my spirit got locked inside of the body of some other girl, younger than me that looked like she was 20, 21 years old. But there was no time for deliberations. The doors opened and I saw Adolphe Borie, the painter whom I recognized immediately as I saw his picture in one of my old books from 1930 that I regularly get back to, as I truly love some of his paintings and drawings. The artist looked very elegant and noble which did not really surprise me knowing what kind of man he has always been. In every sense he was an aristocrat – in looks, manners, grooming. When I looked at him for the first time he seemed like “graciousness embodied” which is hardly seen today.
With a soft and welcoming voice he told me to come in, sit down on a sofa and wait for his wife Edith who was supposed to come any minute and show me the gowns. And this is when I realized that I was Nell, the model of George Biddle, the artists friend who came to borrow some costumes necessary for posing to new portraits. Something that one of the books that I owned mentioned as an anecdote. I know I can’t show what’s going on – but I found it incredibly difficult to hold my tongue and not show to my “hosts” that something here isn’t quite right. So I just took a quick look at the things that were standing in the beautifully specious house with a quite striking, Art Deco design, where so many sculptures caught my attention – there were also original artists paintings on the walls. I knew that Borie was most appreciated and recognized by greater public and museums such as MET in New York. I felt like I wanted to ask the artist so many questions. But then again – I knew I was not in a position to ask too much provided that I am only a “working class”, helping her parents at the bakery.
Suddenly on a small, marble table in the salon I’ve noticed a newspaper – a “Philadelphia Tribune”, dating on 20th January 1924 presenting on the first page a beautiful picture of young Miss Philadelphia Ruth Malcolmson Schuber.
The only thing I could think of was what am I supposed to do and say without changing the history of art. Since I was not from the upper-class what I easily figured out from my clothes and the way they talked with me I tried to act as natural as I could. After seeing all the wonderful gowns presented by Edith Petit I asked Adolphe, hearing my high voice and clear American accent:
-“I am only a poor working girl and have never worn an evening gown. But tell me, you that have seen me stark naked, should I wear a square neck of a V”?
There was nothing smarter and more apt that I could have said at the very moment. I wasn’t surprised that Borie knowing that my neck isn’t very long – kindly recommended to choose a ‘V’ which I said was a perfect choice. Edith added to the gown a little black hat that was a great addition to my costume since my hair (or rather the hair of Nelly) was quite short.
When I was done with gowns, the painters wife asked me if I wished to stay for a cup of tea which I eagerly accepted as I was very thirsty and a bit tired.
It may sound unbelievable, but after first few hours in the ‘new reality’ I felt like I am slowly adapting to my role. I had no idea how long will I stay in Philadelphia US, how on earth will I get back home, and most importantly- how will I be back to the XXI century. Something deep inside was telling me that my new, antique bed was responsible for all the trouble I was in. But this unpleasant thought bothered me just for a little second because I knew I could talk to the artist that I liked so much. ‘Somehow I’ll make it’ I said to myself and thought that Alan Watts was so right while saying “Be careful of what you desire – you may get it”. Here I was – lost in the early XX century – hoping to find someday my way back home..
To be continued…
Adolphe Borie, ‘Portrait Study’