It has been one month since I took a year’s leave of absence from giving tours as a volunteer guide at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Do I miss it? Do I miss walking into the Museum and feeling in a way that it is “mine”? Do I miss looking for my friends guiding or researching or browsing the book store? Do I miss checking out who is checking coats or looking at tickets? Do I miss the nice feeling of waltzing around anywhere I like because I wear a tag? Not yet.
I have spent almost all the month of July in Muskoka country. It’s not a bad place for a guide who loves Canadian art to be. Gliding in a canoe or swimming in a Group of Seven country lake can’t hurt, right? It is a totally different world from the city environment of the metro or searching for a parking spot. I have only read for pleasure here and happily concentrated on my own writing.
Some things remain the same though. I think that besides a love of study, a good guide should have keen observation skills. Here I learned how many kinds of grass there are. I learned to look and see how many shades of green there are. I learned how many minor treasures are to be found in a dump. After all, one of the lectures we enjoyed in preparation for the Faberge exhibition opened our eyes to the opinion that the missing Imperial Faberge eggs are in North America. Our distinguished speaker encouraged us all to scour garage sales and recycling centers. Although I haven’t yet found a Faberge piece, you would be amazed at what people throw away. Yesterday, I came home with two beautifully embroidered tablecloths. A quick spin in the washing machine and the table is set for the seven (yes, 7 ) visitors we are expecting here in Eden tomorrow. I can hardly wait to show them the frogs.
The picture? A certificate I was given just before I left town. Seems I conducted over 500 tours…..but who’s counting. I know I’ll be back because I can’t resist the thrill of studying for a new exhibit or for some obscure item in the permanent collection. In fact, the only pang I have had about my absence was a stab of regret when I missed a reference on the Antiques Roadshow. Chinese porcelain has been a bit of a mystery to me so far. I wonder if there’s anything in the library here……..
PS. Today I was published in an on-line magazine “The Lake” out of the UK in the August edition. Lucky me that my name starts with “C” which means I get to be read first. The other poets are certainly more widely published than I am and their awards are pretty inspiring. Check it out on line.
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts recently hosted a party for the opening of an exclusive exhibition of wedding dresses (make that wedding attire) designed by John Pail Gaultier. I had a ball guiding his big show a few years ago so I was dying to see what had been whipped up for the “Love is Love” theme. The finale of every fashion show is the wedding dress but given Jean Paul’s very inclusive attitude to love, I was sure more than dresses would be on show.
I have been spending a lot of time in the wilds of Muskoka with a dear person whose tastes run more to home-crafted birdhouses and planting various strains of potatoes than the Parisian fashion scene. I anticipated something of a culture clash as we left the house. I was dressed in my only fashion item – an ancient Escada jacket of startling checked fabric embroidered lavishly with butterflies. I bought this in a consignment shop (second hand to you) more decades ago than I care to remember over the objections of my conservative friend who dresses only in black, grey or beige. It grew on her after a while. Thank God shoulder pads are making a comeback.
Speaking of beige, I had to bite my tongue when I noted that my escort was wearing his best black pants teamed with ……another color shoes. However, bitter experience has taught me that if you want the guy to show up, don’t comment on his outfit.
We arrived to a mob in the lobby that brought a hunted look to the eye of my shy woodland lad but with a flash of my volunteer guide ID we were whisked upstairs with the VIP’s. There wasn’t much elbow room up there either but the museum had devised a charming way of crowd control. We were given colored rings (in keeping with the wedding theme) and admitted to the exhibition in groups according to color.
As a woman “of a certain age” I can say that many of the openings are attended by my contemporaries. This was different. City mice and men ,dapper damsels and dogs were out in force and wearing the most fabulous shoes! My footwear has been confined for many months to snow boots or rain boots. I have never worn heels like the ones I drooled over that night. “Wear chic flats”, you say. I have a habit of paying my bills and some of those mules and ballerinas would make a serious dent in my budget.
One thing being a guide at the museum cured me of is the desire to acquire art. I get to study it, look at it and discuss it with visitors. Soirees like that one help me dampen my ardor for clothes and shoes. I can never aspire to that level so – just look and admire.
To my surprise, my country mouse was a great hit. He is very sociable and no one even noticed his shoes. Well, maybe they did and copy-cat designers will make him a trend setter.
Oh, the exhibit? Fabulous, darling. Just check out the Irish knit inspired his and her outfits. Oh, I kept the orange rings – you never know when they might come in handy.
Many thanks to Barbara Black and Rene Robitaille, editors of Contact 26, the magazine of the guides of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. They kindly gave a full-page feature to my poem “Cold Bronze”. This piece was inspired by the statues “In memoriam I”and “In memoriam II” by Elisabeth Frink. These works stand in the museum Sculpture garden on Ave de la Musee here in Montreal. The poem is from my collection, Northern Compass, which available in the museum bookstore and online through Amazon.