There is a part of my heart that was left in Annecy France. I can close my eyes and see it, I can open my soul and feel it rush in. I would walk from the train station, past the Annecy Lake and the River Thiou, thru the old town cobblestone streets and begin the steep climb up the mountain. I like to travel light, but back in the days of film and large format cameras, my equipment was always so heavy. Out of breath, but once on top of the mountain, at the edge of a forest, was the final destination... the Monestere de la Visitation. And there behind the tall stone walls was a little community of women waiting to greet me with open arms. That was where Soeur Margarite Marie lived the contemplative life as a closed cloister nun.
My Aunt Helen lived most of her life behind walls.
She was my father's sister. I remember visiting her as a little girl, and wondering why she was behind bars. Her life was a mystery to me. After he passed away I began to visit her more frequently. Each time I gathered impressions through photography and documentation, each time I was filled with so much emotion by the beauty and spirit of the place. And each time when I returned home from one of the oldest cities in the Alps, I knew that I would never be the same again. With so much to absorb, I would remind myself to 'have patience with everything that remains unsolved in the heart.' So I slowly began sorting, printing and painting the images that spoke a visual poetry to me. I wanted to interpret internally what I felt needed to be expressed outwardly.
I went to see her last November, aware it was going to be the last time I would see her. She was just shy of her 85th birthday when I returned in January for her funeral. Once again I roamed about with my camera, this time I was freely allowed within the interior walls of the Monastery.
I became immersed in the painting process after returning from that experience. It flowed with such ease... I must have felt her spirit with me. As spring turned to summer, and summer to fall, it dawned on me that this period of grace was also part of the mourning process. I needed to do this work to fill the hole I felt in my heart.
What has evolved is a deep admiration and respect for the gentleness and love of the contemplative Nuns, and also for the rich spiritual heritage and wonder of the old town of Annecy where the Visitation Order originated over 400 hundred years ago. Thru their lives they have shown me, and the world, where it is that true freedom really exists..it comes from deep within the soul.