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Wednesday, February 26, 2014

CHASING MATISSE: the right book at the right time




Occasionally, a book comes along that is "the right book at the right time". So it is with Chasing Matisse, A Year in France Living My Dream by James Morgan.

I had been eyeing this book in the library for a number of years, perhaps as many as six or eight, without picking it up. A couple of weeks ago I decided to give it a try. James Morgan, the author, and I are about the same age. He turned roughly sixty when he finished this book. I was almost sixty at the same time. Morgan gave up his livelihood, retired, and he and his wife Beth sold their home and moved to France. But there was a purpose to his journey: to follow somewhat in the footsteps of the painter Henri Matisse. Morgan had always wanted to be a painter (painting has always interested me though I did next to nothing about it, either, until I retired four years ago), and decided that he would start, with very little training, and do so in France while visiting the various places Matisse had lived. (I began taking drawing and painting classes at UNF  about two years ago, and am progressing slowly towards, I hope, respectability as a painter. Be not deceived, I have a long way to go.)

The book is full of anecdotes about Matisse and the places he lived and how they effected his style of painting. And Morgan's reflections about his adventure speak quite strongly to me and what I'm doing. Morgan's idea of retirement is to "Read, write, paint, think, travel: Finally my surface life and my subterranean life had meshed in perfect harmony." That's also my idea of retirement, especially, reading , writing, painting, and thinking. Travel will probably not be much in my retirement, certainly not traveling far from home. But the first four will keep me plenty busy.

This memoir is one that I could have lived, could have written, but...well, it's already been done. But it does have something indirectly to say about retirement and growing older. There is still a lot of adventure for us all, if we only take the chance.


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