Friday, October 24, 2014

Looking for autumn



Somehow, the dogs have figured out the concept of le weekend. I don't know how or why but for the past few Saturday mornings, they have decided that a special treat was in order and it wasn't me. So, when it was time for their walk, they would go to Remi and bark at him pointedly until he had no choice but to take them. 

Now, usually I am grateful for the break. As I have said Kipling is a true handful, especially as our little village is home to so many cats. But last week, the sun was shining, it was warm and perfect, so at the last minute I answered Remi's offer to join him with a yes. "But I am not responsible for them, you are."..."Absolutely," he agreed. I ran upstairs to grab my camera and we set off. Our version of a rambling family.

As Remi is (an exceptionally talented) professional photographer, I couldn't ask for a more patient and helpful hiking companion. He waits when I fall too far behind  - Ben does too - and gives me tips on how to shoot in manual when he thinks that I might actually listen to him for once. Soon, I was down the rabbit hole of the lens and lost in the looking. The walk was the same that we had taken several times before moving here and the landscape was a part of the package deal charm. It still sells me every time.

Once we were far enough away from the village, Remi let Kipling off the leash and let him run, something that I never do and hence his preference for walks with le maître and not la maîtress. Why my hesitation? Because there is always a moment when the hunter in Kip takes over and he bounds away like a gazelle, heedless to our calls. But he will - eventually - come back to Remi. So why did I continue to holler after our wild furry friend? Remi was in control, that was the deal. And yet..."C'est plus fort que moi!" When I worry, I can't help myself. Eh, oui. After agreeing that this is something that I need to work on, I headed back to my task at hand, looking for autumn.

Now, I got the memo on instagram. It was the week where everyone was supposed to take a photo of their feet (sporting very cool shoes equals bonus likes) pointing towards a spread of orange, red and yellow leaves (more bonus likes for all three in one shot). But this year, the weather is just not co-operating. So far, we are in the midst of autumn dressed down in green with the temperatures that will only prolong un été indien. I kept on searching with each footfall and with the rare exception - which was immediately met with a photographic pounce - in vain. Tant pis...









...and tant mieux. It was a wonderful walk. It just goes to show, sometimes a little flexibility does a person good.



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Dreamcatcher


"So what do we think it is that dreams actually do?" This is the reason that after thirteen years of being together, Remi and I never run out of conversation. We can and do talk about anything. This morning, as I was hovering over a cup of Lady Grey that just wasn't cutting it, dreams were on the menu. For if I was run ragged it was because my night had been especially long with a non-stop film of them looping through my head. And they are indeed like movies, my dreams. They are utterly realistic and hold such nuances in color, sound and details that I don't ever pop out of them save on the very rare occasion when I stop to think, "Wow, good job brain." When I do wake in the middle of the night - and I often do - at times I have to pull myself out of the grip of those images by telling myself where I actually am, my current age, that Remi is sleeping next to me, that everything is ok. In the mornings, I count on the sun to burn off their last dregs as it does the dew. If I have had cauchemars or nightmares, that process can dawdle into the afternoon.

And yet my dreams are rarely fantastical, nor - save for a period a few years back when my teeth kept falling out in them - are they particularly symbol laden. Remi is hardly ever present, something I account to our spending an inordinate amount of time together during our waking hours. But they do tend to go in cycles where I am in participating in the same event or environment (and sometimes a lot of ground can be covered within one neighborhood) for several weeks straight. Lately, it has been within the offices of the luxury hotels that I worked at between acting jobs in Manhattan, previously it was on the grounds of my alma mater, the Yale School of Drama. All of the characters involved, including myself, are busy and the interactions complex. I wonder what these people, all of whom I haven't been in contact with in twenty years or more, would think if they knew that they were popping into my head on a nearly nightly basis, these strangers that aren't so strange. At times my Dad, who passed away five years ago, is present but rarely in a way that seems to have a specific meaning or connection. The only thing that can be exaggerated is my emotional life. Recently, anger has been coming into play, an element that I am aware deserves both recognition and attention (thank you, Mr. Jung). 

Remi, it turns out, is not only a lucid dreamer but is able to shape the form of his dreams. Leonard, my Mom's Husband, has such extraordinary adventures as to make us gasp with surprised laughter when he retells them. I know that we all are different and I don't wish to be obsessed by dreams despite their hold on me. There is character in the evocative Wim Wender's film "Until the End of the World" who, thanks to science, is able to see video taped versions of the nights previous events and is nearly driven mad by it. But I am fascinated by them and have a grateful respect for their purpose, even if I can't begin to answer my own question as to what that might be.


I stumbled upon this interesting article from Scientific American : here.
Plus Wiki definitions here and here.


From the "Until the End of the World" soundtrack, Jane Siberry and K.D. Lang's utterly magnificent "Calling all Angels": 

And what about your dreams? I rarely turn the tables but so many of you have been extremely generous in your comments lately that I am curious...

Friday, October 17, 2014

Sometimes simple, Part two




I can hear my neighbor, Michel, clipping flowers across our steps-wide street. He is slow and methodical in his movements and yet is never pretentious about his plants despite their beauty. He is retired now after having worked for years as a coiffeur in England and when he first moved to this village many years ago they called him "L'Anglais" despite his being very much French. His first attempts at potting flowers were met with secret scorn as was his arrival. He would wake to find petals ripped from their stems or poisoned roses.

Le méfiance is still present, running like an underground current, although happily there are now so many "foreigners" who live here that they are no longer mistreated. But I can feel that Remi and I are being watched to see how we will behave, if  we will offer a "Bonjour" or not, whether we will be respectful of keeping noise to a minimum (we are) and if our dogs will be a nuisance (Kipling, occasionally).  I don't mind it actually. It seems something of a normal reaction in such a particularly delineated space where families have been rooted for generations and the neighbors are never anonymous.

It is definitely a change after Arles where it took years to be identified or recognized even in my neighborhood. So many people would come and go throughout the day but not so, here. I can identify the time not only by the tolling church bells but also by the man who drives by with the dog that barks in the backseat or the boy who runs home from school everyday at lunchtime. "How are you settling in? Do you like the house?" the mailman asked this morning in between casual drags on an Indian cheroot. I told him that I did and how I was appreciating the quiet after having lived in Arles. "Ah, if that is what you are looking for, then this is the place for you," he responded before pushing his cart down the lane.

Downshift, downshift, downshift. Manhattan, Paris, Arles and now this old village. At times the lack of sound pools around me like a grandpa sweater, at others it feels as tight as a leather glove against my skin. It is just a change to get used to, even if a positive one and yes, sometimes simple is best. But now that I am settling in to this new house, I have inklings that even that word is just a label, another question of perspective. What I see and feel remains complex no matter the backdrop. And that is just fine by me. It's all good, really good. For now, as the dust of new continues to settle, I can always count on the reliable gifts of the golden tick of the light and beauty's swan sway as compasses instead.















Have a great weekend everyone...



PS. The wonderful La Contessa just wrote about meeting a special blog friend while she was in Paris recently.  Ellie is an American expat married to a Frenchman who writes at Have Some Decorum. Most of us know how fantastic such meetings can be and this was no exception. La Contessa encouraged us all to take a look at her writings. Well, I have to pass on the word because I am crazy for her blog. As in I just might need to go back and read every post she has written, verging on stalker crazy for her blog. She tells amazing stories, is hysterically funny, smart as a whip, has phenomenal taste...and has ALS disease. It certainly doesn't define her or her relationships but it also means that she has decided to tell it exactly how she sees it without mincing words. I find her and her writing incredibly inspiring not to mention just really fun and you might too. You can find her blog by clicking: http://havesomedecorum.blogspot.fr/


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You will return



Remi had something that he wanted me to see. I was beyond jet-lagged as it was only the first full evening after my return from the States, so we walked slowly as we headed towards the edge of the village and into the orchards beyond.


I felt as if I was floating under the rising moon when all I wanted was to feel grounded. I threaded my arm through Remi's and leaned in.


"Eh voila," Remi announced with a wave of his hand. In front of us was a scraggly patch of terrain that clearly hadn't been cultivated in years. One lone cherry tomato popped up bravely from the weeds, waving like a flag that had refused to surrender. 


But...it is ours to care for now. While I was away, Remi went to local gardening association's yearly meeting to see if it would be possible for us to become members (at the behest of our guardian angel, Mr. W). There had been a waiting list for the past four years but as luck would have it, there was a plot available. For only 20 Euros a year ($25 US), we could have a garden.

Photo courtesy of Rémi Bénali

Remi wasted no time in the waning light and immediately set claim by delineating our land from our neighbors. I watched in wonder at his energy in my zapped state, shaking my head at the size of the task in front of us.


As the mosquitos made their nightly entrance, I persuaded Remi to drop his hoe and head back. He paused at the outer-reaches of the gardens to pick wild grapes that were nearly covered in bramble and yet still held such sweetness. "No one knows who this land belongs to...so...it can't be farmed." I tried to cast about in the twilight for imaginary shadow figures of past owners - those who had planted and raised these vines - without success.


"I will be back in time for lunch," Remi called out joyfully the next morning as he closed the gate behind him, garden-bound. "I'll see you then, good luck!" I returned. The hours passed and yet still no Remi, no word. Finally, he answered his cell phone, his voice weak with thirst. It was time for reinforcements.


When I arrived, the entire plot had been cleared. Remi had done the grunt work and then the soil was turned by Francis, who waved off Remi's offer to thank him with a bottle of wine after he had worked miracles with a rototiller. "We help each other out," Mr. W explained. "As it gets hot in le midi, we will water each others gardens when they need it, things like that...you know, it is just how it is done here." 


I was introduced to everyone and then poured rounds of cold rosé, a perfect way to toast the end of the first day of work. Remi made a ham and cornichon sandwich and munched on it silently with dirt covered hands. 


I spread my skirt out on the grass and looked around for treasures in the surrounding plot, still untouched. The rosé warmed my cheeks as the sun patted the top of my head. I felt present, happy and calm.


The earth is rich, soft and surprisingly springy underfoot. There is a steady water supply, readily available. And now it is up to us to make something grow. To return the land to what it once was.


Will we have gardens as impressive as those created by les professionnels, as they are half-jokingly called?


Oh goodness, I doubt it and certainly not at first. We have made a point of letting everyone know that this is an entirely new experience for us both and that if we truly don't have les mains vertes or even a green thumb then we will turn the plot over to more deserving patrons.


But it will be wonderful to learn, to try. The tomatoes and beets that our new neighbors have given us are the only encouragement that we need as they taste like the food of my youth, long since forgotten. Soon, we will layer the compost to make the land rich and then let it sleep for the winter. The laying of seeds before the seeds and then the real adventure will begin.



Today's post is my contribution to the monthly international blog get-together "By Invitation Only" which is hosted by the lovely Marsha at Splenderosa. The theme for October is: "What can you not live without for autumn?" For me, fall is all about discovery. Perhaps it is due to all of those years of living in Manhattan (New art openings! New Broadway shows!) or the joy in France of eating new dishes (Choucroute! Cassoulet!)...but while some might think of autumn as a time of getting ready to shut down, I think of it as a time to store up; to prepare for the winter ahead through the amazing gift of diving into the unknown. And that is what our new garden will most certainly give us. Wish us luck!


The title for this post was taken from a really wonderful song by Quantic featuring the ever-soulful Alice Russel:


To find out what the other contributor's have to say on this topic by all means don't hesitate and please do click: Here.

With my Best from Provence,
Heather

PS. Remi sends heartfelt thanks to all of you that sent along birthday wishes! That was very kind. :) And I have been told that some of you are having trouble leaving comments. I am looking into it but as always feel free to send me an email instead at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Two of a kind


"I like your style...you don't take yourself too seriously." It was a great compliment about my blog, especially as it came from Mr. W, who is not only our Ange Guardian in this village (who, along with his companion, the lovely Ms. L are responsible for our renting this house) but he is also one of the original Mad Men who rocked out the advertising world of Manhattan in real-time. 


His words gave me the inner yep to go ahead with this post, one that several of you have been asking for...and you know who you are. While there will be a second part to my previous post, this qualifies as well for it is just about...the puppers. Parfois, je ne veux pas prendre la tête...simple photos et mots...et c'est très bien comme ça...


So, as to that title? Eh non...et beh oui. Ben and Kipling are so very different in many, many ways. Don't be fooled by Kipling's sweet demeanour, he can be one tough customer. We have had a surprisingly difficult time with him since we have moved here. This previously abandoned dog has a new territory to conquer and claim it he has. He continues to challenge all that cross his path. We have had to be more vigilant than I have ever experienced with a dog. But...after a few hard incidents, I think, I hope that he is beginning to trust the here of Home.


Ben, however, is everyone's friend. He is unbelievably smart, wise even - with lessons that we can all learn from - and gets along with anyone and their complicated dogs...


...such as Kipling.


Who could resist that face? He is great company and a good friend.


But here is the interesting thing. Each one has slowly - and I do mean slowly - had his effect on the other. Kipling has made Ben a little more daring, a dash more masculine "dog" while Ben has certainly calmed Kipling and show him the importance of using manners and charm to get what you want..


And while they still don't play together as I had initially hoped, they are definitely now a team (shown above at the airport where they were my Official Welcoming Committee). They lay closer together and somehow communicate without a sign passing between them - whether it is the moment to convince me  to feed them or take them out. It is amazing to watch. So while they remain uniquely different, in their connection and affection they express for us, they are two of a kind.

video

Have a wonderful weekend. Today is Remi's birthday...


...and we are all enjoying it quietly. C'est ça la grande luxe...

Happy Birthday Honey, I love you and our doggies do too.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Sometimes simple



In a haze of jet-lag, I grabbed my camera and headed outside with a determined gait in order to try and stay awake. And to remember where I was and why. My little village. It looked so scruffy and simple.

 But we all know that sometimes simple is best.

I mentioned that recently and sans doute due to a stray-dog memory, I will most likely say it again.


I tumbled around with a propped-up eye...


...to rediscover all of the details and feelings that made me fall in love with this odd corner of Provence for the first time.


My gaze was radically hungry - down, across and certainly, uppity up. 


For as soon as Remi picked me up at the airport - with les chiens in tow - I started exclaiming about the light. That autumn shift that brings a brighter blue, a softer gold.


And it scratches the sides of surfaces to make them sing.


Architectural traces of better times...


...still give proof to something good.


Colors blend...


...lines sway...


...and I feel plenty of calm just looking out my window.


I feel a hidden promise of doors yet to open...


...and yes, friends (Why does that word now have a corny context? Says who? Banish that! It is a good word!) are still to be made.


Cheers to you. Thank you for all of your kindness and for being here...



PS. Apparently, "sometimes cloudy days are best" too. Woof woof! ;)