Tuesday, September 8, 2015

La vie en flamant rose




"It was a good day, non?" Remi asked as we settled back into the car. "It was Coeur, it was a really good day," I replied.



We both were sleepy from the excitement of discovery, kids post-aquarium style and squinting into the rose gold of the sunset as we headed for home.


It can be tricky nostalgia, looking back. Even in that word, if you roll it around on your tongue there is a whisper of a warning in it. And yet that is exactly what we have been doing as of late. Spending copious amounts of time on what once was.


As I mentioned previously, Remi has been doing an amazing storytelling on his instagram account this past month to raise awareness about the importance of protecting our wildlife after the shameful killing of Cecil the Lion.

He is a wonderful writer in his own right, although these days it is limited to instagram. It was because of his capabilities that we were able to convince the magazine Grands Reportages to give me a try just months after my having moved to France by his saying, "If you really don't like what she does, then I will write something instead." He didn't need to rewrite that article and we set off on a series of adventures together that I could never have imagined possible.



One of the biggest surprises for me - who had still only recently been an "I can run in high heels to catch a taxi if need be" New Yorker - was my astonishingly deep love for being on safari. For me, there is no more direct route to feel one with the blinding bright beauty of our earth. It can be overwhelming and yet utterly reassuring at the same time. "Yes, this exists and somehow I am right here, a part of it. I am alive."

Twice we were able to visit the Ngorongorgo Crater in Tanzania, the second of which in 2006 was for a story that was exclusively on this sunken caldera of twenty kilometers in diameter that is home to roughly 25,000 large animals, a true Cradle of Life. It was an exceptional experience, especially as the authorities had accorded us a few days of rare passes permitting us to leave the road to better explore, to get closer.



Remi's photographs from that time are exquisite. Looking at them now while he puts the story together has brought out strong feelings for both of us, pride and wistfulness amongst them. Both of us peering back at our incredibly exciting past through the computer screen from the padded quiet of our house in a tiny, sleepy village in a forgotten corner of Provence.

Nostalgia. I said it could be a dangerous word.


And yet. And yet...


Last week Remi invited me to tag along with him as he made a repérage for another of his photography workshops, this time not in the Alpilles but in the Camargue. It is an area that I am not often fond of in its mix of rough terrain and touristy vibe. And yet, in visiting the Parc Ornithologique de Pont de Gau we were surrounded by both. But I have to say that the experience was...fantastic.

The paths and pass-rails covering the swamps allowed us to walk amidst the thousands of birds - pink flamingos or flamants roses, egrets and herons, just to name a few - and as they are habituated to the proximity of human presence - just like in the Ngorongoro Crater - they don't flee but continue to eat and fish and chat amongst themselves.



After exclaiming with joyous disbelief, we fell silent with wonder. And then we began to take photographs, both of us aided by telephoto lenses. Mine was a 300mm, heavy enough to make my Olive Oyl arms wobble. Remi was using one of his Leica's - even more monstrous - but after having shot five Olympic Games, well, he is used to it.


We moved and focused and focused again. Eyes searching wide and hearts leaping until we felt like we were flying on wonder - that same exhilaration we had known before - until we understood that we did not have to go to Africa to experience it. We were still capable of finding it all on our own.

Yes, it was a really good day.



This post was written as part of the series called By Invitation Only which unites a group of bloggers to express themselves on a specific theme. This month a question was asked, "What are you afraid of?" Now, that is a topic that is just across the border of what I am willing to discuss here literally. But there is one thing that I can tell you that I have always been afraid of: stagnation. Amongst the glorious birds of the Camargue, I found a way to keep growing, to keep moving forward, open.

To discover what the other bloggers have written on this very challenging theme, please find the links by clicking: Here.


To read Remi's storytelling on instagram about the Ngorongoro Crater: @remibenali
To follow my feed: @lostinarles

As always, thank you for being here.
With my Best from Provence,
Heather



48 comments:

La Contessa said...

MAGICAL.........all of your photos and WORDS!
XOXO

simpleimages2 said...

My "heart leaps" with wonder. I’m speechless.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

OMG !!!!
You, always you, totally amaze me.
I am in awe of your life & your experiences. How you make everything seem so close-up and personal with your words and photographs. You & Remi are so very fortunate to have each other, you both prosper and grow together, as you always will. I am so happy to know you, my beautiful Heather.

Eleonora Boiserie & C. said...

Queste splendide fotografie ci ricordano, a proposito della paura, che la natura merita più attenzione! baci da Roma.

Heather Robinson said...

Era quello che stavo cercando di fare quindi ti ringrazio tanto!

Heather Robinson said...

Much love to you!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, Edgar.

Heather Robinson said...

This moved me very much, Marsha. Thank you, thank you, thank you...I will take those wonderful wishes and send them back ten-fold!

D A Wolf said...

Your words always take us on a breathtaking journey, Heather, and surely you have done that here as usual. These gorgeous photographs are (scrumptious) frosting on the cake, though I dare say, I could easily live off your frosting!

Nostalgia is indeed a dangerous and complex emotion, if it even qualifies as an emotion. Looking back or spending too much time on what "once was" can prevent us from looking forward to creating "what is yet to come." I struggle with this myself, and very much understand your mention of stagnation. How lovely that you felt yourself opening to this wondrous experience -- and sharing it with us.

xo

Marsha Splenderosa said...

one day we will meet and I will hug you and hold you close, and tell you all of this again.

Heather Robinson said...

Gladly. xoxo

Heather Robinson said...

DA? I don't even know how to respond to this it is so lovely! So I just will say thanks for being such an amazing and supportive friend...

Loree said...

Gorgeous photos. I would love to have the opportunity to photograph such beautiful birds.

George Snyder said...

I agree that nostalgia can be a dangerous word and pursuit, but oh if we did not look back once in a while, would we ever be quite as grateful as when we do? So much good is coming, and yet, oh there was some loveliness in the past, and how you do capture it, so beautifully, then and now. je t'embrasse, g.

ci said...

As a collector of all things flamingo and immense admirer of pink flamingoes, I will say these photos are exquisite. to see these fabulous birds in life must be just chilling! wow! wow! wow!

Maywyn Studio said...

A moving Post! Your words and photographs are as spectacular as the flamingos, bending, flowing, being beautiful.

designchic said...

These images are incredible and agree with you that it is always wonderful to continue to grow and move forward in our lives…

Judi of Little House said...

Such graceful birds, gracefully photographed. Just beautiful, the lighting, the color, the power, the peacefulness. You and Remi are so fortunate to have had and shared so many experiences and you seem to keep forging ahead with new ones! Wonderful!!

Lorrie said...

Oh, those marvelous birds. My heart beats faster seeing your images. So graceful, such color. Amazing.

Shireen Eckhardt said...

Such beautiful pictures Heather! Lorrie took the words out of my mouth!

vicki archer said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
vicki archer said...

Second comment... better spelling I hope!

Wonderful pics Heather... Every time I venture into the Camargue I am disappointed... I shall ask you where to go next time... :) xv

Heather Robinson said...

They are amazing...I can't wait to go back!

Heather Robinson said...

Ahh...but you see it is that "so much good is coming" part that slips away from my heart at times, hence the wistful longing for the adventures past...thank goodness I have wise friends such as yourself to remind me...
Much Love to you.

Heather Robinson said...

Ci, they are SO close! If you ever come to the South of France you MUST go to this park.
I took so many photos that I will be doing a second post... :)

Heather Robinson said...

Merci Maywyn, I am glad you enjoyed it. It took many hours to put this one together!

Heather Robinson said...

In fits and spurts it would seem but important to keep facing forward.

Heather Robinson said...

Judi, when we arrived the parc was packed with tourists and I was a little freaked out. But within an hour they all left and by then we didn't care anyway because we were totally swept away by the beauty. It was an incredibly peaceful experience.

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you Lorrie, the light was definitely on our side that day but can you imagine going at sunset? We will!

Heather Robinson said...

Merci Shireen! It is a special place...

Heather Robinson said...

I have always felt the same way, always. And here is the deal, you just have to do the touristy thing and go to this parc - just go on off hours or off season. Remi talked to the director of the parc and he said that nearly all of the iconic images of the birds of the Camargue are made there.

Amy at Ms. Toody Goo Shoes said...

Stunning photos, and beautiful words to go with it. You made me think - yes, I'm afraid of stagnation, too, and happily, keep finding new things to learn and enjoy.

La Contessa said...

WOW!!!!!!!!!MA SEI BRAVA!

La Contessa said...

I AGREE MADAME DA................I AGREE!!!XXXOO

Jennifer Connolly said...

What a stunning post! Your pictures are simply stunning. And I totally agree, stagnation would be horrid. I think why I like the blogging world so much. I am constantly meeting women and learning new things online!
XX

Stephen Andrew said...

What beautiful photos! I will forward this to my aunt, the Flamingo Queen. She had a business in the 90s called Uptown Flamingo where she sold flamingo themed stuff online. It was a huge business for a time. Before Amazon :)
I've been dabbling in some dangerous nostalgia; and you're right. It can be wonderful but should be handled carefully! In your case, nothing but beauty! Have fun!

RebeccaNYC said...

I have been loving Remi's IG stories and now I like the current one even more, knowing that you were with him!

I like a visit to the Sts Maries, mostly because I get a giggle out of such a typical sea-side tourist vibe....it is the same the world over! But I have never loved driving through the Camargue...the horses sitting in the sun with their saddles on waiting for riders just makes me sad. I need to find this spot with the Flamingos...that is really something to see!

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

As always this post of yours is pure poetry!

Linda said...

What a great post, Heather, and your photos are beautiful!

robin said...

Oh. Mah. God. These pictures are SO BEAUTIFUL!!! I could stare at them all day - they have to be one of the most "photogenic" animals, with those curvy necks and spindly legs and soft whites and pinks. Of course, I keep thinking of dancers - they look like they're doing choreography! You caught their images sooooooo beautifully, and, as always, they are matched by your beautiful words. I'm glad you were a little like Dorothy in this story - to find the exotic flamingos, you didn't have to look much farther than your back yard! And did Dorothy get a new camera??? All beautiful and heart-warming. And speaking of heart-warming, give the visitors a kiss from me!

Coty Farquhar said...

OMGoodness Heather, these images are amazing! I can feel you energy behind the camera. Sorry, I'm a little late to visit, it's been a busy week with a client. Thank you for sharing they are the most incredible birds! xxx much love, hugs, xx Coty

Wyn Vogel said...

Heather - just unreal - I had no idea there were flamingos in France - or have I miss-understood the story??

Remi's 'Zine' on Issuu is superb - he is a true master of his art!! Wow - I am in awe!!

Wyn Vogel said...

No - I went and checked out maps.google - it is south of Nimes - wow - a spot on the map to mark for the future!! Thx for sharing!!

Emilia Tremante said...

Hi Heather,
I had a Wonderful experience in the Camargue area . It was very hot and dump but exciting. I also took a lot of photos with
my telephoto lenses 300 mm (it was not easy to use it) . I felt so happy after my three days
there! Nice experience isn't it? Bisous

chezbon said...

I have always liked the Camargue for its wildness. Visit in October, when the tourists have left and it is very windswept and atmospheric. I have been through that park and like you was fascinated by the bird life, but I am probably a finalist for worst photographer in France, so now I look and enjoy, and leave the photos to someone else. A very interesting thing are the *huge* pumps that run constantly near the sea, to the east of the town, which are keeping it above water. I believe it is in line to return to the sea if the expected sea level changes materialize. I rode a horse for two hours (guided) at the national park site (I too feel sorry for the "regular" rental horses), I asked for the oldest, smallest horse being a terrible rider -- I'm off as much as on -- and it was quite wonderful going out on the marsh. There is a lot of beauty in the Camargue.

Heather Robinson said...

So much about your response made me smile. I would think that being a finalist for the worst photographer in France might take some doing...along the lines of: forgetting to take the lens cap off, erasing all of the photos before downloading them and a constant presence of a thumb in each photo? :) And I love that you flat out asked for the oldest, smalles horse instead of doing what most of us do which is silently praying for the best out of pride (certainly for me who grew up riding and so should know better).
Yes, I have read that too about the sea levels - that it could easily go back to what it was in ancient times when the sea reached nearly to Arles today.
I think because of the rental horses I have always avoided the Camargue - they break my heart. But this visit to see the birds was just revelatory. I can't wait to return.
Oh, and perhaps it goes without saying that the only time we visit the sea is between October and April?

Unknown said...

Even though it has been almost 45 years since I saw them in the Ngorongoro Crater, I will never forget the enthralling loveliness of the flamingos there. Thank you for these beautiful flamingo images, which I will save for to be enjoyed over and over.

Nostalgia is an odd emotion for me, as most of my world travels occurred in my young adulthood and most of my most moving interactions with human beings have occurred in the time since then. I am very nostalgic for what definitely will not be experienced again (such as time with my mother), but still optimistically focused on looking forward to more, or to the first time, about the rest.

Appreciating your visual and written poetry so much, Leslie in Oregon

Heather Robinson said...

I think of you as someone who is always moving forward while retaining a healthy respect for your past. Am I right?