Monday, August 24, 2020

All in the beginning


Hello, here is another word story that I improvised for me, for us. I hope that you will listen:





****
Just a few things in the postscript...

I realise that this is a sentimental post. 
But not only.
Hopefully, you will remember that I do not often let myself revisit such territory.
When I do it is for a reason.
I had a surprising invitation to a pool party yesterday at an outstanding property with welcoming new to me friends. I am not usually able to attend such events and so was all the more delighted that I did. My host, J, mentioned in a mail today, "I like what you said about the singletons. I think marrieds have no way of knowing (or sometimes choose to ignore) how hard life can be in general when you are single, particularly when trying to make a life in a foreign country." Agreed. 
And today in communicating with my Sister (you would all love her so much) about this post I asked, "Can we appreciate who we were and be strong enough to look forward with an open heart?" And she responded, immediately, "I think we can! Maybe the best is yet to come?!"

Yes, Robin. We are always all in the beginning. 






We are all so delicate and so strong at the same time. How can that be?
Yes, of course I wish I didn't always ask so many questions but my questions buoy me. 
Let us keep repeating on what gives us hope. 

With Love and Gratitude from Provence, 
A very tired but still curious 
Heather

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Beauty is and women do...51



How, for this moment, I am happy.

I recorded something last night, yes, one minute into my birthday. It was supposed to be the post in its entirety. I am really loving doing these spoken word moments. I can choose more how to present myself, my voice, momentum. You can find it here and I hope that you will listen:

Heather, a birthday at 51

As I have said before, this experience reminds me of when I was acting, save for that these words are not make-believe, they are mine. I have nothing to hide behind, nor do I want to. And if I am writing more it is because that I hope to express that so much more was behind those random c's and d's and f's. We are not our own failures. ;) Nor our successes. ;) All around there are forces, so strong if only we pay attention.

This year, I have been searching for an interesting man, one to hold my attention and my body, one with whom I could begin to lay a foundation of trust. Someone who would not care so much about my (important) weight gain. As my dear friend L, lightly chided, "Doesn't this take up so much of your time?" I thought about it. 

Breathing hot air into a vacuum. Yes, it does, and as I have written about largely here this year, my personal isolation during the pandemic has marked me more deeply than I could have ever imagined. In blatant honesty, there have been thoughts of "Oh, I might never move beyond this." But...ah...wait...

A few days ago, one of my most benevolent guardian angels sent me a text. She thought it just might be my birthday and so coaxed me from my bed (where I was laying exhausted as work has been hard like a rock but that is another story) as there was a surprise in front of my door. A big bouquet, spiky and original, something that only someone who has paid attention could have offered. 

As it is her building, I climbed the stairs in my nightgown, bouquet in one hand, the other glissing the wooden railing, racoon-eyed with yesterday's makeup. She welcomed me and we spoke. At one point, she gently coaxed me to repeat, "I am OK, " but I only could do so with tears rolling down. Stupid, great salt tears. 

Skip to the day after and the same guardian angel. She was going to host lunch at one of my favorite houses in the world...quite a few of you would recognize it. And she invited me along to swim and eat and laugh. How could I say no?

Her two other invitées are 88 and 89 respectively. And while turnrd out to be a pre-birthday party for me, they were so kind about the fact that they had lived entire lifetimes beyond my tender age. M and A are completely authentic and my guardian angel remains a pinup. After lunch, I splashed and hid in the corner of the pool under the bougainvillea while they spoke of literature and politics, but lightly, lightly. Afterwards, we all fell into a delicious silence. "A" fell into a light doze and none of us teased her for it upon waking. 

Once home, I thanked my angel profusely, but there were still surprises in store for me. 

(I am tempted to stop here, to split this into two posts but no, that is not the point that I want to achieve, so forgive me that this is long.) 

Because, you see, I actually did have a lovely birthday on the day itself, too. 

I have mentioned previously the delicious accumulation of friends in the virtual world that have led to what I consider "real" friendships. It has taken me years to grasp and I am still unravelling it, this delicate cord, silken so strong, between women who have the courage to say, "I love you, I believe in you," even when we have not met in person. 

You do not yet know of Tanur (I give her full name as I intend to speak of her rather fabulous guest house soon here, Les Sardines aux Yeux Bleus) but she is someone with whom I had an immediate connection. I  had told a few people that I was prepared to pass the day alone as I had in previous years. But wonderfully, she was free to join me for lunch at my favorite restaurant Le Violette (which I have written about often, including here). We speak so honestly together, straight to the bone, as if we had known each other for years. The lunch was astonishingly good. It truly was! And to top it off, Corinne, aka Coco (a dear friend) and her lovely assistant Sonia (whom I adore) brought out their perfect dense chocolate cake lit with a candle singing...in English...happee birzday to youuu. At the end of the song, they kissed me through their COVID masks on either side of my head. I made a very specific wish, laughed and was in Heaven. 

When I went to see what we owed, Coco seemed angry. She did that Frenchy thing where she waved her hand in the air in a flutter. "I was going to treat you to lunch but someone beat me to it!" "What do you mean, Coco?" "Bah, this woman called during the rush of the service saying she wanted to buy you lunch!" "Coco, no one knows that I am here. Even my family doesn't. I had said a couple of days ago that I was thinking about it to one person but..." Light bulb moment. She showed me the email. Someone who kept it in mind for days and called the restaurant to offer me lunch on my birthday just in case I was there. Someone who has a million things on her mind and to do list every day. Seriously. Just in typing this, those tears return. Save that this time they are not stupid, they are Love.

Tanur and I did the ritual of digging through the brilliant Collection Lambert. Oh my goodness, the Cy Twombly's. They elicit a gasp out of me every time.  It felt comforting to explore with a fellow creative. I sat on the floor of my favorite installation and for the first time...the neon lava spoke of life's vitality, far more than doom. We parted only when I needed to go because friends at work - all of whom could be my children because they are so young - collaborated to offer me a massage at a local spa. The tiny but very strong girl surprised me and I floated through the streets afterwards, a bit drunk on Zen.

Upon arriving home, I was able to connect with the Leo Trifecta, albeit separately. Yana was at dinner on her first night of a well-deserved vacation. She lives in Greece. I want to live in Greece too, although I have never been there. And yet she wanted to Zoom briefly, and her smile like fire so calm, so present told me, "Yes, you are lucky." She is SO strong. But so is Beth in Chicago; the other corner of our three and when we spoke she was absolutely radiant. I can't hide under that kind of light. 

And so I told her about what I was truly thinking. "All of these amazing women have gone out of their way to treat me with kindness and respect. They know my path, my story and yet they talk to me as equals. Why? Why is X surprising me with lunch? Why are you here?"

I still feel like such a fallen woman. An overweight "ratée" working as a receptionist in a problematic hotel - this despite what I have accomplished before. But where I am currently at is far, far from where I once was. In material means. And Beth didn't hesitate in her response. "We see YOU. We see you for who you are."

Oh. 

Her face was beaming as she said so, half a continent away, so how could I take it as nothing other than the truth?

I am accepted. And I feel held. Not by a man. Although I would not mind that too.

But today I light up this tender heart for these beautiful women. Exceptional women, truly. Guardian angels, successful in a way that I can't imagine in the literal sense, let me love you so. I haven't had many women friends since I have lived in France and now I have them all over the world and they are incredible. I am honored to be a part of your family. It is just that simple. Thank you for being the best gift a girl could wish for..








With the gratitude of the lava that turns the Earth, your friend lost and found,

H.



Monday, July 27, 2020

For sale: a charming home in my Hidden Provence




I love this house. Dearly. I have spent so many moments of joy (and tears too) here with my dear friend Louise and her companion, Wolf. And now, it is for sale! 


It is a real Provençal village house. Large in scope and yet intimate with its lovely and very private walled garden. It has been exceptionally well renovated and the care that was put into that process is evident throughout. 


As with all of the best homes in the region, there is a fluid sense between indoor and outdoor. 


I have never felt anything but "at home" here. How many meals have I taken at the massive stone table (yes, just as at Peter Mayle's original home)? How many nights when I was house-sitting did I stare up at the stars? Many, many indeed. 


And while the home is inherently elegant, this is not the "bling bling" Provence but rather a truly authentic one where you can get to the heart of this beautiful region. Quietly, you will be on the insider track while the hordes overrun St. Rémy. For this is my Hidden Provence. Many of you will remember that phrase. It still rings true.

But let's go inside...there is much to discover.


Directly off the garden is the living room, which is just as delightful in summer with the perfume of jasmine ever-present as it is in winter with a crackling fire in the Renaissance period and delicately carved fireplace. 


The Art Deco tiles are a grounding presence of the open neutrality to the "pierres froides" of the walls. I love the difference in textures, the rough solidity of the ceiling beams. This is a really adaptable space and great for everyday living as well as special moments. I rang in New Year's Day this past January in this wonderful room! 


Under the stone entryway is the condensed kitchen space. I love the patina of the floor! Louise, who is a phenomenal and accomplished cook, has effortlessly whipped up many a feast here.



Shall we go up the central staircase? Past the hall, currently lined with books and used as a small office, there are many delights to be found. 


What do you think the niches in the stone were originally for? Louise uses this charming feature to showcase various bibelots. Were letters stored there? Documents writ in ink? I don't know...let's turn right.


Isn't this room gorgeous? To me this is the elegance of Provence personified. There is even a touch of Paris too with the high-ceiling and covered beams. The light pours in...all year around. 


It is just as spacious as the salon on the ground floor and so very welcoming with its warm wood flooring.


Louise has used this as a formal sitting room and yes, I remember well the very first time I clinked champagne glasses with her here. I could have been a bit over-whelmed but her welcome and that of the house itself put me at ease.

This room could also very easily be used as a bedroom for there is not only amply closet space but also an attached bath...


...leading onto this large suspended terrace. How lovely would it be to take your first coffee of the day here? To say goodnight to the moon at night before going to bed? Again, as you can see, privacy reigns...

But come with me, let's go up the stone stairs once more...


Past the landing a massive wooden door opens up to a "havre de paix"...


I defy you not to sleep well in this bedroom. And this coming from a long-term insomniac! To me, this is a perfect example of a cocoon. 


The wide-plank flooring, the stone, the beams, the light...


And there is a bonus space! One that Louise and Wolf use for storage but it easily has potential to be more...an atelier? To paint? To dream? A special room for naps after too much summer heat? 


Well, this is my fault entirely for not capturing the bath correctly. It is just great and far bigger than it looks. Let's just say that I had a bit of rosé at lunch. For these are the happy times that this house inspires.


Could you put in a small bassin in the garden for dunking? Perhaps. How pretty that could be next to the very unusual and striking "calade" a traditional Provençale stone design. This one happens to be beautiful and rare.


And so where is this haven exactly? Well, I am not telling except for those who are interested! But I will say that, exceptionally for such a small village there is a grocery store, a great butcher shop, day care, grade school, a post office, a pharmacy, a nurse who will come to you and a physiotherapist. 

Those of you who know Provence already will be impressed by that!


Are you seeing stars yet?

Here is Louise's description:

Charming Provençal house in a village minutes from Arles, Avignon and the Alpilles with the TGV train line (2 and a half hours to Paris) at a 15 minutes drive. 130 square metres (1400 square feet). Large reception with Renaissance fireplace. Magnificent staircase leading to bright salon and bedroom with high beamed ceilings. Possibility of second bedroom and attic that could be made into an office or atelier. Southern exposure, large balcony and private walled courtyard. Equipped kitchen. Master bathroom, WC/laundry room. A haven of peace for lovers of old stone. 285,000 euros 

If you are interested, please feel free to contact Louise directly at: dowll8@yahoo.ca. She is Canadian and so, speaks both English and French. Plus, she is just a lovely human being.

And if you feel more comfortable contacting me, that's fine too. I know and love this house so well. And just to be clear...I am sharing this with you because I believe in it. I will get nothing out of this beyond the hope that I am helping one of you find their dream home. :) 


With so much Love and Gratitude from this beautiful Provence,
Be well. Be safe. Be kind.

Heather

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Saturdays are difficult



This is my post today. Call it spoken word if you want. It was created as an improvisation because the ideas came too quickly to write them down! It is a short piece that you can find by clicking below :


I hope that you will go to listen. It means a lot to me. These times are challenging in different but important ways for us all. Let us not underestimate our emotional challenges as well, whatever they might be. 

I believe in us.





Please know that I miss you and love you.

With gratitude,
Heather

"Be safe and be kind."  as says Edgar


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Falling and beginning again





I was writing in my head while doing the dishes. "At times, I don't know if I am going to survive this. To get through." I stopped scrubbing as I realised with a bit of a shock but also a laugh that I haven't. The me that was before all this began is...Changed.

Now, I am not talking about the essence. I proclaimed that a little too forcefully recently in a friendly text exchange: "I know that at the center of my existence I am a good person, generous and kind. That much I am certain of." It is my refrain when the world becomes doubtful. No, I am talking more about the fuzzy outer layers. Personality, if you will. Ego. Tastes and preferences. Perspectives and preconceptions. A matter of trust.

Over and over, trust. My lips are sweaty against my folded knuckles, I take a moment to breathe in and out, loudly, over that word. It has been four years, four years since my couple imploded and yet I still have trouble putting trust in a man. And to trust my choices and attractions, me who usually considers myself such a solid judge of character. To trust that I am worthy of a good man, a clear strong love. Why do my eyes tear up to write that? Because my heart was hurt this week in the trying. And how long will it be before I finally heal myself? This too, I know is up to me.

I have written about the impact of the months of imposed solitude and isolation have had on my psyche but it was premature. Just like any trauma, the after-effects are still rolling out. Often, I find myself walking through the streets, finally free to do so with hunched shoulders and lowered head, as if hiding. Sometimes, I will chide myself, "pick your head up, Heather. Stand tall, you have nothing to be ashamed of." But I can't always do it. Sometimes, I feel ashamed.

It has not even been a month since George Floyd was murdered. Do you remember feeling that shock in watching the video for the first time? Trying to comprehend what was happening? That moment when you understood that you were watching a man being killed? I do. That too, broke something in me. As has the incomprehensible police brutality, the unsparing hatred screaming, the relentless provocation of a man so insensitive to the world that he could propose to stage a rally in America's most racism ravaged city on Juneteenth. Through my spirituality, I had previously come to the point where I thought that "good" and "evil" were mainly religious constructs. Now, I question that as well. To not have trust - yes that word again - in the morality of humanity? That has changed me too.

I am in a state of parenthesis. What is to be filled in between the ( and the ) I do not know.

Listen, this is not sad. This is, again, not about me really. It is just that if I feel that I am no longer the person that I once was, either four years or four weeks ago, it is just a further reminder that we are all constantly in a state of more forceful change than we realise. As in Buddhism, there are the waves that flow through our lives but we are not those surges and hollows, we are the sea. We are the sea itself. Perhaps it is helpful to remember that if we can.

I may not be entirely sure of the "who" of I am right now but I very aware, on this Summer Solstice of...of?...my aliveness. I have a voice. I have this heart that cares too much but that is what it is. If I focus, I can wonder what trust in this time would feel like...in my own body, where can I sense it? In our collective society, where can I antennae tap out something to lean into? ... Again, I put my head into my hands, I massage out the "lion's wrinkle" in-between my eyes and...the only answer that makes any sense at all is Love. It seems completely paradoxical given all that I have written above but the only thing that I can trust in when all else is broken, falling and yet beginning, is, Love.

There is nothing that burns brighter in our human existence. Yes, it feels a bit like coming home, of an evidence to think so on the longest day of a very long year. In journalism, it is a cardinal error to repeat oneself. I am entirely aware that I am doing so, constantly, in these posts. And yet if it is because I continually do so to side with Love, on that I will stand.




Happy Solstice, everyone.

I have done a recording of this post. I am enjoying doing them, so thank you for your encouragement!

You can listen to it: HERE.

Within the above text, I have also included a lot of links to other posts, mainly recent but also with some from the past that might be of interest to my newer readers (thank you!). 




I have been listening to this gorgeous rendition of Martin Gaye's "What's going on" non-stop since my friend Trudye send it to me. Including while I wrote this post.
May it bring courage to your heart as well...







As always, I am so grateful for your presence.
Do you realise that we are coming up on ten years?
And what is incredible is that most of you have been here from the very beginning.
Through so many highs and lows.

On we go...

As Edgar says, "Stay strong, stay safe, be well, be kind."


With so much Love from Provence,

Heather














Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Living history




I walked with my friend Kenza and her little sister, Jade.

Both are young enough to be my daughters.

I stood for Leonard Wells, my Mom's husband and one of my best friends, My Buddy.

I watched as people of all ages mixed and chanted.

"No Justice, No Peace!"

At one point I cried. After taking a knee.

But this isn't about me, it is about us all.

To feel us united, all over the world.

There was a lot of blatant racism in my Dad's side of the family.

When I was 15, I punched him in the chest when he pushed me too far.

I am the end of this particular line of the family.

And I am proud to be able to say, "This stops with me."

It may only be the beginning, but it is a start.

This is living history.

Black Lives Matter.












On the way home, I counted 13 police vans in front of the Sous-Prefecture. 



We can march, educate, donate, sign and vote.

Every voice counts.

And each silence does too.

"The change begins within me, the change begins within you."


With much Love and Gratitude from Provence,

Heather