Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Pay attention. Pay attention, nature seems to be saying to me as of late. Take in all the beauty surrounding you and within your life. All that costs nothing save for a little looking, hope and honesty. For as detached as I can sometimes feel as an American living in a small town like Arles, I am very fortunate to be connected to such beauty and to some pretty amazing human beings as well.

I will admit that I was as nervous as I was excited to see Wesley Fata again. It took me awhile to untangle why. True, Wesley is something of a legend. He danced under Martha Graham, was in the original Broadway production of "Hair" and then went on to teach movement at the Yale School of Drama for over thirty years, coaxing everyone from Meryl Streep to Angela Bassett to Liev Schreiber to inhabit their best selves. I know Wesley from my time there. He taught me more than anyone and saw something in me that he did his best to pull up and out. Luckily along the way, a friendship developed. A rarity, which I knew then and still do. 

And yet he was incredibly supportive when I decided to change lanes by putting the unimaginably hard world of acting aside to have a life and a love in France. When he wrote last February that he would be spending a week in Provence this summer, my heart leapt! It is a rarity for me to have visitors from the States and more so from my "past life", one that has been largely buried under the new. No one here knows me in that previous context at all. 

I launched into a lengthy exchange with Wesley's fantastic, brilliant partner Christopher to help make their planning as worthy as it could be. I can tell you, if I may be smug, that their itinerary--whether they stick to it or not--is a spectacular one (and anyone that would like ideas for future visits should not hesitate to ask). It was decided that we would meet the day after their arrival on the steps of Saint-Trophime church.

And here is where the nerves started to vibrate, but not for long. Because I have had an interesting life even if it is not the one that I had bargained for, a really good one. And at 41, it is more than beyond time to embrace that. 

When I crossed the Place de la Republique and fell into his welcoming embrace, I knew that my worries had been for nothing. I have had the experience already in my life of seeing a friend after a long absence and picking up right where we had left off as if no time has passed but this was different. Because neither of us were exactly the same people that we had been before and yet we were still able to have that connection, moving forward. Yes I know, people are always changing but it can be surprising how many from our past want us to stay who we were, which leads to disappointment for all involved. Not the case here, at least on my part. Remi pulled out the stops yesterday evening for a dinner that could not have been lovelier. Out in the garden with the candles lit. Enjoying his stuffed cannette and squash gratin and fine, quiet conversation. Strolling through town afterwards and passing the gates of the church just in time to ring in what I hope is a very Happy Birthday for Christopher. Walking back to the house, my hand in Remi's, I felt lucky.

I couldn't stop giggling when I saw my face, a grinning Ben and my living room on the latest post of Brooke Giannetti's perennially inspiring blog, Velvet & Linen. What on earth was I doing there? Alongside the likes of famed interior designer Axel Vervoordt? Well, Brooke is heading over to this side of the pond with her entire family and we are hoping to meet. Though I must say that it is requiring Herculean efforts on her part to make it happen. Something I am very much aware of and have repeatedly begged her to let it go if it is just too complicated. We'll see. I don't need to meet her to know that she is a good egg through and through but it would be fun to make the jump from virtual to "Hello". And, I admit it, I would love for all of them to see just a tiny bit of this gorgeous region. Certainly now, right on the cusp before the heat starts to wilt the flowers that are gracing my friends gardens that I have featured here. We are making the most of this last month before we leave our own behind. Craning our necks upward to watch the martinets race through the same golden light that Van Gogh admired. It is right now. And perhaps always if you want it. Full bloom.


  1. Hello Heather:
    How wonderful the time spent with old friends sounds to have been. Very clearly you went to a great deal of trouble to make their time with you perfect, and we are well able to imagine sitting outside on a Provence evening quietly talking and eating Remi's delicious [as we are sure it was] dinner. We too have friends who, no matter the time spent apart, are always as we have known them. This we feel is because they, as we, have moved on, if not physically at least in mind and outlook, and so there is no distance between us. Living in a foreign country does, as you say and find, mean that so much of one's past life is left somewhere else and is unknown to those immediately around one. But there are, as you suggest here, so very many compensations.

    Of course we could not resist peeking at Velvet and Linen. A lovely picture of you, and your drawing room is, as we imagined, totally individual, very stylish and essentially 'you' [which, of course, includes Remi].

    Enjoy these most beautiful days.

  2. Dear, wonderful Jane and Lance, yes I should have known that you would have understood completely. As your previous post about your garden attests, there is so little that we know about each other's lives here in blogland (or in our "new" lives, so to speak), save largely for the here and now. Which, yes, can be kind of great at times. A bit of a relief to not have to drag around all of the clanking tin cans of the past that are tied to our ankles. But true friendship, the one sees all of that (and either politely ignores or dives in with shirt sleeves rolled up) is so special.

    Thank you for the lovely compliment regarding Velvet & Linen--it is really an honor to be included in such fine company. And yes, Remi and I decorate together 100%. If we disagree, we walk away!

  3. I almost wrote a second comment yesterday because I forgot to add how envious and excited I was for Brooke to be visiting you!! This is when our little corner of the blogosphere becomes so amazing - not just inspirational but transformative as well!! How wonderful it will be for Brooke and her family to see Arles and the environs through your experienced eyes, as I'm sure it was for lucky Wesley and Christopher.

  4. Your writing envelopes my heart, my hand in yours as you wander Arles.
    I can only imagine a life without those with whom one has history but that burden IS somewhat lifted when we give thanks and know we are blessed right where we are. Haven't you found that to be true?
    I know Brooke and her family will love visiting with you and you them.
    I love your sense of adventure and generosity of spirit! It is tremendously insightful to learn more about you.
    Merci from California

  5. Hey Heather....

    Somehow, your background at Yale Drama had gone over my head.

    You wouldn't happen to have known David Hammond, would you?

  6. Q, I wouldn't be surprised if we met up as well one day, on either side of the pond. :)

    Cnj, i was so touched by your response. Thank you so much for your kind words and the generosity of your spirit as well. I think that many people get lost in the "could have been" or "should have" mentality. We are where we are and it is what it is!

    Hello David, although I certainly have heard of David Hammond (I did my bachelor's at NYU and he was well known there as well), I studied under Earle Gister at Yale.

  7. I love how you start this post: "pay attention"! Recently I found in my purse a tiny artwork that I made with my preschoolers months ago - it's a "scratch away" (crayons - colors underneath, black on top, then you use your fingernail to scratch away a design). It has the words, "WAKE UP!" on it, and I have no memory or writing it or why I would have written it! But it is sitting out now, to remind me to "pay attention" to all that is wonderful in my life - friends, nature, beauty - in stead of focusing on what is "wrong" (my perception, anyway). So glad you were awake to enjoy your time with Wesley!! Bloom, indeed!

  8. That is brilliant, Sister! I love it. We all need a reminder to stay awake, stay present now and then...

  9. Dear Heather,

    Oh, too bad you never met David Hammond at either NYU or Yale. He's one of my favorite, longtime friends,although I certainly never formally "studied" under him, so to speak.

    We have the same name and the same birthday. In the old days, folks used to complain that it was difficult having us in the same room together, claiming that we acted and talked exactly like each other (the simple, operative adjectives would, I gather, be "fast" and "profusely").

    Beyond the name and birthday, however, the similarities end. He's about a foot taller, a handsome Leonard Bernstein look-alike, and eminently more employable than I am.

    Like everyone with Yale Drama connections (the ones I've met over the years have always been very funny), he's chock-full of wry anecdotes and amusing (if little-known) facts about that insitution's various "stars" . The first night I met him, I began predictably babbling about how "lucky" a certain now-famous actress was in her career; rolling his eyes, he described the faculty's reaction when they learned that, prior to the young woman's even setting foot on campus for her first class, her daddy had already hired one of NYC's most expensive publicists.

    At the risk of seeming "cynical", I'd say that another of the similarities between David and me is the firm belief that, in the world of actors and artists, scarcely anything really good ever comes about simply by accident.

    Level Best as ever,

    David Terry

  10. Ah, so this started with the joy of old friendships and ended with the excitement of new ones. And both are such an important part of a rich life.

    The comfortable silences shared with old friends are so pleasurably simple, and yet the fun and stimulation of meeting new friends, which which to challenge one's own viewpoint, is utterly magic too.

    You are indeed, living the rich life - and the best thing is, you appreciate it as it is happening. A rare gift indeed.

    Have a wonderful summer weekend Heather, enveloping yourself in all these pretty summer gardens. As I write, on Friday evening, the log fire is crackling in the background and a bottle of Pinot Noir awaits. For me, it is the cosiness of early winter! How different our seasons are, and yet our sentiments the same.

    Virginia x

  11. Well, I am utterly dispirited as I just lost a very lengthy response to you both. So out with the wit and the turning of phrases. I'll just say thank you, Virginia for that gorgeous comment. I would be delighted to be right there with you as Autumn is my very favorite season. Cheers. And yes, for the first few years that I spent in France I was quite isolated (from lack of French and that we were travelling so much) so I truly do appreciate the friendships that I have now, whether they be virtual or in person.

    David, yes, I couldn't agree more with you both. How often I have seen the truly talented buried under the mud of the wealthy and well-conneced. It is dispiriting. I loved hearing of your friendship though and can't help but wonder which actress you were referring to (although I have my guesses). Ooh, perhaps an email response would be nice? I am not a gossip, but with Yale Drama it is par for the course.

  12. I just realized that I used dispirited twice in the same response...hmmm. Time to do some yoga! ;)

  13. Oh, Heather ( and in regard to your last posting?).....

    This is E-Z, and I expect neither of us neeed be worried that our households will be targeted by the hit-men squads of either Mobutu Sese Seko or Marjorie Merriweather Post (google both, but I also expect you won't need to do so).

    Here's your big, Lucky-Day, good-girls-deserve-presents, xtra-special-bonus HINT from "Das Haus Von David":

    "Why IS it that no one ever confuses Cathy Bates with Glenn Close?"

    Experiencedly yours as ever,

    The Rev. Dr. David "I'll start watching my mouth around certain movie stars the days they start paying my mortgage" Terry

  14. What a wonderful life you have had so far and just think of all the adventures ahead of you. I loved reading about your friends from your past life and friends from your new life coming out to see you, how very exciting. What I think I loved most though was how Mother Nature is asking you to “pay attention” to her. We’re fortunate enough to live in the country where Mother Nature is always rearing her head to be noticed. Even though we’ve lived in our home for fifteen years there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t notice something new. I’m glad you gave up acting to become a writer living in France because now we get the pleasure of sharing in your life in a small way too.

    Have a wonderful weekend Heather!

  15. Curious as to what was in the lengthy and witty response...sad it was lost because I love reading your words....the joys of technology.

    I do assume that you will write some sort of a memoir type book of your adventures Heather? Complete with all the wonderful images of the places you have discovered on the journey?

  16. Dear Rev. Dr. David, I DID have to google something--that quote! Working on it...

    Debra, you are so fortunate to have nature all around you at your beautiful home. I agree. I remember walking through the fields of our horse farm when I was young and every single step was a discovery for the senses: the scent of wild mint and the crack of the grass underfoot, the tiniest cricket hopping aside. And one of the things that made this transition a little easier was when I realized the similarity between the two professions is that in both, you just tell a story. :) Wishing you a wonderful weekend as well...and scratchies to Dylan.

    Hello, Virginia. Oh, I am such a loser when it comes to technology. How I have gotten this far?! And yes, it is something that I have thought about but more with the adventures from our assignments. Speaking of, we just sold the story on the French Amazon to a German magazine. Hooray!

  17. Dear Heather,

    Congratulations, of course, on placing the story.

    Flannery O'Connor reguarly used, in her letters, a phrase which you'll proably find amusing AND helpful.

    As you might know, Flannery spent her last 15 or so years living with her widowed mother on a Georgia farm, from which she would send her stories out into the wide world. To paraphrase several of her letters?...:

    "This morning, I was upstairs writing when My Parent came in with the mail, which contained a nice acceptance letter from the submissions editor of _____, along with a check for Twenty Five dollars. Screams and cheers all round!"

    I love that celebratory phrase "Screams and Cheers!".

    ---david terry


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