Wednesday, September 28, 2011


I cannot take credit for this all too happy handwriting. Full of optimism, isn't it? Not that I am other than a hope addict. I soar on those wings every moment that I can. But look at these circular loops that declare "I am here!" with a confidence that what comes around does indeed go around. How we build ourselves up with every gesture despite the uncertainty of the oncoming tide. Persistence.

Remi and I are not, actually, beach people. There have been moments when we were on assignment in some exotic locale known for its waters where we did not even dip in a toe. Last Sunday I was dressed in black capris and a long sleeve t-shirt, even though I had been told that the water was still warm. Remi, essentially the same. Only Ben, our lovely dog, was beyond himself with excitement, having immediately sniffed out a turn south towards the sea, away from the destination of our usual hikes.

Undoubtedly because of his recent swimming success in the Alpilles, he dove right in. What a difference from the timorous pup of yore. Wild abandon. Yes, for the millionth time, our dogs show us the quickest path to least resistance. He certainly doesn't ask himself "should I enjoy myself?"--he just does.

I loved the privacy of the end of September day. Far from the "look at me" each and all were doing their best to squirrel away memories for the months to come. So were we with each footfall. However, I could tell that after walking for quite some time, Remi was all too ready to relax but didn't dare. "It's just sand," I reminded him. "We can brush it off."

And so all three of us plopped down, quiet as could be, sipping the surroundings into our skin--the chuchotement of the waves, the caress of the sun's warmth and a feeling that we weren't quite who we thought we were fifteen minutes before.

"Fireflies in daylight."That is the phrase that kept dancing through my head as I was taking in the glimmer skipping across the horizon. But isn't that the best gift about what it is to go to the sea? To let our minds wander? To travel without moving? So amazing with the Mediterranean to think that on the other side of this wide blue lies...Africa.

The sand between my fingers, at the nape of my neck, tickling my scalp...oh my, it was absolutely everywhere, for once we gave in, we gave in. Ben didn't help, splaying a wet paw across my chest as he thumped down beside me with a sigh. So be it. And it did wipe off. But less so the memory of my big achievement of the day. Those of you that know me well or have been reading here for a while know that I don't drive. Honestly, I am of another time but what was I thinking when I was young that I didn't want to learn? That it wasn't ladylike? I swear that was a part of it! And that I would just prefer to be driven. Yes, all of this when I was around 16. I believe that I was an older soul then than I am now. And certainly more of a diva.

The boundless beach is a place to be brave. And so I had two lessons, one with Remi and then a go all by myself--for the first time in my life. At 42? Yes. And it felt fine. I was proud and beaming. We shall see what comes of it. Slippery as sand I can be but hopefully, it is a start. 


  1. Hello Heather:
    How magical this post is for the very freedom which it so generously conveys. Yes, let us all learn, at least at times, to be as Ben and cast care aside. And how much better we shall feel for so doing.

    As for the driving. It is never, in our view, too late at any age, and you are so young, to acquire new skills. But, where motor cars are concerned we gave them up, on impulse, about four years ago and have delighted in the the way in which our lives have been liberated for having done so. Now we rely totally on trains and buses and are literally and metaphorically 'transported' on those occasions when dear friends draw up at the hall door to take us on a jolly in the motor car.

  2. Bonjour Heather. I loved this post, first of all because I love dogs, and second because I miss the Mediterranean, so you have spoiled me today, merci. ;-) It sounds like all of you had a jolly good time at the beach. Great job on driving by yourself. I can relate as I never cared for driving the whole time i lived in Paris, and avoided it as much as I could. When I moved to the US, though, I had no option but to "live in my car" (isn't that what everyone does except New Yorkers -maybe- in this country? ;-) It was not as bad as I thought once I got the hang of it. One suggestion for you. You want to get rid of this big thing you are driving on the picture and start hunting immediately for one of the cars mentioned below. The stick shift was a big pain to use, but I have a feeling you would look smashing in one ;-) Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  3. What a great post Ben looks exactly like our Dylan and Dylan did the exact same thing this morning, dip in the water and then a roll in the sand. I love his joyful abandon, doesn’t care who might be watching he was going to enjoy his time in the sand. He looked so happy and you’re right it’s just sand that can be vacuumed off the kitchen floor later. Your post was exactly how I felt standing in the sand looking at the changing colors of the leaves and only the sound of geese. Life is wonderful isn’t it?

  4. Another delightful post Heather, dogs and the beach were made for each other, they may not all like going in the sea but I have yet to meet a dog that does not like the beach. Crusoe our smooth haired Fox Terrier, adores sea and beach, he would spend all day if he could chasing and barking at the waves. Good luck with the driving, I was dying to learn to drive and gain independence from parents and passed my test at 17, however when I lived in London and then Paris I did not use my car and walked or cycled everywhere, I loved it, here in rural France, driving is imperative and now I miss not driving, although I do love the freedom of thinking about going on a road trip the night before, chucking a case in the boot and heading off on an adventure the next morning.

  5. I know, I know, I know. I have said it so many times but I am so incredibly grateful for the wonderful responses that are left here. Such interesting people all across the world, a lucky one I am.

    Dear Jane and Lance, thank you for the encouragement and perspective. I listen to you both, always.

    Veronique, oh my, I love little cars, but you will be verrry disappointed in me as my dream car is one of those tiny old Fiats! Italian! Not French! Throw me out of the country! I deserve it! But your post on the 2C was absolutely wonderful!

    Debra, your last sentence gave me goosebumps. Yes, it is. Bisous.

    Dash, yes, it is a bit of the same story for me--I moved to NYC at 18, having scraped by until then (especially after my first and last lesson with my Mom) and then poof! No need! I am quite excellent at hailing a taxi I might add but, as you said, the call of freedom, that, that is what just might make me get over my fear!

  6. J'adore votre blogs. I'm not a swimmer so I feel no need to get wet - even on the hottest of days. However, I love to be at the water's edge.......there is a connection to nature which makes me feel whole. Our dog was drawn to water, from the smallest of puddles to threatening surf. Her obvious pleasure as she splashed and swam (somestimes for hours) was a delight to observe.

  7. It's kind of humbling that Ben can teach you to take risks and enjoy the simple beauty of being carefree! He truly is one very, very special dog Heather.

    So driving is all bound up with confidence, and being in a good place right now, and feeling like things are heading in a good direction, methinks. And I agree with Jane & Lance that there is never a point at which one is too old to learn anything. My grandmother, who reached the age of 99, used to say to me "make sure that you learn something new every single day". And it is advice which I truly treasure and strive to achieve.

    That shot of Ben with his head flopped so contentedly says it all about what we should strive for each day! Pure happiness from simple things!

    Virginia xx

  8. Living in Los Angeles, you can imagine what I thought when you mentioned that you don't drive... how divine!!!
    I want to do a "Benjamin Button" and revert to a non-driver, while you become one. :)
    Ben looks so happy. I wish I enjoyed swimming as much as he does. We live 16 blocks from the beach, and as much as I love a gorgeous sunset over the ocean, I find the salty and sandy water a shock to my system.
    I hope I don't sound too humbug this evening!
    Congratulations on your second driving lesson. I look forward to having you drive me around Provence!


  9. Thank you Elizabeth. And I agree, being near the water is both very grounding and yet a reminder that things are always changing, moving. We find that here as well, being next to the Rhone, even without the tides.

    Virginia, oh it shivers me timbers when you hit the nail on the head like that--x-ray glasses looking into my soul! So yes, confidence. And Ben is indeed a special one. He has such a huge heart--it is another of his lessons: to make friends wherever you go. He can even charm people that are petrified of dogs. He makes me laugh out loud at least once a day.

    And Brooke, I had to giggle at humbug! I don't think that you could be if you tried! :) And yep, not driving is pretty brilliant--you get to be DJ, look at the scenery...But driving you around Provence is something to aim for (yikes scares me though)!

  10. I was listening to the completely fabulous Pirates of Penzance sound track am in a maritime jolly old I found your "shiver me timbers" reference quite chilling myself!!! Virginia xx

  11. Oh, I am not at all surprised Virginia. You and I often have similar things drifting through our noggin's--but just different enough to make our exchanges so fun.

    Wishing you a wonderful spring weekend, friend.

  12. Ben looks like he was having the time of his life!

    I can't imagine not being able to drive. I like knowing that any time I want to I can take off. I can get in my car & drive wherever I need/want to. I think it's wonderful that you are learning!! Trust me, it doesn't take that long before it becomes second nature.

    ~ Clare x

  13. Gosh Clare, I think that when you learn while you are young, it becomes second nature but I am all to aware of the fragility of life and all of the risks involved! It is the biggest mental hurdle that I have to get over. But it is true, the freedom must make it worthwhile!


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