Friday, February 3, 2012

Searching for snow


While some fine ladies are willing to take the TGV for hours in order to fill a craving for truly Parisian pastries, I found myself seeking a change of season and was ready to go to equally great lengths to get it. Luckily, Remi had a similar idea brewing. We both were in need of snow. 



As wonderful as Provence is, it can be, well, a bit monochromatic with its skies that are forever blue. I grew up mainly in the Midwest, where each period of the year is marked by wildly different weather. Sweat would drip from the back of my knees as I scampered away from a summer bound dodge ball just as the winter wind would whip up tears that froze on my cheeks. I loved it all and miss that excitement of change.


We piled into the Range Rover with Ben in the back as well as enough clothing and supplies to last us for a few days. And yet we weren't going far. Our base was the town of Sisteron, only a little more than a two hours drive from Arles. I never tire that in France you can shift your landscape so easily.


I have written quite a lot about the Luberon, most recently in my one too many posts on the questionably cute or not cute village of  Loumarin. But we were headed beyond the Peter Mayle zone to the Alpes-de-Haut-Provence, an area relatively unvisited save by Provençals heading to one of the local ski slopes or motorcyclists cruising the Napoleon Road. 



We fretted as we drove north. The ground was dry until Gap. Was our search in vain? As we turned up the long hill to the Abbaye de Boscodon, smiles spread slowly across our faces. The higher we climbed, the deeper the snowfall. Success! Ben, our Golden, had never experienced more than a mere dusting and so did not quite know to make of such snow but soon enough he was bouncing like a bunny and shaking every stick he could find with ferocious glee.


We had climbed to 1150 meters in altitude in a rather short period of time and I felt slightly dizzy and out of breath. The silence was so total that I could hear my blood pounding in my ears like waves in a seashell. I was filled with wonder at all around me, from the strange sight of mistletoe that had grafted itself onto a pine tree, to the comforting trickle of a stream in a gorge dangerously deep below.


We crossed fields where there were no other footprints but our own and I took care to put my feet in Remi's tracks, to leave as little trace of my passing as possible.


How utterly drained of color the world seemed to be. And yet not in the least of joy. I couldn't stop smiling. The cold makes me feel so alive.


Quiet voices echoed on the other side of the monastery walls. Incredible to think that the first monks arrived at the Abbey in 1142 (and that when it was returned to the church in 1972, its magnificent chapel was being used as a stable). Today the Abbey is renowned for its mixité, an openness towards multiple religious congregations. The pine covered mountains wrap around the buildings like a blanket. It is a perfect setting for contemplation. To go inwards. I felt myself doing the same and looked forward to what discoveries the next few days would bring...Can you feel the quiet?







We had an excellent time and I will be spreading the results of my visit out (again!) over a few posts as I think that it is an opportunity to show a side of Provence that so few people get to see.


And as a completely, utterly unrelated postscript (as I know that many of you are fellow dog-lovers), I would highly recommend the article in on the New York Time's website: Wonder Dog about dogs that are being trained for placement with children that have special needs. The article is long but very worthwhile as is the accompanying short video.

25 comments:

Laura said...

What a wonderful trip! The photos are so inviting, and yes, you can feel the quiet.
Something about snow that is always purifying and renewing for the spirit. Ben looked happy and oh so adorable! Thanks for sharing this winter experience.

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you so much Laura, wishing you an excellent weekend!

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

Thank you for taking me on this wonderful journey. You are a great wordsmith. I too love the seasons - they make me feel alive. It is years sine I've been to the snow, ( my skis have gone to heaven), but I can still recall the magic of its ethereal silence. Such beauty. Bisous
P.S. Apologies for not visiting sooner - I've been away from the blogsphere.

Elizabeth Eiffel said...

P.S. Fabulous images - as usual. XXX

Design is... All in the Detail said...

Lovely - thank you so much for sharing! Enjoy your weekend.

LA CONTESSA said...

You do get around!Love all the snaps and especially the photo of BEN laying in the snow!We here in California are in desperate need of snow this year.Its just not coming.How are you enjoying that new camera?Takes beautiful photos!
xoxo

Wyn Vogel said...

OMG - how wonderful is this scenery Heather - I remember seeing the mountains on the map as we chooffled along the roads but we didn't have time to go - so you have now gone some distance to satisfying the need to see!!! Wow!! Thanks!!

robin said...

Beautiful! I heard an idea at Jewel Heart tonight about making everyday things spiritual; there is so much spirituality in your posts! Not that these are "everyday" things (it's Provence, after all!), but you give us the reminder to see the beauty that's all around us. Thank you for that reminder!!
I can't even decide which of these beautiful pics is my favorite!! (well, ok - Ben with velvet painting eyes).

Lost in Provence said...

Hmm, hoping everything is alright with you Elizabeth! I know that I need to get caught up on your blog as well. Several days away and I miss so much! Thank you as always for your kind words...

Lost in Provence said...

You too! :)

Lost in Provence said...

I am IN LOVE with my new camera! Although shooting in snow is a whole other kit and kaboodle, too many contrasts! But I am trying to get better, slowwwly!

Lost in Provence said...

You're so welcome Wyn and I know that you are faaar away but hopefully there will be a next time!

Lost in Provence said...

You are so amazing SIster! I love the way that you see things too...

david terry said...

Oh, those are beautiful photographs, Heather. Thank you. We haven't had even a dusting of snow here in central North Carolina this winter (which, as all the farmers are grimly saying, means that we'll have a bad drought this summer). In any case, your photographs were a real treat.

I'd forgotten that you grew up in the midwest. I lived there for two yearsin my mid-twenties, having taken a job teaching at a fancy boreding-skool (the same one which produced our current Chief Justice)located at the tip of Lake Michigan.

Now, I'd grown up in the mountains of Tennessee and, so, basically knew about snow....but, as I discovered that first night snow came down the lake from Canada, not the REAL STUFF.

I stepped outside that Saturday morning afterwards, thought "How beautiful", and then panickedly realized "My Car Has Been Stolen!".

I kid you not; I hysterically telephoned the police. They eventually arrived (which, of course, attracted a big gaggle of bored, yankee students from the dorms), politely asked where I'd last seen my car, and then (rolling their eyes) informed me that my little white Honda Civic was exactly where I'd left it.....parked in a corner between the gym-wall and a storage shed. It just happened to be covered over by a snowdrift. Not that I'd ever seen a snowdrift before then.

I never lived that down until I left 2 years later.....I don't know how many times a student or one of the cops in that small town would grin and ask me "So, Mr. Terry...lost any cars lately?...."

thanks again for the really lovely pictures,

david Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Judith said...

Those photos make me feel the cold air in my nostrils and see the clouds of my own breath as if I were walking beside you. I'm also glad that Ben got to frolic in snow. Both my dear departed yellow lab and my current dog love the snow. Last winter it was hip deep and this winter we've only had a few inches and they are already gone.

Speaking of dogs, thank you for sharing that NY Times piece. Dogs really do make everything better. In fact, I went to an opening last night with a dear friend. She was glowing -- looked better than I'd ever seen her. When I jokingly asked her if she was having an affair, she said it was because of the dog she recently adopted. Dogs give us so much and ask for so little. Give Ben a pat from me.

Lost in Provence said...

David Terry, Judith Ross. Judith Ross, David Terry. How grateful I am to have you both here. I know that is crazily reductive but that is all I have to say right now. Save yet another thank you for making me laugh out loud David and I hope that you will consider saving your stories to put together into a compilation one day. Judith, I should have known that you would appreciate that story, I found it so amazing. I'll deliver Ben's pat once he is done with his nightly bone. Even Ben needs to have a little "me" time. :) Bisous to you both.

miss flibbertigibbet said...

I saw your comment on Enchanted home about visiting Paris. I am going in May for the first time. I took 6yrs of french as a girl bc I dreamed of going someday. I have kept up with reading, writing and speaking (to myself mostly) and am getting some language tapes to train my ear a bit. Your comment about renting an apt. was so good to hear! I always wanted to feel as though I was "living" in Paris and not visiting. Luckily good friends who have been many times advised us to get an apartment...we are staying on Ile St Louis and I am THRILLED! I can't wait to shop for some food, cook and sit on the balcony with a glass of wine.
I saw your note about someone who had written about visiting Paris like a Parisian.....can you tell me where to find that?
I am your newest follower! I can't wait to read about your adventures!
a bientot
Lorraine

HRH The Duchess of State said...

Very cute post dahhling... though I admire your craving & subsequent indulgence in snow, I simply could not image such frigid weather!

Lost in Provence said...

Hello Lorraine and welcome! :) Well, first off bravo for the apartment rental! I am actually considering renting on the L'Ile St Louis for our next trip up and would love to hear where you found yours. We have rented from Home Away in the past with good success. You will love your location--you can walk almost anywhere and you are close to fast metro lines for the farther out places. And you have a balcony? I see you already totally "get" it! Ok, lets see if Blogger lets me give you the link:
http://carlalovesphotography.blogspot.com/2011/11/paris-11-things-i-want-to-show-my-best.html
Actually there is so much on her blog that is perfect for Paris. One more bit of advice: buy a pair of ballet flats or Converse sneakers for walking--just like the Parisiennes do. And yes, I have even seen stylish friends mix Converse and Yamamoto...Don't hesitate if you have more questions. :)

Lost in Provence said...

Nor can I imagine you there Duchesse! What an incredible post you have up right now.

Lost in Provence said...

Thanks Heather! It is so good to hear from you! I need to check in with you to see what part of the world you are in right now. :) We are home safe and sound but not without a bit of joy-riding on the way home. Yeehaaah!

quintessence said...

Lovely - and yes I could feel the silence!! Beautiful shots!

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you Stacey--I love all that you have been sharing with us lately!

Looking Glass said...

Oooh! Such beauty! I never see snow where I live. I simply adore seeing everyone's snowy pictures.

~ Clare x

Lost in Provence said...

One of these days, you will just have to hop on the plane to see it in person!