Monday, May 21, 2012

On a warm September evening...


I will tell you a little story. Some of you may know it already but I find that the best stories bear repeating often. Especially if you have a muddle of a memory like I do, it keeps them alive and in a row, like counting beads on a rosary or a mala. 


Sometimes good does indeed come from bad, light follows the dark. So it was that we discovered Arles. Remi, my incredible professional photographer companion and I had made the long grumbly drive down from Paris, where we had been living together in very cramped quarters for two years. We didn't dream of the South like others did, didn't fantasize about Provence or the Luberon. No. We headed to Perpignan for Visa Pour L'Image, widely heralded as the world's most important photojournalism festival. But somehow the sadness of the photographs that we saw overwhelmed us that year, the peacock strutting of competing photographers clashed as utterly inappropriate. So we left. Before the final ceremony, before the last pop of a champagne cork. 


We drove towards the Camargue with the windows of our old Saab rolled down. Waves of hot wind slapped our cheeks, flamingos flapped off into the distance and white horses stomped through a bleached out landscape like galloping ghosts. It cleared our minds. "Why don't we stop in Arles?" Remi suggested, breaking a silence that seemed heavier than air. All I knew of Arles was Van Gogh. But that is enough, isn't it? "All right." 


The doors opened for us. Literally. We found a charming room available at the Hotel de L'Amphitheatre, one that we could afford, on a busy Saturday night, the first of September. Already as we ran our hands over the cool, cream stone walls and gazed out at the whistling leaves of the platane trees dotting the tiny square below, something was stirring. We got our first glimpse of the Roman Arena as we stepped out into the late afternoon. We let ourselves get swept up in the crowds rolling down the hillside towards the remaining exhibitions of the Rencontres d'Arles, another photography festival and yet a world away. A warm, golden light wrapped around us as did the notes from a jazz quartet that had set up camp on the cobbled street. Inside an abandoned church, we looked at the work of Harry Gruyaert's "Rivages". We turned ourselves towards beauty and that stirring surged up into tears. We knew. This was where we were ready to be.


It took us over two years to make the move. At the time, we were travelling nearly non-stop as a photographer/journalist team for different magazines in the French press. But it was worth the wait. In 2005, we packed up a truck, arriving in the dark at 1am with a Mistral wind roaring off the Rhone River to welcome us. Eventually, we welcomed an incredible Golden Retriever, Ben, into our family of two. I am as charmed by those old stones, by that light that is like a friend (albeit a moody one) as I was on the first day. And although I don't know if I will be here forever as Remi and I are nomads in our hearts, for now I am happy to be Lost in Arles.


I want to thank the lovely Vicki Archer at the exceptional blog French Essence for having mentioned me, this blog and Arles today. I thought it only polite to introduce myself with a little curtsy to those of you that might be visiting for the first time. Bonjour et bienvenue! 






26 comments:

  1. I will never tire of your writings Heather and love visiting you. Ben is also a wonder to see he's such a handsome boy he looks so happy. Nice hearing how you and Remi ended up down south and what a way to go.

    XXX
    Debra~

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    1. Thanks so much Debra, you too have a handsome Golden of your own!

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  2. Hello Heather:
    Your writing, dearest Heather, is as beautiful as Remi's photography is beguiling, what a perfect partnership you make. And, how enchanting is this story of your first visit to Arles. We were there with you, gazing at the centuries old stone, bathed in that most golden of honey coloured light. No wonder that you found it all so captivating. We are sure that we should find it so too. And Ben, simply adorable!

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    1. Hello my dear Hattats. As always, I thank you for all of your support but just so you both know, all of the photos that are on the blog are mine save for the very few on four or five of my posts about our previous travels and they have a ©Remi Benali mark on them. His work is at a far different level than my little snapshots that I share with you all. :) But yes, travelling together was so wonderful beyond belief. I am so grateful for that!

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  3. Heather - you have opened the window of memories for me - last year we had heard of Provence obviously - but the openness of the artists there and their wonderful friendship and sharing are amazing - they told us places to visit and drew mud maps for us!! We would come back in a breeze to stay for a while it is a fantastic spot - please don't stop posting whatever you do!!

    The end result for me was several pieces of work inspired by this amazing space:

    http://wynvogel.blogspot.com/2011/12/timetraveller-ghosts-of-st-remy.html

    thanks very much!!

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    1. Hooray! Thank you for sharing this beautiful piece with me Wyn--it so finely captures the vibrancy of Provence! And yes, it doesn't surprise me that the artistic community here was so supportive--they are a special group and know how amazing this land is. And as always, thank you for your great compliments!!

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  4. Arles is a lovely town. You are so lucky that your path in life took you there.

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    1. I agree Belle. I always see new things, every day.

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  5. Wow. Holy Moly. You and Remi did what I have always wanted to do...follow my heart when it sings and announces that..."This is it. This is where you belong". Husband and I have been to a couple of places that sang to us, but he - being the pragmatist that he is - wouldn't go with the flow. I've always regretted that, but what can I say? He is the love of my life, and I have to do what makes him comfortable.

    And then there is Ben, and for us it is Mackerel and Finn. And the grand children, laughing and full of themselves on the coast. So, maybe Husband was right. And I can always read your Blog, and sigh over your pictures...

    Lucky woman. Lucky to be lost in Arles.

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    1. Well, Linda, our case is particular. When we moved to Arles we were travelling so much. We had our clients in place and as long as we were close to an international airport and had good internet connection, we could dare to give it a go.Our jobs at the time let us be flexible. We don't have children, so weren't uprooting them, etc. I think you have a pretty great gig where you are!
      PS. As for the question about the posts, my expert answer is: I have no idea! Is that different than what the other blogs you follow look like?

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  6. P.S. - Your posts are showing up as: noreply@blogger.com(Lost In Provence) at Lost in Arles

    Exactly like that. Is that the way they are supposed to be??

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  7. Loved that story too!!!!!!!!!!!So, Ben is FRENCH through and through?Somehow, I thought he was AMERICAN!Born in ARLES was he?You have a beautiful BLOG............its my favorite!I dont understand why more people havenot fallen upon you.You write so beautifully and your pics.....well they are priceless!I too hope one day we can linger in the jardin and sip a Heather APRETIFF.........and share everything!IT WILL HAPPEN!Look you met The FRENCH ESSENSE DAME!!!!!!!!Somehow, somewhere Remi will get an assignment in California and I will come and scoop you away!!!!!!!!I PROMISE!
    xoxoxo

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    1. Hooray! I will look forward to that chere Contessa--the hostess with the mostest! And merci...

      Ben is indeed born in France but has English and Scottish roots, just like I do! :) He comes from the breeder Chelsea Garden about 45 minutes away from Arles. She often has puppy photos on her website--worth a looksee!

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  8. What a heartwarming piece you have posted today. I feel in the words that it is authentic and straight from the heart. It is wonderful to be doing exactly what you wish at this moment in time. You are making beautiful memories, as well as a beautiful blog in the here-and-now. And I won't forget Ben, either! He is beautiful as well!!

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    1. Oh, thank you so much Sanda. My memory is terrible (too many years of insomnia) so it is true I am making memories and keeping them as well. Which is wonderful--a modern day scrapbook!

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  9. Heather, I had not heard that story before, I must have missed it, there are many parallels! I saw Vickie's piece yesterday and thought it was lovely. I have been to Arles many times but I don't really know it that well, I do remember once, a memorable lunch, we found a tiny restaurant, off the beaten track, down a little cobbled street, it was a very hot day, we ate outside. For dessert I ordered Faisselle with Groseille, it was like tasting heaven! I have been serving it at lunches and dinner parties on hot balmy days and nights ever since!
    XXX

    PS. These Robot thingy's are getting worse, on my third attempt now to publish this comment!

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    1. I curse the robots! I really do. It is impossible. Why do they have to be so long? mdiirLLOvswwitJK kebkjdqoU Truly, ridiculous. Thank you for not giving up.

      I would love to hear about the parallels. Please. :)

      And as for the restaurant, I really wonder if it wasn't L'Autruche, one of my favorites here--there aren't many that would work with your description but that would!! As for the next time you come to Arles...

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  10. I, for one, didn't know the story of how you ended up in Arles. How lovely. I've been there a few times (even stayed at the Hotel de l'Amphitheatre!). Something about that town pulls me back. I can see why you want to live there.

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  11. Hi Heather,
    A great story....fabulous picture of Ben and I did read of your meeting with Vicki it all sounds a treat....
    all the best..H

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  12. I'm so glad you told this story again as it was a first for me. One of my biggest theories on life is that the dark moments that generate the brightest lights of the future. It's been true over and over in my experience and helps keep me positive on the gloomy days. How wonderful for us that you are Lost in Arles and spinning your stories of life there! XO

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    1. And certainly we wouldn't appreciate the bright moments if we didn't have the darkness as a contrast too...

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  13. nice idea.. thanks for posting..

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  14. I don't believe I've read about how/when you and Remi decided to move to Arles before. Thank you for sharing. Oh how I'd love to visit the South of France some day!! For now I'll have to be content with reading your blog & Viki's ;-)

    ~ Clare x

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  15. Thanks for telling this portion of you&Remi's story, Heather. Like several other readers, I'd wondered how you ended up in Arles.

    Ironically enough (given your tale of simply fetching-up by accident where you eventually ended up living)?....

    There's a huge set of old keys, delivered to me yesterday, sitting about a foot from my face as I type this. In 2 hours I'm driving over to the town where we're moving and taking possession of our "new" (it's 220 years old) house.

    I've spent the past year & 1/2 anxiously, irritatedly, and Fed-Up-edly going through a string of old houses, trying to find one that suited our needs. Back in March, Herve and I visited one which looked fine on the outside, but the inside of the house (owned by a wealthy divorcee with a too-large decorating budget and, rather obviously, too few demands on her time) was fairly appalling..... 18th century chinoiserie wallpaper, chandeliers, Brunschwig & Fils upholstered windowseats, etcetera. Suffice it to say that the whole joint (and this is, after all, just a fairly simple North Carolina, 19th century house)screamed "I'm ready for my 'World of Interiors' photo-shoot now!".

    It just wouldn't have at all suited our way of living...which involves a lot of dogs, spilly relatives, actual gardening (all the doors from the back entrances led straight onto a long gallery/room carpeted in a wall-to-wall, blazingly white and obviously very-expensive carpet. I should emphasize that the owner's taste is utterly impeccable by many folks' standards; it was all just a bit too-too overwhelmingly "DECORATOR" for our own tastes and habits.

    Having fled the real-estate agent (who, for some reason, kept spreading her arms wide and declaring "Can't you just SEE a wedding here?!?!?!"), we got in the car....and I asked Herve "So, what'd you think?". He flatly said "Oh...she DESERVES a million dollars for her house....but I don't think we want to pay for a bunch of stuff we're going to immediately rip out and throw away."

    I agreed. As we were pulling out of the drive, I noticed the house next door....considerably smaller, markedly older, far less "elegant", and set much further back from the street. I dispiritedly remarked "Now, THAT'S the sort of house I want...why can't we find a house like THAT????".

    Two weeks later, I told Frances Mayes (yes, that one....the Presiding Captain of the "Under the Tuscan Sun" juggernaut; she and her husband, Ed, live half of each year in Hillsborough) that'd I'd pretty-much given up the notion of chasing-down and prwoling through old houses (I loathe shopping). She asked "Did you look at the Webb House?". I told her that I'd never heard of it. Frances told me to inquire about it with our land-agent. The land-agent called me, a few days later, to say that house would, it turns out, be going on the market (in a village/small town where, often, houses don't "go on" the public market).

    We moved in (so to speak)on the house as though we were orchestrating D-Day. Suffice it to say that, three months (and several agents, three attorneys, one remarkably grumpy current-owner, & two insurance underwriters) later, we've finally ("sorta accidentally" might be more accurate) got the house we didn't know we were looking for,since we didn't even know it existed.

    And we're very happy about the matter...to say the least.

    So, away I go in a couple of hours. My plans for tonight include calling Herve (who's off in Washington haggling with the FDA folks) to tell him that, having been back to The Webb House, I've changed my so-called mind. I've never heard a man have an aneurysm over the telephone before, so this might be a first in my career.

    Level Best as Ever,

    David Terry
    www.davidterryart.com

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    1. How about them apples? On my (practically non-existent) to-do list today was "send David Terry an email". You, prescient as ever, beat me to the cue, so I'll just write back here immediately because absolutely zero and I do mean zero time must go by without my thanking you for making me not only laugh out loud five times during your comment but positively guffaw (not very elegant on my part) twice. Oh how I do adore you, Mr. Terry. And now that your unbelievably beautiful home is indeed yours (and it looks as though it were always meant to be yours, I can so easily picture you in those rooms), perhaps once you get settled in you can organize your writing into one place? I believe that you do have many writer friends that will encourage you in this endeavour! And please be nice to Herve. We need him around to stave off the end of the world by microbe as long as he is possibly capable of doing.

      Remi and I are thrilled to hear that his prints will be in the kitchen. The best place for them! Although I fear will make cheap shots about the hippos being "hungry, hungry hippos". I know that we always put our most treasured pieces in the spaces where we will see them most often so it is a lovely compliment to him, thank you. And speaking of things that makes one blush, un grand merci also for your kindness over at French Essence. I love the image of Vicki and I being some sort of galavanting duo!

      I just would like to ask about your MRI. Hoping that it is for nothing serious? When I had mine, I was afraid that I was going to come out of it and be in another dimension or something.

      I am so beyond thrilled for you and Herve. Beauty, hope and happiness all under one roof! Hallelujah!
      As Gushy as Ever,
      H.

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  16. Hey Heather.....thanks for your note. The MRI came out just fine. I had it only because the doctor went through a list of various "does your family have a history of ________?" questions. I said "no" to heart attacks, cancer, diabetes, etcetera. None of us has ever had any of them. Then, she (surprised to hear that none of us has ever "gotten" any disease) about strokes/aneurysms.

    Oh....THAT..." I said, "Actually, all of my grandparents and all of my great-aunts and great uncles died of strokes, all before the age of 72. My father had a major aneurysm when he was 38...but he lived. Anyway, we all die of strokes before anything else gets us". She blinked, set down her pen, and said "you know? I think that consitutes a 'medical history'. Let's get you an MRI....".

    In any case, I got a call yesterday, informing me that my brain is just fine. amazing to consider, though, that they can do this sort of preventative testing.


    ----david terry

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