Friday, June 8, 2012

Stories in the stones




I don't think of myself as a typical American (or anyone a typical fill-in-the-blank for that matter) but in some aspects, I might be. Certainly when it comes to time. Because in France, I run through a cross-hatch of centuries like a pinball in a maze. And that is just while out strolling with the pupper. It can leave me feeling dizzy and off-balance, unsure of what to hold on to. I have such different references. But like a kid that just got up the courage to go down the slide backwards for the first time in her life, I love it. And then want more.



Because there are stories in the stones. And if you listen, you can hear them. But they always leave me asking after all that I don't know.




Who planted the rose bush that grew over decades to eat the facade of a fortified house on a hill? Was it a gesture of love that fed the vines better than any well?




How many stooped to lay the cobblestones and brick the arches so solidly that they could outlast their makers? And do the structures now miss their former inhabitants?



I walked around the village of Bargème in the Haut Var and such thoughts rolled around in my head.



Garden walls seemed puffed up with pride for all of the many years they held tight the earth for children to run across, galloping in games.



Similarly, a sense of community exuded from the stone benches where women gathered for decades to gossip while waiting for their loaves to bake in the local oven.



In no way did I find this wonderful little hamlet to be haunted. Not at all like that nameless village that I wrote about obsessively previously. No, despite the sun's hide and seek, a warmth of neither frenetic energy nor sleepy hollow filled and followed me.



I could hear the mother's chiding young ones snapping freshly washed sheets at each other at the lavoir.  And wondered at the transition of the proud 12th century chateau to grate and grumble so infinitely slowly as to fall to ruin. 


But perhaps the ruins and monuments, homes and chapels are simply happy with their view. For Bargème is the highest village in the region and exhales across a sprawling, curvaceous valley below. It has been heralded as "Un Village de Charactère" as well as the highly coveted title of "Un des Plux Beaux Villages de France". Personally, I prefer the former over the latter. For who wouldn't choose to have character over beauty? As une femme d'un certain age, these wise stones tell me so.  


I would like to extend a truly heart-felt thank you to all of you who responded so generously to my previous post. Moments like that are really what make blogging unique and I feel grateful to be in contact with such an extraordinary group of people. Merci beaucoup et Bon Weekend!














29 comments:

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Heather:
We too love the way history speaks to one across the ages if, as you most surely do, one has an ear to listen. So many stories to be told, scenes to be imagined, events to be relived in the mind which make the kind of stroll which you so often take even more magical. You are indeed so fortunate to have such lovely and interesting places within easy reach of home. And, what is so good, you take full advantage of that.

BigLittleWolf said...

Stories in the stones. What a perfect way to phrase it. And your images are glorious. This post has left me yearning for Europe in a very visceral way.

One of the things about being an American abroad (and having lived in Europe at various times and ages), I think we come to appreciate the history in the texture of the ancient walls, the splintered beams, the structures that show their decay and also their stalwart ability to withstand centuries.

I'm here from Tish's place, and I will certainly be back to visit.

Lost in Provence said...

As I believe you both do as well--your Friday picnics are proof. I wonder if your ears were burning today because I spoke of you to the very charming Dash from French Sampler...in person!
Wishing you a wonderful weekend, dear Jane and Lance.

Lost in Provence said...

...And I will be thrilled to have you here. I was enthralled by your post at Tish's today. I was out on an adventure today and had time to think about what you wrote again on the trains and buses. Will keep thinking about it and look forward to visiting you.

I wrote not to long ago about patina--that overly-used word!--but it certainly holds sway over newbie eyes like mine.

Laura said...

What a privilege to stroll through this village of Bargeme. So many stories and emotions have been planted in those walls. I was especially moved by your statement,
"do the structures now miss their inhabitants"? Maybe they do and then again, maybe their is enough positive energy from the past to keep them company. Thanks for the tour Heather, have a lovely weekend!

zanetastyle said...

This is so peaceful and full of stories to imagine! Reminding me of home so much! Hugs Z

sanda said...

Hi Heather,
I felt I was walking through that village with you. It is hauntingly beautiful There's such a stillness in places such as these, as if words would break a magic spell. Wonderful images!

Lost in Provence said...

Isn't that so true, the idea of energy from the past to keep them company? I have really felt that strongly in many of the most interesting places that we have been to in France and around the world--especially in temples, churches of course. So many memories that have been linked or cemented by ceremony.

Lost in Provence said...

Z, thank you! Not only for your sweet comment (because we both know what it is like to be far from home) but also for putting me on your blogroll--what a lovely surprise! Merci!

Lost in Provence said...

Yes, Sanda, it is so true! These photos have been on my computer for a while now, hoping that I would find something close to what could work without not utterly breaking the very real wonder of it all.

LA CONTESSA said...

YOu are so much like me its scary!When I lived in ITALIA I too would search out the ruins............wanting to know more.We lived with my SISTER IN LAWS and they would always want to know where I had been.........cause I wasnot home ironing the sheets!Gorgeous photos!

Jeanne @ Collage of Life said...

Magic Heather! Your words roll with the hills and embrace every stone so lovingly. The words of a true travel writer...only problem, it all ends too soon. I could flip through page after page quite happily. :) Funny too, as yesterday I placed a photo on Facebook, of a stone wall and entrance way with a similar thought..if walls could speak... The American in me? There's a thought. :) I was with Vicki exploring a home built in the 1500's....you would love it, built for an impending visit from Queen Elizabeth I, rich in history, still used as a family home. Imagine the words hushed up in those walls. :)
Best wishes Heather..
Jeanne xx

Greet Lefèvre said...

I am as you are!! I am always wondering who had built the house, who had planted the old trees, who lived in the house, who loved the house,who who who....???
What a beautiful pictures Heather!!
xx
Greet

Lost in Provence said...

Ironing the sheets and the dish towels and the underwear! We girls have better things to do...

Lost in Provence said...

So happy to imagine you two making the most of your time together before you move. And just your description of the house had me off and dreaming! Built for a visit from a Queen in the 1500's...still used as a family home...sigh. The history is so thick that you can nearly smell it. Or taste it. I know that sounds crazy but it is true!
Have a wonderful weekend Jeanne.

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you Greet--but that doesn't surprise me in the least that you are the same way--two dreamers! That's us!
Gros Bisous...

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Thank you Heather for reminding me why I continue to 'be a blogger'. I've questioned recently the time and effort I put into blogging for the apparent small numbers of people who read it, but today I was reminded by your blog that the best part is not what I am writing for others to read of my travels, but what others are teaching me from their travels. Your post is an excellent example of that - Thank you.

Lost in Provence said...

This is just so beautifully put and I agree with the sentiment completely, thank you. I started this blog because I missed writing and creating as my work in the press had slowed down so much. I could never, ever have imagined the joy that it could give me--beyond developing my writing and slowly, my photography--but the incredible contact that I have had with people that I never would have met otherwise. Their generosity is just breath-taking. It gives me hope and keeps me going too...Please continue!

Karena said...

I loved reading this Heather and seeing these ancient images. It really gives one pause to ponder the past!

Anita's Parisian Party
xoxo
Karena
Art by Karena

Lost in Provence said...

Merci Karena! Bon dimanche!

dustjacket said...

Ahh if the walls could talk...stories in stones as you so eloquently put it. Loving the photographs.
xxx
your comment was hilarious ;)

helen tilston said...

Good Morning Heather

Your walk through Bargeme in the Haut Var I thank you for and it has included me. Your descriptions and observations are so fresh and exciting. The pride of skilled craftsmen and workers has stood the test of time. I can hear my late mother's words ringing in my ear when I was assigned a job at our farmhouse and was too eager to complete it. "Helen,just remember no one will ask how long it took, they will ask who did it".
Wishing you a week of continued wonder and joy

Helen xx

Looking Glass said...

Oh, Heather, I often do that. Sometimes there's so much amazing history in a place that I can almost see the people walking about me from hundreds of years ago, going about their daily lives. I often feel like I'm transported to another time even if only for a moment or so...

~ Clare x

Lost in Provence said...

Thank you so much ladies. Blogger is being funky and is not letting me reply to you individually.
Dustjacket--I am WAY too young to be acting like an old fart--and yet I am!
Helen, yes absolutely I feel the same and was raised that way as well. Both sides of my family come from hard workers who believe that "if something is worth doing, it is worth doing well"--to put it bluntly! But here in France, especially, I see more evidence supporting what your Mother had to say, a step even farther forward...
And Clare, my fellow dreamer! This doesn't surprise me from you at all...

Tracey said...

Such beautiful photos!!! Just found your wonderful blog...

:) T

I Dream Of said...

Thanks for retelling the stories and questions that get whispered in your ear as part of your daily life in such a magical place. There is so much newness in the states - especially on the West Coast, that it's easy to forget how far back time goes, how many were here before us. I like to be able to wander back into time a bit, to be reminded of our small place in the Universe. It makes life's problems seem so tiny!
Have a lovely week, Heather! XO

Lost in Provence said...

Hooray! Welcome Miss T! :)

Lost in Provence said...

So perfectly said Jeanne as always. Our apartment is in a building that is late 17th to early 18th century. I can never get over that. All of the many that have walked these floors, how many births and deaths, how many wedding feasts occurred here! And I know how different that is compared to the West Coast but also how wonderful to surf on the energy of the new (sorry for the silly phrasing!) at times as well.

Wyn Vogel said...

Never a truer word was said - if only the walls could talk!! This is my wish every time I travel!! http://wynvogel.blogspot.com/2011/09/art-studios-and-frescos-of-pompeii.html but your Blog is almost like having the walls talk!!