"We both know that Ben runs like a rabbit when but did you ever notice that Kipling trots like a fox?" Remi asks as we watch our dogs from a distance. We all are winding towards the Étang de Vaccarès, the sprawling lagoon that tears a hole in the middle of the Camargue, the region that runs from Arles to the sea. It is wild country and so welcomes two savage beasts like the puppers. And as it has been over a week since they have been able to get in a decent walk due to rolling, bitter Mistral winds, they are both in peak form.
Bound up energy bursts forth in all directions. Yes, Ben's back paws swing from side to side when he is skipping joyfully, just like a bunny. But Kipling is truly unpredictable and is transformed as soon as he is released from the boundaries of his in town existence. The Collie in him shines out to the tip of his tail, which remains flipped proudly over his back. When he spies birds or chevreuil - of which there are many here in one of Europe's largest protected natural areas - he springs straight up in the air, four paws off the ground. He is so quick that my camera can barely catch him. Luckily, the birds outsmart him every time, swooping and swirling in mockery.
Kipling takes off on his own adventure (although he is getting better, much better at not running away entirely)...
...but Ben tends to stay near as he always has. I see his contentment in his sniffs and Golden smile.
Amazingly, the water is not too cold for either of them and I can see that both appreciate its stillness, so different from the Mediterranean's restless surge. They exchange land for lake easily, appropriate in this countryside where the limits between the two are often blurred.
They tread lightly over fisherman's nets spread amidst the garrigue to dry in the sun, inhaling a symphony of scent as they go.
And then they run and run again, a physical declaration of Hello. We call them over and over, just to have the pleasure of seeing them find us from far.
Remi and I wander quietly, each with a camera in hand. But my gaze is too fixed on the dogs and my sweetheart to notice much else.
What joy they give me, our little band of four.
When we make the whistle that it is time to head back, they follow; stopping each in turn to take a last look at this newly loved place before hopping into the back of the car to settle down to rest. I know what they cannot. That we will return because we can so easily. How fortunate we are to live in such a truly special place where beauty could be - and yet is never - taken for granted. Not by us. Not by a long shot.
Have a wonderful rest of your weekend. I am heading out to assist Remi for a photo shoot in Lyon and should be back in a few days (any restaurant recommendations? The lovely Ann Mah has made some excellent ones here or see her book, which would, indeed make a wonderful present)...
Not to worry, Ben and Kipling will be in amazing hands...
And no, I haven't forgotten the holidays entirely, we just haven't had the luxury of giving ourselves over to them yet. But if you are looking for a little celebratory libation this weekend, why not give a Lavender Ice a go? This evening's interpretation was made with Irish Whiskey and I can tell you that it might be better than the original.
PS. We like to call Kipling "Scrappy Jaloux" because he is both scrappy and yes, jealous. So this is for him...