It was the last evening of our stay at the mazet and a sunset called in promises from the surrounding hills. "Why don't you go up and visit the two ruins?" the owners suggested. We had walked considerably over their two hectares of property but yet knew not of what they spoke. I immediately began to whine in fear of a long hike, I was tired from relaxing and just wanted to finish our last night in peace. "Oh no," we were reassured, "It is a ten minute walk up the hill, no more and it is well worth it." They gave us directions to spot the path, the debut of which was partially covered in underbrush. Remi and I grabbed our cameras and the dogs and off we went.
It never ceases to inspire me that the past can cohabitate so comfortably with the present in France. As we reached the first ruin, Remi and I ducked under its arches and scratched away the dry pine needles that covered that covered the terracotta-tiled floor. I could see so clearly a young woman bent over on her knees scrubbing them with savon de Marseille until they shined. She was tired from the effort but full of hope for the life in front of her...
...one whose periphery started and ended within the walls of this home.
Her shadow followed me...
...as I walked the rooms and counted out the children, long grown and gone...
...while trying to discern what use certain elements left behind must have been good for, such as potting plants outside the kitchen or a basin to give water to the chickens.
The light brought life...
...to fragments, dateless and piled haphazardly by someone looking for more than answers to another's family story.
We could have stayed.
But we continued on, up and winding. The trees, fig and fir, enclosed around us then opened again into a clearing, repeating like breath.
Remi and I were both quiet and focused. He was taking photos as well, a rarity on a walk with the dogs. Ben was nosing around nearby, conducting his own olfactory history hunt.
I heard a snap of a twig and then another, a rush of beaten brush and a faint yelp. Kipling was gone, off chasing an invisible scent trail. The light was fading and night was coming on.
We knew from past experience that once Kip hits his predatory mode, our cries are useless and yet we called. The louder we shouted his name, the more we understood how far he had gone, a dog that can jump and run, scaling rock, faster than the wind.
Remi and I split apart, my keeping Ben by my side and mounting the trail. Our voices echoed into the valley below as we reached the summit and yet Kipling was nowhere to be seen. He had given us a similar scare once before and I remembered that it was only through our continuing to call out that he found his way back through dense forest and land that was unknown to him. And so it was, finally, that he arrived, parting the pines and panting wildly, with a scratch bleeding along the bottom of his right eye, his head hanging in defeat. He stood still until I came up to his side and attached the leash. "I have him!" Kipling and I walked slowly back to the mazet as Remi walked on with Ben to burn off some of the frenetic anxiety that had coursed through both of our veins.
I poured myself a glass of wine and Kipling lapped up a bowl of water upon our return. I watched the sun set into the hills and let the evening roll over me, confident that Remi would be able to find his way back in the dark. The two ruins were on the opposite hill too. I sipped and wondered at the long and the short of it. Our lives, their lives, how quickly things can change, how we disappear. But the traces remain. Kipling patted to my side and I reached down to stroke the top of his head, reassuring both of us. "It's ok buddy, we're here."
to listen, just because: