Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The two ruins



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:

25 comments:

Judith Ross said...

I love stumbling into abandoned places like this. There are a few here in Concord, that, coincidentally I was trying to capture (unsuccessfully) on my phone camera recently. Love that you caught someone's (yours? Remis?) shadow in the third photograph. These places with their detritus of lives passing through reminds me of how transient life is, what a small speck I am in the universe, and the importance of paying attention as you have here.

As for Monsieur Kipling: a dog whistle, perhaps? We just got one for Karina, are trying to find just the right pitch that carries to her sensitive ears and then, train her to respond tout de suite when she hears it. (BEFORE she dives into the muddy water!)

Judith Ross said...

Also, meant to say that we passed through some amazing ruins when visiting Morocco. We walked through them after a meal with one of my son's friends. One building, he explained, had once been the site of a communal cookout.

Loree said...

Beautiful words Heather. I am sure Kipling gave you a scare. Retrievers are just so full of life and energy that they sometimes unthinkingly get themselves into a spot of trouble. Glad that he got back safe and sound.

puppyfur said...

Such beautiful images and prose, Heather. Heard the song 'Heather on the Hill', a jazz version, tonight, and thought of you.

robin said...

I'm surprised that you ever decline an invitation to go see ruins! You went at such a beautiful time - the light does lend a haunting quality! I love your story, as well - love the lost and found of both the civilization and the pupper! (naughty Kipling!). A peaceful post, perfect for today - thank you!

Joan McKniff said...

why did they leave? to greater places? a tragedy? a love story?

Maywyn Studio said...

Are Remi and Ben back yet?

simpleimages2 said...

Ruins leave human stories one has to discover. One can write a historical fiction or a lovely narration like yours. But what will happen to those ruins? Will they remain forever ruins?

Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Heather:

How fascinating these ruins appear to be and how intriguing to imagine past lives on that hillside. But how really worrying to lose Kipling in that way and we are so pleased to know that he did return of his own accord and that all was well finally.

We have been 'off air' with Blogger problems in recent days. Thank you so much for your comment which is published and to which we have made reply. xxx

david terry said...

Wha an evocative posting, Heather....

I'm reminded of a magazine article I saw a few years ago (predictably enough, I can't recall which magazine or where the subject was actually located.....somewhere up north, I think). In any case, it was about two guys who having bought and restored an old house, foiund themselves wondering what to do with the mostly-ruined (just walls, basically) small, stone barn that sat too near (yet, still, too far) from the house. What they did was to build a slightly-raised deck within the walls.....string up lanterns...install a long trestle table.....and stop eating inside during the warm months. They gave up the forced, formal dinner parties they'd always thrown and, instead, began having "picnics". On a regular basis, all the guests would load up hampers and merrily march off through the woods for a picnic at "the barn". Apparently, everyone enjoyed this much more (the owners had begun, themselves, to tire of formal entertaining, after years of the same routine). Added bonus?.....the high stone walls kept the mosquitoes o-u-t.

Somewhat similarly? Herve's brother's wedding-reception was held outside of Grenoble, in one of the most wonderful buildings I've ever been in......a 17th century church that had been bombed during WW2, so that nothing stood except the walls and traceried, blwon-out windows. It was stunningly restored about 15 years ago....great, plain-wood ceiling beams....and simple, huge sheets of plain glass for the windows and roof....no attempt whatsoever to "re-create" what it had looked like previously. The building sits in a deep dell (it used to serve as the chapel for a silk-factory)....so all you could see were branches overhead and the woods all around. It was beyond lovely/enchanting....particularly in the daytime. I'll send you some photographs of it later.

Thanks again for the fine posting,

David Terry
www.davidterryart.com

Optimistic Existentialist said...

I would love to visit these ruins someday. Full of history and beauty. So glad that Kipling is safe and sound :)

Heather Robinson said...

I bet that the ruins in Morocco were amazing! I did see some rather old mud buildings in Mali - I bet those that you saw had a similar, very tactile quality.

I know that Kipling won't respond to a whistle but we are at least going to get him a bell so that we can hear him if he goes too far. And this is why I always walk him on a leash!

Heather Robinson said...

Yes, they are hunters - it is the only time that we have such a problem for him - when he smells a bird or animal that he just HAS to track down!

Heather Robinson said...

You did? I am so touched by that! I really am. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Sister, don't you know how lazy I can be? ;)

Heather Robinson said...

Maybe they never left. Maybe generations lived there...

Heather Robinson said...

;)

They sure took their sweet time about it though. Coming in well after night had fallen. Remi grew up in the mountains so I don't worry much about him - he is as agile as a goat on the rocks and Ben too...

Heather Robinson said...

Good question, Edgar. Due to their location, which would be pretty impossible to access by car, most likely. And also in France it depends on the region but most local governments won't give building permits to ruins if they no longer have a roof.

Heather Robinson said...

Oh, good! I will hop over to revist Tuscany with pleasure. :)

And yes, it is incredibly worrisome with Kipling. I know that the bond is formed with us but his will to hunt is even stronger. When he eventually tires, he will try to find us but if he is an unknown territory? It would be a shame to never let him off leash in the country but it might come to that...

I Dream Of said...

Heather, I love these little hidden corners of Provence you take us to. Time seems to be a fluid thing in a place like this... the past and present together at the same moment. I'm so glad that Kipling re-appeared and that you had a breath or two to sip wine and think about the wonder of it all. XOXO

breadispain.me said...

Oh ruins are the best - they bring out so much of my imagination and help us realize just how small we really are the in grand scheme of things. I know if/when we end up back in the United States that ruins will be something I sorely miss. Lovely post!

emilia tremante said...

Dear H.,
as you already know I love ruins. I feel really at home only if I can see them all around me. Stones that contains "rivers" of history flowing inside... I never never feel tired of them...

silkannthreades said...

I love the poignancy of the fresh new fig with the photos of the old ruins.

D A Wolf said...

On a walk about a half mile through my home, I meandered through a mini patch of woods I'd walked by sooooo many times. There, among exposed tree roots were a handful of gravestones more than 100 years old! Rather than being creepy, it was astonishing and quite beautiful.

Oh, what can be seen when we truly look...

mademoisella coquine. said...

What a scare you had! At that fact that it was almost dark just adds to the panic. Dog and outdoor cat owners are brave because they like to wander, especially if they are in predatory mode! How is his injury?

I've had one cat runaway, in which my mother went to a psychic to find out what happened to him. The psychic told her that our cat was dead and my mom stormed out of the shop. It was a whole scene (I was also 14 and totally embarrassed), so now our family cats aren't allowed outside anymore. Thurston ruined it for everyone.

I'm glad that Kipling returned and is safe...and that you calmed your nerves with a glass of wine. Good thinking! ; )