Sunday, March 19, 2017

Walking in Provence with Lulu

I said yes, finally.

Yes, to watching a home in the beautiful Alpilles for ten days, yes to keeping Lulu company. And it wasn't in a strange environment but in the bergerie at the Mas de la Fourbine, where I had gone to help with the olive harvest during days when I was feeling quite sad indeed.

But I had hesitated. As I still don't have a car (even if I do now know how to drive), I would be there and only there for the duration. "What if...?" Oh, there were so many versions of that question, those two words that do far more harm than good. After reassurances on all sides that I had nothing, in reality to worry about. I packed my bags so thoroughly as to include the desktop that I am typing on, was parachuted in and the workings of the house were explained over a long evening with the family's littlest trampolining on my lap...until the next day when they drove off (me, waving), then, silence.

And I mean the hear your heartbeat kind.

I had already decided that this time was a gift (as usual, I seriously underestimated the weight of it) and that I could bury my stories under a blanket and use it as a retreat. So it was. Within a day, I had settled into my own schedule to give the hours shape. Rise, tea, first meditation...walk with Lulu...

The property is full enclosed, doubly secured with even an electric fence to keep out the wild boars that are a nuisance and a menace. So Lulu could run free by my side as I would stamp the perimeter, regardless of the weather. I came in winter, whipped by the Mistral and wrapped tight in many layers and left breathing spring, lunching outside with the first dots of color lighting my cheeks. But for those walks? I took my camera. I hadn't been photographing much of anything for weeks, something my friend J noted was "not a good sign."

So I would loop the camera strap over my shoulder and walk, thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle suggestions to be aware of the breath and the footfall combing. By the time that I had reached the first farthest corner, of which there would be three, my endlessly chattering mind (yes, even when I am alone, especially so) would quiet so that I would start to notice the littlest of things as if they somehow had an electric glow around them. 

At first I only found them beautiful, but eventually something stirred in my heart to lift my camera to my eye and squinting, then readjusting the settings (despite having had a good teacher, I am still a guesser in manual mode) to settle into a click. I would forget myself, forget my body; sitting in the grass to get closer until Lulu would run into the frame to kiss the side of my head. "Oh, Lulu..." She was always were I didn't want her to be but how could I mind?

Are the details I would notice important? Only to me, I believe. But that is how we live our lives, isn't it? Jumping from one seeming solid stone to the next across a river too deep. And yet it is there, who and what we love. Step by step, around the domaine until I was no longer exactly who I just had been but some other creature looking back with gratitude and tinges of relief.

I was waking up, that inner spring. And while I am still very much finding my way, from those mornings accumulated while walking with Lulu, I am trying to remember loudly the happy risk set into motion from simply saying yes.

"Yes, I see, thank you. Yes, I am...Yes."

PS. Since that time in the Alpilles, I have been living out of my suitcase quite a bit and am not always able to get back to my computer. That is definitely going to be the case for the next few weeks, at least. So I hope that you will understand if I am not as active on the blog as I would like to be, nor as responsive. I am in the midst of continuing to fight to find my place here, as I suggested above. But I am still in Provence and am so appreciative of you all that words cannot express it. I do have something rather exciting coming up, so if you are not already following along on instagram, you might enjoy seeing where I am going on @lostinarles.

Thank you for reading and for all of your kindness,


  1. I love the blog. And the pictures. From frost to new buds. That is so Heather
    I'll be back in May.

  2. Am I alone in thinking Heather's photography is becoming spectacular? I mean, I think it's always been good, but this post? Come ON!!! I mean, yes, it's my favorite subject (nature), but STILL! DAMN!!! Sister, you're GOOD!! I have so many favorites I can't choose one. And I think details are everything! It's where I lose all the monkey mind, when I settle into the simple, beautiful details that are always around us but we forget to notice. The little pink, closed up flower in the middle of green, the little snails, hiding out - the little dots (?) on the green plants? The SPIDER WEB?? (my mind exploded with that one). Thanks for bringing us with you on your stepping stones to wholeness - we're grateful to you. (and, personally, for you).

  3. I must echo robin's comment. Your already remarkable photos seem to be jumping to a new level. Unbelievable. I'm so interested to hear what you're up to next, and where ......

  4. Yes to saying yes! Little word that carries a lot of weight!
    As always, beautiful photos! T xx

  5. Hi from Toronto, Heather. Lovely blog, absolutely wonderful, detailed photographs. The camera is certainly a faithful friend indeed.

  6. Hi Heather,
    Lovely photographs of early spring . All of life is in the detail, isn't it?
    Good luck with the next step. I love tagging along!
    Diana x

  7. Lovely photos! Makes me want to be there.

  8. Lovely photos Heather. Spring is opening up before you. You are moving forward. Bon Courage!
    Best wishes!
    Deborah - Melbourne

  9. all that beauty ready to be documented by you!

  10. Yes...a word I have not said much for a while. Thank you for the lesson and for those incredible photographs (those succulents! snails (shells)! that spider web! Lulu! treasures all). I'm off to your Instagram site, with love, Leslie in Oregon

  11. This post brought absolute joy to me this morning Heather. I am SO happy to see that you are back in your beloved Provence, doing what you love. I hope the 'ideas' you mentioned come to fruition. Your photography is spectacular...I feel an inner strengh in what you have discovered...a clarity. All good steps in the journey forwards. I am heartened to see what well my friend. xx

  12. Heather...the snail. How wonderful. We are planning our return to beautiful France this fall. Yes to a book.....
    Whenever you publish one..... Maybe this year?


  13. Really beautiful photos! A joy to look at. It reminds me to slow down and look at the beauty of nature all around us. Such a gift. Thank you.

  14. You made one of my dreams come true: to live alone in a forlorn house in the country. My other dream is to sleep alone in our archaeological museum! I wish you all your dreams to come true, Heather, its about time now!

  15. So very very beautiful dear Heather!! I thought of you the past week, as we were travelling by car to Mandelieu for a new project and we passed Arles. I wished I had time to visit you! Bisous, xx Greet

  16. Such a beautiful portfolio of Spring.

  17. Just wonderful to hear about you venturing out! Your photography is grabbing me and telling me what I've been feeling for a long time, it's time for me to pick up a camera again - and, see what's out there for me. I'm glad you are out there seeing what is there for you! Beautiful photographs, such detail, draws me in!

  18. I do always try to say 'yes' rather than 'no.' It usually pays off as it did this time for you! I must admit that I'm a little jealous of all of that time alone, but I also well understand that such a gift contains its own challenges. As always, I just want to step into so many of your photos. My birthday is tomorrow (62!). Perhaps one gift I will give myself is some alone time to read, to think, to wander. Gros bisous, friend!

  19. Hello Heather,
    Well done. It took courage to do what you just did. To live in a rural setting, alone for some time. Like all things that take courage there seems to be a great sense of empowerment following. We will have to compare stories some day of living in solitude in country homes. I had to do so on two occasions and I might say I may not have been as brave as you are.
    Your images are a wonderful reminder of this visit and I am sure Lulu loved having you to herself.

    Have a glorious week

    Helen xx

  20. Agree with all the warm praise so beautifully expressed.

    I also have a question/suggestion which I hope doesn't sound too mood breakingly pragmatic. Slowly getting ready for a local move, I was looking at "Provence Style" edited by Angelika Taschen. (Help w triage decisions.) One of things I noticed that it used the work of several photographers. Wondering, as you think about your book, might you want to do some freelancing, individual and/or series of photos? Might be useful re money and a reputation/published/purchased portfolio when you will be looking for a publisher for your book.

  21. Thinking of you at this sad time. Keep taking your beautiful and inspiring photos. One day at a time.

  22. With the click of a create a masterpiece. janey

  23. Trust yourself.
    During this time of solitude you may find the way that is closest to your heart.And you will know.
    Wonderful photos.

  24. LOVE the photos! And I just about fell off my chair when you said Lulu was always in the frame or licking your face as soon as you get down on the ground. That's it! That's our Lulu. You have no idea how many photo bombs of her are in my collection. That dog. But like you said, you have to love her anyway. Bisous to you pretty lady!

  25. Wonderfully expressed moments of contemplation and self reflection. I especially loved the photographs you took with the waving blades of grass... and yes... that's exactly how one would summarize Lulu's essence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. - Niko C.

  26. Wonderfully expressed moments of contemplation and self reflection. I especially loved the photographs you took... and yes... that's exactly how one would summarize Lulu's essence. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and experience. -Niko C.

  27. I love how well you express in your photographs this past year of your life. What beautiful symbolism of vulnerability, growth and renewed self discovery as you have been rebuilding your life. What a true artist you are!


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