Monday, July 27, 2020

For sale: a charming home in my Hidden Provence




I love this house. Dearly. I have spent so many moments of joy (and tears too) here with my dear friend Louise and her companion, Wolf. And now, it is for sale! 


It is a real Provençal village house. Large in scope and yet intimate with its lovely and very private walled garden. It has been exceptionally well renovated and the care that was put into that process is evident throughout. 


As with all of the best homes in the region, there is a fluid sense between indoor and outdoor. 


I have never felt anything but "at home" here. How many meals have I taken at the massive stone table (yes, just as at Peter Mayle's original home)? How many nights when I was house-sitting did I stare up at the stars? Many, many indeed. 


And while the home is inherently elegant, this is not the "bling bling" Provence but rather a truly authentic one where you can get to the heart of this beautiful region. Quietly, you will be on the insider track while the hordes overrun St. Rémy. For this is my Hidden Provence. Many of you will remember that phrase. It still rings true.

But let's go inside...there is much to discover.


Directly off the garden is the living room, which is just as delightful in summer with the perfume of jasmine ever-present as it is in winter with a crackling fire in the Renaissance period and delicately carved fireplace. 


The Art Deco tiles are a grounding presence of the open neutrality to the "pierres froides" of the walls. I love the difference in textures, the rough solidity of the ceiling beams. This is a really adaptable space and great for everyday living as well as special moments. I rang in New Year's Day this past January in this wonderful room! 


Under the stone entryway is the condensed kitchen space. I love the patina of the floor! Louise, who is a phenomenal and accomplished cook, has effortlessly whipped up many a feast here.



Shall we go up the central staircase? Past the hall, currently lined with books and used as a small office, there are many delights to be found. 


What do you think the niches in the stone were originally for? Louise uses this charming feature to showcase various bibelots. Were letters stored there? Documents writ in ink? I don't know...let's turn right.


Isn't this room gorgeous? To me this is the elegance of Provence personified. There is even a touch of Paris too with the high-ceiling and covered beams. The light pours in...all year around. 


It is just as spacious as the salon on the ground floor and so very welcoming with its warm wood flooring.


Louise has used this as a formal sitting room and yes, I remember well the very first time I clinked champagne glasses with her here. I could have been a bit over-whelmed but her welcome and that of the house itself put me at ease.

This room could also very easily be used as a bedroom for there is not only amply closet space but also an attached bath...


...leading onto this large suspended terrace. How lovely would it be to take your first coffee of the day here? To say goodnight to the moon at night before going to bed? Again, as you can see, privacy reigns...

But come with me, let's go up the stone stairs once more...


Past the landing a massive wooden door opens up to a "havre de paix"...


I defy you not to sleep well in this bedroom. And this coming from a long-term insomniac! To me, this is a perfect example of a cocoon. 


The wide-plank flooring, the stone, the beams, the light...


And there is a bonus space! One that Louise and Wolf use for storage but it easily has potential to be more...an atelier? To paint? To dream? A special room for naps after too much summer heat? 


Well, this is my fault entirely for not capturing the bath correctly. It is just great and far bigger than it looks. Let's just say that I had a bit of rosé at lunch. For these are the happy times that this house inspires.


Could you put in a small bassin in the garden for dunking? Perhaps. How pretty that could be next to the very unusual and striking "calade" a traditional Provençale stone design. This one happens to be beautiful and rare.


And so where is this haven exactly? Well, I am not telling except for those who are interested! But I will say that, exceptionally for such a small village there is a grocery store, a great butcher shop, day care, grade school, a post office, a pharmacy, a nurse who will come to you and a physiotherapist. 

Those of you who know Provence already will be impressed by that!


Are you seeing stars yet?

Here is Louise's description:

Charming Provençal house in a village minutes from Arles, Avignon and the Alpilles with the TGV train line (2 and a half hours to Paris) at a 15 minutes drive. 130 square metres (1400 square feet). Large reception with Renaissance fireplace. Magnificent staircase leading to bright salon and bedroom with high beamed ceilings. Possibility of second bedroom and attic that could be made into an office or atelier. Southern exposure, large balcony and private walled courtyard. Equipped kitchen. Master bathroom, WC/laundry room. A haven of peace for lovers of old stone. 285,000 euros 

If you are interested, please feel free to contact Louise directly at: dowll8@yahoo.ca. She is Canadian and so, speaks both English and French. Plus, she is just a lovely human being.

And if you feel more comfortable contacting me, that's fine too. I know and love this house so well. And just to be clear...I am sharing this with you because I believe in it. I will get nothing out of this beyond the hope that I am helping one of you find their dream home. :) 


With so much Love and Gratitude from this beautiful Provence,
Be well. Be safe. Be kind.

Heather

Sunday, July 19, 2020

Saturdays are difficult



This is my post today. Call it spoken word if you want. It was created as an improvisation because the ideas came too quickly to write them down! It is a short piece that you can find by clicking below :


I hope that you will go to listen. It means a lot to me. These times are challenging in different but important ways for us all. Let us not underestimate our emotional challenges as well, whatever they might be. 

I believe in us.





Please know that I miss you and love you.

With gratitude,
Heather

"Be safe and be kind."  as says Edgar


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Falling and beginning again





I was writing in my head while doing the dishes. "At times, I don't know if I am going to survive this. To get through." I stopped scrubbing as I realised with a bit of a shock but also a laugh that I haven't. The me that was before all this began is...Changed.

Now, I am not talking about the essence. I proclaimed that a little too forcefully recently in a friendly text exchange: "I know that at the center of my existence I am a good person, generous and kind. That much I am certain of." It is my refrain when the world becomes doubtful. No, I am talking more about the fuzzy outer layers. Personality, if you will. Ego. Tastes and preferences. Perspectives and preconceptions. A matter of trust.

Over and over, trust. My lips are sweaty against my folded knuckles, I take a moment to breathe in and out, loudly, over that word. It has been four years, four years since my couple imploded and yet I still have trouble putting trust in a man. And to trust my choices and attractions, me who usually considers myself such a solid judge of character. To trust that I am worthy of a good man, a clear strong love. Why do my eyes tear up to write that? Because my heart was hurt this week in the trying. And how long will it be before I finally heal myself? This too, I know is up to me.

I have written about the impact of the months of imposed solitude and isolation have had on my psyche but it was premature. Just like any trauma, the after-effects are still rolling out. Often, I find myself walking through the streets, finally free to do so with hunched shoulders and lowered head, as if hiding. Sometimes, I will chide myself, "pick your head up, Heather. Stand tall, you have nothing to be ashamed of." But I can't always do it. Sometimes, I feel ashamed.

It has not even been a month since George Floyd was murdered. Do you remember feeling that shock in watching the video for the first time? Trying to comprehend what was happening? That moment when you understood that you were watching a man being killed? I do. That too, broke something in me. As has the incomprehensible police brutality, the unsparing hatred screaming, the relentless provocation of a man so insensitive to the world that he could propose to stage a rally in America's most racism ravaged city on Juneteenth. Through my spirituality, I had previously come to the point where I thought that "good" and "evil" were mainly religious constructs. Now, I question that as well. To not have trust - yes that word again - in the morality of humanity? That has changed me too.

I am in a state of parenthesis. What is to be filled in between the ( and the ) I do not know.

Listen, this is not sad. This is, again, not about me really. It is just that if I feel that I am no longer the person that I once was, either four years or four weeks ago, it is just a further reminder that we are all constantly in a state of more forceful change than we realise. As in Buddhism, there are the waves that flow through our lives but we are not those surges and hollows, we are the sea. We are the sea itself. Perhaps it is helpful to remember that if we can.

I may not be entirely sure of the "who" of I am right now but I very aware, on this Summer Solstice of...of?...my aliveness. I have a voice. I have this heart that cares too much but that is what it is. If I focus, I can wonder what trust in this time would feel like...in my own body, where can I sense it? In our collective society, where can I antennae tap out something to lean into? ... Again, I put my head into my hands, I massage out the "lion's wrinkle" in-between my eyes and...the only answer that makes any sense at all is Love. It seems completely paradoxical given all that I have written above but the only thing that I can trust in when all else is broken, falling and yet beginning, is, Love.

There is nothing that burns brighter in our human existence. Yes, it feels a bit like coming home, of an evidence to think so on the longest day of a very long year. In journalism, it is a cardinal error to repeat oneself. I am entirely aware that I am doing so, constantly, in these posts. And yet if it is because I continually do so to side with Love, on that I will stand.




Happy Solstice, everyone.

I have done a recording of this post. I am enjoying doing them, so thank you for your encouragement!

You can listen to it: HERE.

Within the above text, I have also included a lot of links to other posts, mainly recent but also with some from the past that might be of interest to my newer readers (thank you!). 




I have been listening to this gorgeous rendition of Martin Gaye's "What's going on" non-stop since my friend Trudye send it to me. Including while I wrote this post.
May it bring courage to your heart as well...







As always, I am so grateful for your presence.
Do you realise that we are coming up on ten years?
And what is incredible is that most of you have been here from the very beginning.
Through so many highs and lows.

On we go...

As Edgar says, "Stay strong, stay safe, be well, be kind."


With so much Love from Provence,

Heather














Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Living history




I walked with my friend Kenza and her little sister, Jade.

Both are young enough to be my daughters.

I stood for Leonard Wells, my Mom's husband and one of my best friends, My Buddy.

I watched as people of all ages mixed and chanted.

"No Justice, No Peace!"

At one point I cried. After taking a knee.

But this isn't about me, it is about us all.

To feel us united, all over the world.

There was a lot of blatant racism in my Dad's side of the family.

When I was 15, I punched him in the chest when he pushed me too far.

I am the end of this particular line of the family.

And I am proud to be able to say, "This stops with me."

It may only be the beginning, but it is a start.

This is living history.

Black Lives Matter.












On the way home, I counted 13 police vans in front of the Sous-Prefecture. 



We can march, educate, donate, sign and vote.

Every voice counts.

And each silence does too.

"The change begins within me, the change begins within you."


With much Love and Gratitude from Provence,

Heather


Monday, June 1, 2020

Up to us




In some ways, I feel right back at the beginning.

Those first few days of realising that we were in for the long haul with COVID 19 and that we have no idea how it might end.

So gripped in fear that I am paralysed by it.

Spending hours upon hours scrolling social media and the internet to try and get information, to try and understand.

As if it were possible to comprehend all of the pain and anger, the division and violence that has occurred since the murder of George Floyd.

It has been almost a week and the police brutality that I have seen has broken me.

But it can't.

For if we still have far to go with this pandemic, it is nothing compared to the battle of dismantling racism. Racism, inequality, which is stitched in the fabric our Western and capitalist societies. Someone is always "better off" than the other, that is just "how it is."

It is why so many have been blind to their own beliefs for so long because they were literally born into them. It's too close to see.

And it is too close. Too close when police officers shoot a peaceful protester in the face with rubber bullets or Taser or tear-gas a young girl.

It is too close when members of the press are fired upon and arrested.

When politicians incite not protect. When they do nothing to quell or unify. Or simply nothing at all. "Let the fires burn."

Several times this week, I have wondered if there are elements to what is happening that make it similar to what it must have been like at the beginning of the rise of Nazism. So many events in so little time and the public cannot handle it, so they simply side with the easiest "solution." The winning party. One with plenty of propaganda, whether it be fact or fiction.

Even while humanity falls apart.

We can't let it. We can't. Not again. Not again and again and again. And again and again and again.

In an exchange with my friend Patricia this morning, she asked: "Where are the voices of strength and guidance?" and I responded, "Who is going to bring us all together again?"

Which brought about another idea that had been rolling about in my brittle brain recently, that of President Barack Obama's comment during one of his recent graduation speeches: "“If the world’s going to get better, it’s going to be up to you."

It's up to us. No one is going to help. There is no "leader" in sight. Please don't turn away. I know it is painful and frightening but nothing near what it must be for the black community who lives through cultural, societal and economic discrimination every single day because of the color of their skin that they were born into. That is not a choice.

But how we move forward collectively is.

I don't know what that looks like but I do believe that it is possible.

And that is the most hope that I have felt in months. Perhaps I am too naive. But if the pandemic has taught me anything, it is that there is much good in this world. We can unite around a cause and we can find each other through love.

Please. Don't think, do. The change starts within me. The change starts within you.




****

If you have not yet listened to one of my audio recordings of my posts, this might be a good one to start.

You can find the english version: here.

Pour mes amis francophones...je suis désolée, ce n'est franchement pas au top, mais voilà: c'est ici.





****

HOW YOU CAN HELP

Sign a petition:

Justice for George Floyd on change.org

#JusticeforFloyd on act.colorofchange.org


Donate:

Official George Floyd Memorial Fund on gofundme.com

The NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Black Lives Matter

Communities United Against Police Brutality

The Minnesota Freedom Fund

National Bail Out Fund - Free Black Mamas


Educate yourself:

Black Women Radicals and AAFC Solidarity reading list

"Algorithms of Opression" bookclub via womenscenterforcreativework.com

"On becoming anti-racist" on cupofjoe.com

I thought this was very much worth the watch. Truly helpful:

Trevor Noah speaking on recent events.


****




These are, quite obviously, my personal emotions and thoughts. I realise well that I might be misinformed no matter how well-intentioned. So please, feel free to respond in the comments or by email. 

It just felt necessary to do something on top of what I have suggested above. 
Something to try and get to a more positive place so that I can continue to take action.
Continue to learn. 

For days I did not write because I again felt as I did in this post at the beginning of the pandemic.

How could I find the words to contribute? That could move us forward? Then as now...

"I have exactly the words that I need. 

They are:

I miss you.

I love you.

Are you ok? "

Please let me know how you are and what your experience of this terrifying time has been.

With much Love and Gratitude,

Heather

****

This post is dedicated to Leonard Wells, My Buddy.





Monday, May 25, 2020

These first steps






I wish that I could say that I really knew what I was doing. Except that I don't lie to you, so I can't.

Yesterday morning, when I woke up...I felt literally pressed flat. Like a paper doll. And it wasn't just that weight that I have felt in my lungs since I was sick. Oh fuck, I really have been fighting against it for so long. But this isolation, so extreme, is one tough battle.

And yet I wrote the first of my twice-daily lists of gratitude. Five things that I knew to be good. Yes, even then and now. I do it everyday. No matter what.

Can you imagine that just seconds after sending off those thin, thin needles stitching appreciation, words of hello came scrawling across my screen. Exclamation points included. It was my dear K, checking in because she was in town and happy to meet.

So, what does that mean? I sent a text back to see. As this was her very first foray outside during the duration of the lockdown, we felt at ease to spend time together. And so we did. Take out sandwiches and social distancing by the empty fountain at the Place des Corps Saints. Under the shade trees, we talked for hours. I started to breathe into my full shape again. She admitted that she was no longer sure how to be social and I knew what she meant for I had already experienced that as well.

A few days before, I had received my first invitation, also via text. My friend V, who lives on a péniche, or barge on the Rhône, invited me over for une verre. Oh. I held my breath in thought for a moment. What is right? Was it worth it? I knew that we would be outside, so the risk was fairly minimal. I also knew how much I was suffering internally. And so I said, yes, yes, thank you. Merci.

I followed his directions over the bridges and down a dirt path until I arrived to this boat abracadabrantesque. Something of a gentleman's pirate ship. His cat, Manouche, was on guard. Truly, right at the end of the gangplank, me voilà, eyeing me skeptically. I did my best to be quiet and not overtly seek approval. I failed. Of course. I am a dog person.

V led the way to his upper deck which was dusty with lack of use. He briskly wiped down a table, brushed aside fallen leaves. It surprised me as this was exactly where I would want to be. Always. Sleeping, eating with only this open panorama for my eyes.  I perched on the folding chair a bit shakily, aware of the sweat stains under my arms from the brisk walk on top of nerves. Everything seemed too expansive and contracted somehow.

Down below he went and returned with the pop of a champagne cork.

I wasn't sure what to say to him. Suddenly, my french seemed more stunted than usual. So, between my jangly-boned outbursts, we were quiet. And it felt wonderful. To just let the river flow. It stretched out languidly, with confidence. The light shifted into subtleties. The trees sighed. Or...that might have been me.

Admittedly, I was willing to own my awkwardness. It was ok. It is. So many months of solitude have gone by.

I left as the clouds started to blush. It felt a bit bumbling of me as I did, excusing my departure although there was no need. Overly thanking him for that moment of peace. For a brief moment, I wondered if he was going to kiss me. He didn't. Just friends then. And safe. So, good.

This new not normal. Until we find ease, it will be touch and go. Maybe.

Tonight, one of my anges gardiens, invited me up to dinner on the roof. It was just us two ladies. And the sun did an exaggerated show; a slow, swan song as we each spoke of our respective...past. The Rhône, just beyond the fortified walls, seemed to carry our words away as needed. Others were left like scattered stars below the table where they fell. Venus rose, bone white and benevolent.

While D went to bring up pears poached in sweet syrup, I traced the echoes of a burning sky that spoke to all that we feel in this moment. I held my breath and silently laughed with joy when she returned, carrying a tray with candles, burning. Burning, to light up the dark.

These first steps. They feel so new. Will we arrive?





If you would like, you can hear an audio recording of this post: here.

Je suis désolée, mes amis francophones, il y a tante des idées que je ne sais pas traduire cette fois si. 














It's Memorial Day. I sat with this post for a while before publishing it. 
I am sending such gratitude for all of the men and women who died in battle. 
This is not the first day of Summer. It is a day of remembrance.




I will finish with this photo. It is of my main lettre d'attestation that I used for taking my "sanity walks" during the lockdown. Normally, we were supposed to fill out a new one each time that you went out but I am old school and liked the idea of having a document that was a testament to my First Steps into the unknown but with belief in my heart.

So much Love to you all. Truly.
As Edgar says, "Stay strong, stay safe, be well, be kind."

Heather