Sunday, May 16, 2021

One of the most beautiful apartments in Provence, home to two of the most lovely people...



"We want to throw a feast, just for you." 

My wonderful friends, John and Camy Cooney, proposed me this. The know very well how I have been struggling with my day job and that it has been breaking my spirit down. Also, that I am literally exhausted. And so they invited me to their sanctuary in Apt, overnight, to breathe, let my hair down and laugh with this couple who I love so much.

And yet it was my first time to visit. Well, these past few years have been complicated because of COVID and my friends have been rightfully precautious. Like me, they are private people who are not out "looking for the likes" (aka Instagram) but have a genuine appreciation for our Provence. When we first met in 2019 over lunch at my beloved Le Violette, I knew as soon as I sat down at the table that these were people with whom I hoped to be in contact with for a very long time. 

I wish that you could have seen my face as John pushed open the heavy, ancient doors to their apartment. I stepped into the light, literally and was beaming. I know my décor here well in Provence, the codes and traces whisper or shout. We, too, are old friends. I could not believe the creak of the wooden floors, in patterns only built for royalty in the South, where such adherence shown through architecture is most rare. Certainly as in the former entry to the oldest part of the building, which has been transformed to one of the most romantic bedrooms that I have seen anywhere, so much so that my hands shook in taking the photos of their incredible ciel lit polonaise.

Admittedly, my hands also were a bit weak as we sat down to lunch at 3pm (after a problem with a bus that did not arrive, this too is Provence, also handled with such grace by my hosts). I had to cup my coupe with both hands as I am a redhead who needs to eat! But oh, how it was worth the "effort" to sip a fabulous Moët et Chandon, the first in many years. Equally, it has been quite a moment since I have braved oysters after a troubling incident. These along with the meaty shrimps bordering along gambas, were divine. 

As the bubbles rised before the food fully hit my belly, I made a declaration: "You know...you two should be complete and utter assholes." Please forgive my language but I know our expat community well. Take a peek down at the photo of them below. They are beautiful, if not rich (as they insist) then wise investors, both with amazing careers, so deeply funny and real. And they have this apartment too. Just look at it. And feel the good, great vibe. 

After a twilight sieste, we finished off our dinner of lamb in pesto with "crack" potatoes (I dream of it all still). I laughed so hard and forgot my hard job. At one moment Camy and I were lying on her bed and we giggled over things never to be shared elsewhere. I crossed the garden to my very own room and slept for once, the sleep of kings. Or queens. 

A feast so well done in such a welcoming home...or kingdom.

As long as we know each other - and I hope that it is for the rest of our lives - I will never forget this.
Love you both. 






























Me, the eternal insomniac...I literally had not slept so well in years.


They spoiled me until the very last moment...taking me to the bus.
We waited for its arrival without so many words as many had been said.

I forget why I am here. You reminded me, my friends.

With Love from Provence,

Heather

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Writing a Love Letter...for me.

 




My darling, my most beautiful,

It is the middle of the night. I should have been in bed long ago but I cannot help but write. 
For you see, I want you to have these words. And only letters they might be, scratched out with a long-tipped pen and yet they are indelible, something that you can keep.
Forever. Like a locket around your neck. Or a perfume on your skin.
Do you remember? I want to tease you a little bit, to play a trick, to see how far back your memory goes.
For I can see you now as you were then. When nothing of life's disappointments and surprises had not yet touched you.
What joy shone from your eyes. Do you remember what that felt like? That one odd summers day when you let yourself dance in the rain because it was the only thing to do?
I do. Pure and whole and shining brighter than the sun under those drops like diamonds because wonder filled your body, young and lithe. 
So alive. This is still who you are. This will always be who you are. 
I have a favour to ask of you. Just in this moment, can you put your hand over your heart for me? Either hand, no matter.
And now, what does it feel like if you close your eyes and listen? To hear with your ears, yes, but also with your emotions. Because I am here for you, as you breathe, to hold anything that arrives.
Those disappointments and awkward moments. The things that you lambasted as failures. I know. They made you want to hide but no chérie, please don't. 
Because when it all comes down to it...our bodies may change, our hopes and desires...but what is at the base of all that is your heart, our heart my dear one. 
We may gain too much weight or lose too much. Our bodies and eyes, those captors of dreams, may sag. But we do not. 
Can you hear me, my love? Can you feel me embracing you as needed, exactly as you are? 
You deserve no less, for despite your challenges and growing even when you thought that you had passed such an age, here we are. 
I need you to take care of yourself, in the big and the small. Yes, we once walked across Manhattan in a snow storm to buy ourselves the only gift that we could afford at Tiffany's because we knew we deserved it and wear it still. It was Valentine's Day and there was no lover in sight. 
Yes, when we can we spread the best ointments on our skin as a gesture that is hopeful to continue. We listen to jazz. 
How it moves me when you, the best of me, hears me singing Sarah Vaughan.

I am writing this letter to promise you, my one of all ages, that I love you. 
Not only the idea of me, the one they tend to fall for, but the real entire. 

I will ask my last favour but pay attention even if it seems too simple. We both know that life is rarely such and yet, possibly, oh so giving. Can you, my dear, upon waking say (either out loud or to your inward heart) five things that you like about yourself? Can it become a ritual that you create everyday so that no one else defines you but you? For there is infinite delight in your waking, each breath.

Just like the dawn I find before me now.

How beautiful you are. I close my eyes knowing this to be true.

I love you.

-Me. 

















*****

My Mom, who is biased but not as much as you might think, believes that the above is one of the better things that I have written.

Admittedly, I was relieved to hear it as this was a commission from someone whom I have incredible respect for, Victoria Fantauzzi, one of the co-founders of La Bella Figura Beauty.

“I have never felt that we’re just a brand. We’re educators, artists, environmentalists and women with vision. We don’t isolate ourselves into believing that we only bring one thing to the table. There is a diversity of talent within our company and I think that's what it takes to build a team. We’re a library of resources and I want to reflect that into everything we do.”

I love her above quote and I most certainly do think of her as an artist. I was moved to tears by smelling "Love" one of her current trilogy of perfumes, Love, Loss and Lust. She and her partner Karen King search the world for the very finest ingredients for their products. It is who they are.

I first connected with Victoria through our mutual friend, Jamie Beck, who is a muse for the house and the inspiration behind the brands best-selling (as in each batch is sold out within 24 hours) illuminating rose oil. I watched an Instagram live between them and wondered who is this whirlwind Victoria?

So, yes, I was deeply moved when she asked if I could write a love letter. Of course I could and when I sat down to do so, I instinctively understood that what she was asking for was actually a love letter to myself. My friends...this was no easy feat for me. I have been through so much, my confidence has been so beaten down.

And yet, I found that if we all listen deeply to the heart of who we are...well, that goes far beyond the surface of whatever particular changes or personalities we might be inhabiting at the moment. I spoke to the truest of myself here. And I know that person to be good.

These photos were taken with wonder in my eyes on a random spring day. 

May we all feel that when we can.




*Those of you who have been reading me for a long time know that I never do sponsored posts. It was I who asked permission to share this letter with you. *



I offer such love as hope to you on this new moon which is all about new beginnings.

It is never, ever too late to begin again as long as hope lives. 

I believe in myself as I do in the blossoms, in the changing sky and that is a start.





With much Love from a luckily expanding heart,

Bisous from Provence, springing eternal,

Heather





Thursday, March 11, 2021

Flowers like warriors



She was walking towards me like a soldier. So upright with two greatly wrapped packages of flowers clasped within her right arm tightly, an orange Hermès scarf (the signature colour of the maison) hung in loose folds, perfectly aligned to shroud her cashmere kissed neck. 

"Bonjour," I began with a friendly head tilt...Already she was surprised, ready to stride by this unknown person but she glanced at my Sonia Rykiel bag, a totem from another time and so allowed my gaze as such to settle while I continued in my most carefully articulated French, "Excuse me, but where did you buy those flowers?"

You see, I was in need of such flowers because I was in need of Spring. Hungry for it actually and nothing that I had in my current pharmacy - no music, no spices added to eggs, no charming flirtation would do. 

She again eyed the clues of my outwardly presentation to see what what would do as an introductory phrase. "Well. There is a man who sells these. I think that he as already left his usual spot. On the Place des Corps Saints..."

"Oh, the kind man with the cart?" I exhaled with a bit of a relief. She looked again at my handbag once more.

"Yes." Pause. "But he must be gone from there by now. If you are lucky you might find him in front of the Rue de la République. Perhaps in front of Sephora."

I found that latter bit of information a bit dubious or worse, an insult. Something of a worm on a line to an American fish in warm water. But, after a quick merci, I followed the bait to the store (with a gaggle of sparkly face masked adolescents waiting in front due to COVID) but he was not there. Without success and yet curiosity lifted, I continued on towards his usual address. I am not often wrong with my instinctual GPS.

And yet, no. But yet, yes? For out of the corner of my eye (quite literally), I spied a swirl of colour, floral through and through in a side street two steps beyond.

Think of his cart as if it were a very large dining room table, one punctuated with iron vases holding nothing but the most glorious flowers. He is a known figure in Avignon. As he does not have the expense of renting a shop, he can offer so much beauty at a lesser price, all while reeling it around, charming the passerby.

Surprisingly, his cart was pushed up entirely against the entry of a Creole takeaway shop. Reggae was pulsing beyond the counter. He was chatting busily with two other customers, both female, already clutching bouquets. Each were sipping out of tiny plastic cups.

I took a turn around the cart, sizing up the options that were available in equation with my desire. I am a white flower woman usually as they bring me much needed peace but on this day his light pink roses gave me the bisous that I needed them to.

"Can you forgive me for interrupting your coffee break long enough so that I might buy this bouquet?" I offered. I know very well in France, even after all these years, that I might well be met with a very hard refusal. A "non." 

"You could but as I am not drinking coffee that would be complicated." He offered this calmly but his two other clients began to giggle.

"It is Ti-punch. Do you you know it?" he asked. Indeed I did, having tasted it in Cayenne in the French Amazon. It brings quite a hit, that spiced rhum. And true, sometimes we need this particular heat now, in some form or the other. A swift kick of feeling to remember and not to forget.

While I declined his offer, I held within me that gesture of kindness as I headed home, roses tucked down-facing under my arm. So big as to be superfluous and slightly preposterous. "These are Liza Minelli roses," I thought. "End of a long show hardness...yet still here." Then I hummed a bit from "Cabaret." It might have been, "Maybe this time."

The paper rustled, the thorns pricked. There was a barely perceptible waft of the petaled perfume.

Once in the door, I cut the package open and it felt like I was doing the same to my heart. These flowers like warriors, coaxing me forward. Not yet towards hope but just on to the next day when that might seem a little less of an insult to the current state of affairs. A stern statement of pink propaganda propped in an antique vase.

Each morning upon waking I glance over to their shadowy forms in the half dark to see if their heavy heads have fallen. Not yet, not yet, not yet. And so I pull myself up from under the covers to make my coffee. To start the day and so doing, begin again.


You can hear an audio recording of the above post: here.


This seems such an incredibly odd moment as we accept that we have been through an entire year of COVID and that we are the very lucky ones to have survived. For many of us, we are only really beginning to understand the heft of that now. Plus all that we have lost - or no - otherwise.

There are no simple words that can make anything right again save our intentions which may drive us. 

Please, I ask of me and of us all...may we find our way to believe. In such small moments, we strengthen an undeniable truth that there is still good to be found. May we try. 

Soon to come, gently, maybe or not...we can ask what we might have gained.










With all of my love to you. 

Be kind, be safe, be well. Be you.

- Heather