Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Taking time, time taken

Technically, today is the longest of the year but I will make a strong case for yesterday evening. Frederique had sent off a quick email: "Drinks on my terrace?" and I instantly shot back "That would be lovely!" Fred, as I call her, is the type of friend that extends herself towards others when she is having an off day, wanting to make them happy. Something, I think that says a lot about her character. Is that just a ridiculously old-fashioned thing to say? Maybe. In France, we talk about les bonnes manières, or manners (or these days have increasing conversations about the lack of it) but not what the core of who someone is or can be. Maybe we assume that we all know each other by now, in this capitalistic industrial world that we have all morphed into a uni-being. I shouldn't exaggerate but sometimes it seems like so many of us spend more efforts getting ahead than being true. 

Heavy thoughts to take into such a light evening. Luckily, climbing the stairs to Fred's rooftop terrace is like being shot out of a cannon filled with feathers. Lifted out of the wear and tear into a realm that is just this side of different. To have a view, a subtle shift in perspective and a bottle of rosé--what more can you ask for? Remi, Fred and I settled in while our dogs whipped and rolled around us. Me on the sagging Indian daybed that had been a cast off from our garden and not quite comfortable. Popping tiny cherry tomatoes in my mouth that were still warm from the vines sneaking up a trellis. None of us were in a hurry to make conversation and what a luxury that is in any friendship.

We let the evening settle in around us. The sun gaped out an open-mouthed yawn. Nobody moved. We had been warned that we were invited "just for one drink" as Fred had things to do but at some point she popped downstairs and came back with a bunch of little plates on a tray. Saucisson, chorizo, cubes of cream cheese dusted with herbs. And so of course we stayed. I shifted on to a stack of thick cushions on the floor and mainly listened. Occasionally lost in my own thoughts while the others talked over and around me.

I had spoken to my friend Brooke on the phone for the first time earlier in the day. I think that it is going to be too complicated for us to meet during her upcoming holiday in France. For her to drag her entire family down here would be hard work and that certainly isn't the experience that I would hope them to have in Provence. But something that she said during our brief but full conversation (this despite an annoying international cell phone lapse that left me feeling as if I were stepping on her toes) got me thinking about the importance of the time that we have in our lives: how we perceive it, how that shapes how we see, then how we go through the world. Does it weigh on us like wet clothes or does it buoy us forward? I have experienced both, or otherwise I would say that the answer lies in our character. An answer that is trop facile. I have made some unusual choices in my life and currently I have an ample amount of it. Something has shifted in me in that I don't feel so afraid or greedy about that. So maybe I will meet Brooke next year or the year after that. Suddenly, everything doesn't have to be now.

We didn't know what hour it was when we finally got up, stretching and smiling at the same time. The birds swishing past at eye level, making their last dive before nightfall. The red at the last of its run. Lost in the heart of Arles. And yet no, not lost, not at all.


  1. Oh what a lovely evocative and thoughtful post. I feel like I never have enough time - and of course this is all self imposed by the choices i make. It's so difficult to find exactly the right combination - something I have been thinking about as well! Sounds like a wonderful evening. And as you say, it's too bad you won't be seeing Brooke, but maybe next year!

  2. Heather, I am enjoying this post. How precious is a friendship such as you have with Fred, where you say that no one was in a rush to start conversation. I feel this defines true friendship. To savour the tomato, the view and not fill each moment with conversation truly adds to the memorable evening. May all your summer days be as beautiful as today.

  3. Sounds like a perfect evening with a cherished friend.

    Very interesting post. It is interesting in such a busy world how we choose our time spent... who we choose to spend it with & how... I know I'm very mindful of it lately. Choosing my dearest friends over those that flit in & out. I only have so much time!!

    ~ Clare x

  4. Thank you so much for your comments. It sounds like I am far from being alone in trying to find my balance with this. Especially in our society where there is such constant pressure to "Hurry Up!"

    Helen, sending you wishes for a wonderful Summer as well. Hoping that the weather will behave in your neck of the woods.

  5. Merci Heather pour ta fidèle et rayonnante amitié ! Je suis très émue de ce que tu viens de raconter sur notre petite soirée, tous les trois perchés sur ma terrasse.Hier, en promenant nos chiens, tu m'as expliqué ce qu'était la fusion foods aux States, je pense que c'est pareil pour notre beautiful friendship.
    Notre été sera beau !

  6. Oh I loved your post of today!! I wish I could live in the French way : "carpe diem"!! Heather as you I was thinking about our way of living. We always do things in a hurry!!! I really would love to change this way of living but untill now I didn't achieve to do it!!! Always bussy, always thinking and organizing and managing the business and our priviate life!!
    I do hope that Brooke and her family will have the time to relax and talk with us the entire Saturday!!!
    I wished they were able to visit you!! But next time we drive to the southern part of France, I do hope to meet you! To talk with you, to exchange life experiences!!
    Looking forward to your next post!!!

  7. Two lovely comments from nearby and I so appreciate them both. Grateful girl, I am!

    Fred, bah, tu es magnifique quoi! C'est tout! Et tu as changée ma vie ice en plus. À demain, cocotte.

    Greet, oh I would love to meet you when you next head our way. I know that we would get along, just as I know that you and Brooke will be so close. But our lives are different--of course you are busy! You have so much on your plate with your business and family. I have known that before, when I lived in NYC. My life was my work. Now things have changed to another extreme, which can be challenging too. We are all trying to figure it out, aren't we?

    Bises à vous deux.

  8. Steve and I have been doing quite a bit of thinking about this. Our lives have been so hectic the past couple of years, and we have decided to make changes to slow things down. Patina Farm is the embodiment of our dream to simplify...
    I know that we will meet eventually Heather, but until then I will enjoy being in your life through the small delicious moments we share through our blogs.


  9. Brooke and Steve are such gifts in our lives. They teach us so much. I am so lucky to be called "Brooke's mentor" believe me.....she is my "mentor" in so many ways......I call us "soul-mates" and partners in our vision of decorating.....and in creating wonderful and happy interiors for our clients and their families to grow up in happy and lovely environments......

    I said twenty years ago....."I do not see myself as Mother Theresa"; however ; providing lovely environments for children to grow up in is not an unimportant task.........

    Where and how children grow up shapes their psyche......and their approach to the world.......that is my belief. Teaching children how to alter things to beautify them is a very important lesson.........

    .Brooke and Steve are living examples of so many lessons for children......the importance of a team......the importance of mutual respect ....(they have complementary talents......never one ounce of competitiveness.......just mutual respect!)

    And they have the lovliest children.....(the first time I me them.......(they are brought up to the strangers house in Santa Barbara) they looked me in the eye......they didn't act like they were bored......(best of all...they weren't bored for a second)

    when they came to meet our chickens.....see our house.....meet the ducklings.....see the most unusual house.....they LOVED it!

    this is a wonderful family! How lucky we are to be able to hear the story!

    Brooke is a wonderful communicator! Best of all is the amazing team that Steve and Brooke are! And their children are all a huge part of it....because Brooke and Steve include them! And encourage each one of their special talents.......It is an astonishing team......"

    "Team Italia" I have given them a name......(it was my families name my husband Adamo gave our team.....)

    Whatever team name they call themselves....it is a wonderful team to watch...learn from.....and admire.

    Lovely. Bravo......

    thank God for the internet!

    It has enabled all of us to be gifted with what Brooke says so well!!

  10. Chère Heather, heureuse d'avoir de vos nouvelles grâce à ce rendez-vous presque quotidien. Intéressante réflexion sur le temps, qui correspond à nos préoccupations du moment. nous venons à Arles justement pour reprendre la maîtrise de notre temps. J'espère qu'ainsi nous pourrons nous retrouver. En attendant, profite de ces moments que tu sais si bien faire partager.

  11. I am very touched by these amazing and generous comments.

    Penelope, when I spoke to Brooke the other day on the phone, she mentioned you (and I don't think that she would be offended by my repeating this here) and your capacity for wonder. It is something that I hold dearly and by what you wrote about Brooke and Steve and their children shows me exactly what she was talking about. Wonder and Hope and Beauty are not only interrelated but the stuff of Life, of that I am sure.

    So it IS important what you both do, very much so. I tried to express to her that, for me, it is so much beyond things, objects but helping people create the opportunity for experience, environments for living and moving forward. At 41, I am STILL shaping my psyche and try my best to use my surroundings to support that. :)

    And yes, I wrote Brooke a while back that as much as I truly appreciate her aesthetic (and she knows that I do!), I am as equally inspired by who she is. To remain a good person amidst such success and abundance, to treat others well, to try and do right by your family--that is what I meant above by character! No wonder you are soul mates.

    My companion Remi and I also speak of being our own team. I love that you put it so clearly. As you said, thank God for the net!

  12. Heather, the words that you paint are felt in the heart. I spent a wondrous day with an equally wondrous friend and we, too, spoke of the places and friends that we have visited that have evoked simpler pleasures & nature's splendor...experiences that we will always treasure. Life savored s l o w l y.

  13. Christine, I am so happy for you that you had such a great day--isn't it amazing how moments like that shift everything back into place?

    I dunno, there can be mega thrills to be had amidst the rush too--I always feel that when I go back to NYC. But right now, I am loving a slower pace. Well, that is part of Summer too isn't it? :)

  14. You are such a lovely writer Heather you write what I feel. Dylan dog and I just came inside after sitting on the front porch with our eyes closed listening to the nightly chorus from the birds just before they sleep. We never hurry with our last walk of the day just before night takes hold, everything sort of slows way down and we just enjoy. So being in that peaceful frame of mind it was wonderful to come inside and read this my first post of the evening. Sleep well and thank you for sharing your gift with us.

  15. Oh Debra, that sounds so lovely. Just you and your pupper enjoying the evening. And thank you for the compliment about my writing but your described your moment so beautifully that I felt that I was right there with you.

    Have a wonderful weekend!


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