Thursday, November 24, 2011

Touch of grace

I was in need of a view. Arles, despite its charms, can be claustrophobic. Closed in by Roman walls and an old-fashioned mentality, it can feel almost like living on an island. At times I need to move beyond the barriers to breathe. 

We all have our magic places. Whether it be the fort made under the dining room table or a solitary stretch of beach on the other side of the planet, there are certain spaces that just make us feel at home with ourselves. 

I know how lucky I am to have several such spots right here in Provence. Areas that resonate beyond beautiful. 

We only had a bit of time. Remi had worked all day and at present I can count the moments of the sunset on my fingers and toes. So I asked for a sure thing, rather than go exploring. A certain lieu that never fails to put a smile on all of our faces.

There is a trail that starts just before the Dalmeran winery in St.-Etienne-de-Gres, one nibbled on by the rains and rough with rocks.  But at the first turn, the ascent opens to a sweep across the Vallée du Rhone. And then I can let out a long exhale. 

Already a creeping feeling of something mysterious mounts at the back of my neck. Moss-covered steps lead up to a cave dwelling that has housed who knows how many way-ward travellers, shepherds and bandits. And yet there is nothing frightening here.

Time to keep moving on, to make the most of the lingering light. Ben has bounded ahead, with his most  frenetic bunny hop, back paws swinging side to side, ears flapping. He turns to egg me on and up.

Yes, and then there she is. Nôtre-Dame-du-Chateau. This tiny chapel tops the Saint-Michel-de-Briançon hill, just as it has for centuries (the first mention of it dates back to 1180). A guardian, then. And although, she is tiny in comparison to her Parisian counterpart, she is mighty in grace.

Once I make that last push to arrive at the back of the church, I always do the same thing: sit down on the grass and watch. The light, the birds flying over head, Ben rolling on his back in delight.

Remi is usually taking photos. Me too. But then I settle in and let the quiet wash over me. Always, always that gift of...peace. 

For this Thanksgiving, I hope that I can share a bit of it with you, no matter what country you are in. Whether it is just another day, as it is here in France or if it is a grand fête and you are surrounded by loved ones.

I know that I have said it before, but it bears repeating how grateful I am to have you all here. For the connections that we have made and the happiness shared.

I am feeling especially blessed this year actually. For my wonderful Remi, my charmer Ben, my beautiful Sister and my adventurous Mom. For our health and that the wheel of fortune seems to be creaking in to a turn. We just might make a special meal tonight but if not I don't mind. The warm glow in my heart is all that really matters on this special day.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!


  1. And Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Heather! It seems you have found a very magical place, and shared it with some of the people (and furry souls) you love. Isn't that what Thanksgiving is all about? So there may not be turkey on the table tonight... but I am sure you can find something delicious to put on the table for dinner. Surely. This is Provence after all ;-) We will not be celebrating Thanksgiving either, but not for the same reason. We are off to Vancouver BC for the long weekend, and before we reunite with dear friends on Saturday, we will be enjoying a very French meal at our favorite bistro downtown tonight, as a family... Happy [turkey-free] Thanksgiving to you, Heather--- From another expatriate, on the other side of the world. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

  2. Your thoughts make my face and heart smile....Happy Thanksgiving.

  3. How beautiful Heather! Both your lovely photos and your thoughts. It looks indeed like a special spot. As I am in between preparations, I stopped by to say hello to a few friends- wishing you Remi and Ben a wonderful Thanksgiving in absentia!

  4. Veronique, Remi and I love Vancouver! It is really on the possible next place to live list. I know that you will have a wonderful time--especially that there are chéres amies involved. :) And yes, you are right it will be strictly French tonight but more special than normal, we wanted cannette but couldn't find one! Donc, on va manger du canard. Yum. Ok, with the first bit of foie gras of the season to start! Hurray! Have a wonderful dinner and weekend!

    Heather, oh my, are you celebrating? :) I am late to your last post--will read it pronto. Happy Thanksgiving to you too!

    Stacey! Very touched that you stopped by in the midst of your preparations--I wish that I was eating at your house tonight! ;) Just by the looks of your table alone I know that you are going to have an amazing day. Wishing you and yours a special holiday as well! Bisous.

  5. A beautiful spot Heather.... Nothing like a promenade to clear the mind and free the spirit... xv

  6. Happy Thanksgiving, Heather! Your photos are amazing. Your attitude is a breath of fresh air to all who read your words.

  7. Vicki, we are so lucky to have such beauty all around. But then again, a quick jaunt up to Paris can have the same effect too!

    Thank you so much Sue for your lovely compliment. Bisous to Miss B and Moose please...

  8. Maike, in my overwhelmed state, I missed your comment yesterday--thank you! Your blog is so happy. :)

  9. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours

    Thank you for sharing your beautiful pictures.
    Ben always makes me smile and speak the special "oh" reserved for pets. He's a charmer for sure.

  10. OKAY!Can we get in that door?!!I would like to move in!What a treat to find that on the end of your upward climb!STUNNING............really!Thanks for sharing.You have no idea what kind of smile your photos give me!ENDLESS<JOY!

  11. That was a beautiful post. Thank you so much - my favorite post for Thanksgiving. I could feel and smell and breathe in the beauty you described -- and the peace, too. Beautiful writing and photos.

  12. Lovely post...and such good sentiments to remind us of what we need to breathe and clear out the dust! I used to hike up there all the time and sort of forgot about it. Thanks for this sweet reminder.

  13. Poet Whale, thank you and and I hope that you had a lovely New England Thanksgiving! Yes, Ben is really a special one. We are lucky he chose us!

    La Contessa, I would move in too! So glad to give back a bit of the happiness that you give me. :)

    Annette, thank you so much for your very kind compliment. I hope that you and your family (that includes the equine family) are all well...

    Julie, looks like we are on for Sunday! Whoohoo! Can't wait...

  14. Aren't Goldens wonderful in their joyfulness? Dylan's the same way and he had so much fun showing some of our guests his magic place in the forest. You can climb and climb and come out overlooking the whole countryside and nothing brings such peace. I hope you enjoyed your Thanksgiving!


  15. Hugs to you too Debra! We are so lucky to have such great Goldens. :) Hope you are having a great weekend!

  16. thanks for this shared visual and poetic blessing,

  17. I feel so relaxed and revitalised after joining you on this journey. There is something magical about being one with nature…….

    Although we don't have Thanksgiving in Australia, this year I found myself "joining in", reflecting on my life and feeling grateful for what has transpired. I feel particularly blessed by the wonderful friendships I have developed via my blog and feel privileged to be able to share their thoughts, talents and images. I’ll try to catch up with you via email this week Heather. Bisous

  18. PSING, thanks for being here.

    Elizabeth, still wanting to know how you are feeling? And I agree, no matter where you are, it does the heart good to have a Thanksgiving now and again. Yes, this year I too was especially thinking about the amazing connections via the net!

  19. You are lucky to be surrounded by such beauty, Heather!

    ~ Clare x

  20. Thank you Clare, I couldn't agree more! :)


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