Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Calling All Saints

Down below my window, a band of children are chanting "Fous le camp! Fous le camp!" with the snaps of firecrackers to punctuate their disenchantment. Get the h*ll out of here, indeed. Earlier, an older group of adolescents let out several rounds of a brouhaaaahaaa howl that ended up sounding more like a Ho Ho Ho from Santa. You see, Halloween doesn't come easily to the French. It isn't their holiday. 

For here, it is not tonight that matters but tomorrow, La Toussaint, which is both All Saint's Day... 

...and All Soul's Day. So while there are special services in the Catholic churches, it is also one of the most important days of the year for families to come together. They will honor those that have come before them... 

...and as chrysanthemums are at their fullest, they are the traditional flowers to take to the cemetery, where the plots will be cleaned and prayers said. It is a solemn moment, devoid of the bright vivacity of Dia de los Muertos. Over the past few days, I have seen the streets fuller than usual with family members walking and whispering, weighed by what is said and unsaid. The sky has been blue with black clouds lowering, giving my stomach a bit of a twist save for that early evening when I went to the Arena with Ben to watch the full moon rise and rise until my fingers were numb with the cold. I always feel something unnameable during this time, whether it is the ancestors passing down or just a sense of collective reflection, I don't know.

Well, it looks as if I spoke too soon as my post was to end there. But amidst my concentrated typing, click click click, the burrr of our buzzer gave me a start and produced a sharp bark from Ben. I discerned giggles of anticipation in the street. Luckily, Remi and I had just returned from the grocery store, where at the last moment, I had grabbed a package of a certain American candy bar, something in me hoping..."just in case." You see, Halloween has always been one of my very favorite holidays, one where anyone and everyone is entirely encouraged to think outside the box, to be creative to let their freak flag fly.

I must say I was underwhelmed with the costume effort. Some plastic capes, an ersatz wig--but was that ever the point? And no, it is not their holiday but perhaps they are trying to make it so. For one of the polite little witches promptly handed me an envelope while I was giving out the goods. "C'est pour vous," she said simply. And then they were gone. 

Happy Halloween to those of you that are celebrating. And more importantly, continued good wishes of strength and support to all that have been touched by Hurricane Sandy's passing. Thank you so very much to those that reassured me of your well-being during the past 24 hours, it is much appreciated. 

Monday, October 29, 2012

Be safe

All of my thoughts and prayers are going towards the East Coast of America today as they brace for the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Yes, to my beloved New York City but to all of you that I may not know of that are in harm's way I am sending you this virtual bouquet and asking that you please be extra careful as nature is demanding the respect that we haven't been giving.

So stock up on the candles, water, bring out the thick blankets and shore up the windows...

...prepare your big boots...

...once everything is ready, perhaps pour yourself a glass of wine...

...believe that all will be well and try to keep the light shining in your heart... when it is time to take matters in to your own hands...

...but also when it is wisest to stay right where you are and wait it out...

Please Be Safe.

With lots of Love from Arles...

Friday, October 26, 2012

Red Leaves

This evening, I am breaking two of the very few rules (I am really not terribly fond of that word but then I wonder, is anyone?) that I have for myself concerning this blog: to not post when I don't have anything to say and to not repeat myself (tricky, at times with a memory comme une passoire). For you see, while words are still escaping me, as elusive as a Louboutin glass slipper and despite my continuous wondering of whether, why and when, I do have something to share (a far better word if ever there was one, don't you agree? Would you like a bite of cheese?). And while all of these photos were taken in the inner courtyard of the cabanon rental during our second visit last weekend, they don't seem to me to be the skip back at the end of the record, save in subject matter.

Red Leaves. As this corner of France is not exactly open to embracing my beloved Halloween, they have become the official symbol of this quickly waning autumn. My friends, to thank you for your utter kindness regarding Lost in Arles' baby anniversary (as well as my tolerance for the need to celebrate anything, anytime) I would spread a path of rose petals at your feet! In lieu of that, my red leaves will have to do...

Contrary as ever, France will be 'falling back' ahead of schedule this Sunday. Is that why I feel so muddle-headed? Perhaps. 

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend...are the stars shining brightly were you are? 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


I have been feeling especially pensive lately (and yes, Remi might ask, "When aren't you?"). Not sad, just with so many thoughts swirling around without my being able grasp any of them like a bear chasing after butterflies. A swirl of up in the clouds down in my cup. Something in me is preparing for the winter as the evening light slides down the wall faster and faster with each passing day. I am horribly sentimental, listening to music, the same songs over and over, creating memories and coming back to others that fill me with a bittersweet longing that is as faded as the leaves. It was only in writing to a friend earlier that I remembered that I am usually like this at this time of year.

And I have the proof. For it was two years ago today that I started this little adventure. Much has happened but in many ways, much remains the same.

I am not going to go into that for now, as it just so happens that I will be writing about it more next week for my monthly contribution to the By Invitation Only series--that is if I can find the words! But I know, I know how grateful I am for all of the 155, 267 page visits Lost in Arles has had not to mention the really beautiful emails and encouragement I have received as late. 

It makes me look forward greatly to seeing what is next...side by side...

...time to turn the lock.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hint of Autumn

We arrived just in time.

Yes, this was our Sault of last weekend. Chin tucked in and elegant from afar, sporting just a touch of red. I thought of you all while admiring her.

Wondering wide but not frantic to discover, we took the backroads and drove slowly.

And somehow, even in so short a time, I am as full from seeing as if I had just inhaled a feast. 

So in need of an autumnal nap to digest before the winter.
Sleepy brain, groggy heart but happy I am.
With a new crew of dreams clinking like gold coins in my pocket.

More soon...thank you so much for being here, for staying, I can't say that often enough...

Friday, October 19, 2012

Time jag in the Luberon

It is amazing to me how different an environment can be depending on the time of day, the season of the year. Remi and I had first visited Sault a few years back after having spent an early morning in the lavender fields. They were in full bloom and so were we, giddy and infused so that all we saw took on a perfumed glow.    

What a change, then, as we walked the village's empty streets on our most recent visit. 

Gone were the roving groups of laughing lookers. 

It was as is if, with relief, Sault no longer had to put its game face on...

...and could just let its insides flop out for all to see.

So we strolled around quietly and I looked beyond the edges...

...and into a time worn softness.

Not to mention the bluntness of everyday living. Such as a sign (a warning?) that we were entering "The Dog Pee Neighborhood"...

...Ben looked at me as if to say, "Reeeally?" He was right at home!

Our laughter echoed, it was absorbed into the walls...

...and made the leaves grow.

That gray autumn day drew colors that we might not have otherwise seen...

...and lifted up textures like blowing sand.

It was one Sault. Not 'the' Sault. Travelling is such a mirage isn't it?

And I saved the fun for last...I will see what face Sault will show me this weekend! We are running away again, just for a few days. Yes, to our little cabanon to drink in The Quiet. I told you that we wouldn't be able to stay away. It is supposed to rain but I don't care. All the better to wash the dust from my eyes to see clearly. Hoorah!

So, yes, the Luberon series will continue...
Have a wonderful weekend everyone...

Ps. I am thrilled that Lost in Arles was mentioned by the amazing Carla Coulson on her blog Carla Loves Photography. I have found so many wonderful blogs through her suggestions. If this is your first visit here, welcome! Merci, Carla.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Emergency Soup

With due apologies, I am taking a quick break from my series about the Luberon (unless you are all secretly tired of it in which case please let me know and I'll put it to rest) because some serious celebrating is in order: yesterday was my first official sweater, jeans and boots day--hallelujah! I feel like I am sliding back into myself after being trapped in someone else's wardrobe. Mais hélas, along with rapid temperature shifts comes what? A case of the sniffles. I have been fighting off a throatal frog for a while now, so it was time to take matters firmly in hand and whip up my first batch of autumn soup to shoo the sickness out of me.

Although I dearly love my Fog Soup (Oh, hello Yee Olde Ancient Bloggee post, how sweet you seem to me now and how much do I miss that kitchen and garden!), I didn't want to be coddled, just the opposite, I wanted to heat things up a bit. When I visited Mali, I would be stunned by the locals liberal and I do mean dousing use of hot sauce until I was told "it keeps us healthy by burning out the bad stuff." So, while this isn't nearly as spicy as I would have liked it as I do have Remi's French palate to appeal to, it is just the right touch when you need a little saving. 

Soupe d'urgence or Emergency Soup
2 1/2 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and cut into medium sized chunks
5 carrots, sliced 
1 big onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, same
1/2 Tablespoon diced fresh ginger (or cuilière à soupe instead of T in France)
cumin, cayenne powder, cinammon, ancho chile powder, cajun spices, heck I even put a pinch of Smokehouse Maple in there, to taste
1 Liter chicken broth (unless you are the gorgeous Jennifer of the ridiculously undervisited Gustia blog, in which case, go vegetarian!)

As I have written previously, I am convinced that my soups improved enormously by cooking with a Creuset pot, but hey, do what you can and just don't let the veggies burn--we aren't talking about that kind of heat here! 
Sauté the onion in a swathering of olive oil (about 2-3 Tablespoons) until soft. Add the sweet potatoes and stir a bit to help break down the starch. Cook on medium-high for five minutes with the lid on, add the carrots, again stirring to coat with the oil and onions. Lower the heat to medium, add the garlic and cook with the lid a bit off to the side for twenty minutes or until thoroughly soft, stirring from time to time. Now, I prefer to add the spices here (I trust you to come up with your own amounts but I put a strong preference on the cumin) and continue to cook on super low for an hour but feel free to go ahead and add the chicken broth and simmer. Again, this soup is best if you let it simmer on low for a few hours and but I have done it in as little as twenty minutes in a pinch. Let it cool a bit before transferring into a blender (in batches if need be) and pulse gently. Transfer to serving bowls and top with one last kick of cayenne and voila! Note(s): You might be wondering how many people this serves. Good question. Are you as piggy as I am? Well, then not a lot. Definitely four as a starter or perhaps as a main depending on your portions. As you can see, I only had a tiny bit to have with lunch and so was forced to make myself a Bacon, Egg, and Tomato sandwich as a consolation prize (and yes, the eggs really are that yellow in France). Also, I know that you might be tempted to swirl some creme fraiche in here--and hey, whatever bakes your cake--but it doesn't need it. 

Bon App' and stay healthy!

PS. Ben got all velvet-painting eyed when I told him of the collective interest in a calendar featuring his sweet face. As my British friends would say, he's chuffed!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Lavender in the Luberon

Sabine's Father was waiting for us at the turn-off to our cabanon rental, as he was afraid that we would miss it. He shook our hands with a dry, firm grasp and showed us the way. Down the path, up and over to arrive at the domaine that had been passed down to Sabine. For both her Mother and Father had farmed the land for lavandin, a variety of lavender, since generations.

"There is still some left in the upper field, feel free to pick as much as you like." And so we did. Bees buzzed and the warm earth released scent with every footstep. But nothing could compare to the perfume of the buds broken in the palm of our hands. Like a clean, soapy smoke if such a thing were possible. And as if all of the landscape and all of time past had dripped down into the roots, distilled.

Ben and I took off exploring while Remi patiently sorted and snipped, gathering lavender leaves to use in his fine cooking. Of course, I would call him to come see the abandoned cabanon with its well so that we could imagine what we would do with it, if it were ours. A bedroom here, the kitchen there. Plenty of shadow in the shade of the trees, an afternoon dream.

Remi presented me with a bouquet of blooms and Sabine's Mother surprised us with a vial of lavender essence, one that had been created in the traditional way. "Well, if you like that sort of thing," she added politely. I smiled widely in return and asked, "Who does not?"

Both are on my desk as I type. Later on, Sabine would tell me, "Sometimes in the heart of winter, I close my eyes and inhale a bit of essence and it is as if I am transported right back to summer and can feel the sun on my face." Today is the first sweater day of autumn here and I know these small treasures will keep me warm in the months to come.