Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Living with (a bit of) magic

Remi had lost his glasses. It was during the midst of a hurried photo shoot this weekend that took place in many locations and he was confounded as to where they could be. Not only would it be expensive to replace them but the frames had belonged to his late Father and so held enormous sentimental value. In stillness, he played back the day, moment by moment until he was fairly certain when he had used them last. It was with great joy that when he called the Mas des Barres (more about them another time), he was told that some kind soul had found them outside. Their boutique would close at noon, it was already after 10am. There was no time to lose. We gathered the dogs, put them in the back of the car and headed out into the Alpilles. After having recovered the precious lenses, we turned towards a place that we have always called "La Vallée Secrète" or Our Secret Valley. 

It is off the road on a bended elbow of land that you have to know about in order to explore. Here, it is always beautiful but never less so than yesterday. The poppies were still waving, the olive trees green with promise. Already, the noon day sun was white overhead so we stuck to the shadows, willingly. The dogs were just themselves, Kipling well out in front, tail up and Ben lagging behind just long enough to make sure that I was all right each time that I paused to take a photograph, trying to capture something not at all mine but was mercifully willingly shared. And so I was late to the scene but drawn with Remi's laughter as he called to me loudly to "Viens, vite!" just in time to see Mr. Ben having waded into the tiniest creek that was pooling out of a near hillside. Apparently, he had, in his way, asked for permission of Remi before sinking into the cool, clear water. He didn't move then, just smiled broadly. With a bit of persuasion, Remi even coaxed Kipling, the rascal, to join Ben but not for long. Afterwards, invigorated, both rolled in the grass and zoomed some zoomies. We piled back into the car, windows down and I couldn't help but smiling all the way home. 

For it is the surprise, you see. I never, ever thought that I would be here. Why should I be when there was never an arrow pointing from the Midwest of the United States to Provence? Not to say that all is perfect just because of the location. We are not wealthy people, we struggle. But there are moments of such generous beauty that are here for the taking and are free. Free of charge if we can see them. Well, it is just a thought.

The base of my first memories is of my Mom opening up the kitchen door and out I would skip to play in the woods on the other side of the country road from the farmhouse where she herself had grown up. I would spend hours alone under the trees thinking up stories and creating worlds within worlds. Later on, I would be spared loneliness from moving so often by discovering the world of literature and all of its many characters that were ready to be my friend! So I suppose that it isn't surprising that I wanted to bring them to life through acting. From age 17 to 32 I put my heart and soul into that career, having attended New York University and then the Yale School of Drama. I auditioned continuously and worked when I could as actors do, I felt alive. Acting was what I was truly good at, my home. But then I met Remi. End of sentence, full stop. I knew that I had to move to Paris to be with him almost immediately, I knew it and so I did. We formed a team of journalist (me, learning on the hoof) and experienced photographer. Doing so, we travelled the world together and saw such things as I had never read, not even in my beloved books.

And now we are in Provence. We moved here on a whim, before the power of the Press collapsed and I later started this blog as a way of keeping my hand in. Staying creative was a way to keep from being lost amidst so many changes. Or trying at least. I recently wrote that telling stories was the through line of my life but I am only just realizing it now. You see, I didn't long to be an actress, I was one. I didn't aspire to being a travel writer, I had no choice in the matter. This is how my life has rolled out so far. When I look ahead of me, I honestly see a blank. I have no idea what could happen. Which can be utterly terrifying for I do not have the financial security of my friends and colleagues. But if I am smart and if it is a good day, like yesterday, my vision is as clear as Remi's is now that his glasses have been restored. For all along, I have been living with something inside of me...something like a little bit of magic. We all have it. And so far - and I knock on wood - it has never let me down.

Today's post is my contribution to our international blogging party. This month's theme was chosen by the lovely Vicki Archer who asked: "What did you imagine you would do when you grew up? Are you somewhere totally expected or following the path you had imagined?" 

It is a good question, isn't it? I answered it in my own way but I would love to know what yours is. To see the replies of the other women in this amazing group, please click: here.

Would you like a bit of music for this post? I chose "If the stars were mine" by Melody Gardot as I couldn't get it out of my head while writing this! You can listen to it by clicking: here.

PS. Thank you all for the amazing response to my previous post regarding "An incredibly charming village house for sale in Provence" - if you missed it, you can read it here. 

PPS. For those of you that are new here - hooray! - by clicking on the links within the post you will learn...well, just about all you need to know about Lost in Arles. Cheers!


  1. One of your best, Heather... I must ask questions more often... ;) xv

  2. It's interesting to have that same feeling of being in a place you never expected! I had that feeling when I was in Provence last summer on holiday. My daughter lives in Paris now and it was my first chance to visit France. The other day she was looking for a certain plant for her balcony and I texted her to tell her to try the garden shops by Notre Dame where the bird market is. All at once I thought...'I love that I know this fact of where to buy plants in Paris!' Hopefully I'll find myself there again someday soon and marvel at being in a place I never expected. What a lovely Secret Valley.
    ps...your sweet dog in the creek and the one patiently waiting for you to take a snapshot reminded me of my late dog Griffin...he would have done exactly the same.

  3. Oh, Heather, I agree with Vicki, this is one of your best posts. Even when our lives take us to places we never expected to go, when we have resilience and the ability to appreciate what we do have, even and especially, the smallest of details, we can look back on what we have done, choices we've made with a sense of satisfaction, happiness and peace.

    Also, I must note here, then when it comes to wading in the water and then drying off with some spectacular zoomies, and rolls in the grass (full disclosures: she's also been known to roll in the mud) Karina is a soulmate to your Ben.

    I agree with Vicki.........this IS GOOD!
    You have lived a RICH LIFE!!!!You should be published........XOXO

  5. That blank slate can be terrifying, just like the white page when you long to find the perfect word and it simply will not show itself.

    But you, sweet friend, embrace the beauty around you and reflect it back to the rest of us with such meticulous care and lyrical aspect; whatever you see becomes magical for us.

    And then there are those happy surprises, and often of the simplest kind. Those splendid, sloppy, smiling dogs! And those crystalline days and brilliant red poppies.


  6. Wonderful post Heather! I agree with Contessa, you should be published. You write so beautifully.We may all have that little magic inside us, but you express it perfectly. xo

  7. You never cease to be an inspiration dear Heather! What a lovely post, with bright and joyful photos. The road ahead may not be clearly defined for many of us, but you are a "clearly defined" individual.
    That "little bit of magic" you referred to, is manifested in every post. They are always insightful, astute with a sense of humility. Reflections of an intelligent life!

  8. Say, I'm going to join the chorus here... What about a book? Turn each page and glimpse the magic...

  9. It's always lovely getting to know you better Heather. I agree about the magic. I think we all have it, buried somewhere deep inside.
    P.S. are you having trouble embedding videos too? I couldn't embed a video for anything in my last post but I thought that something was wrong with my laptop.

  10. This was beautiful, in words and photos.

    Thank you ~ FlowerLady

  11. Heather, the way you write, your magical life with Remi and your pupsters, you have more wealth than so many people, for you followed your heart.

    I have been fortunate to do somewhat of the same, I met my late husband , became engaged and moved to San Diego, I was fortunate to work in the fields I was passionate about, especially The Arts and now I can share and pay it forward. Plus meet new amazing friends through blogging!

    The Arts by Karena

  12. Your writing and blog posts speak of your inner magic. It is always a treat to visit Lost in Arles. Thank you.

  13. whew..."What did you imagine you would do when you grew up?" That is a hard question to answer. Did I always want to do what I do? YES! And yet even though I heard opera on the radio every Saturday, I never knew what all it entailed. But perform? Sing? Dress up? Act? YES!!! But my goodness I took a loooooong wander to get there! After studying music and opera in college, I got a job in a hospital in Philadelphia to pay for Grad school. As time went on, I continued working in hospitals, getting more and more responsibilities (while I continued to sing and study). By the time I was ready to audition at the Met, I was running a federally funded program to reduce infant mortality in West Philadelphia. Fortunately the program was nearing (successful) completion by the time I was hired at the Met and it was time to move into the next chapter. That was a lifetime ago. I am now looking forward to the next chapter...who knows what I will do?

  14. And I join the chorus of people who think you have a book (perhaps several) in you. You always inspire me with your writing. And the photographs, well, they are just wonderful.

  15. Beautifully written post, Heather. And as always, beautiful photos. Just 2 days ago I was there in Le Sud, a week ago literally in Les Alpilles. And now back here, so missing there. When a child, did I know where I would be or what I would be doing when I grew up. No, certainly there were dreams, but none that I clung to.... Now, do I know what is next? No, but more and more I now cling to a dream. Thanks.

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  17. You definitely have magic Heather.
    We've all just been caught up in your spell.
    Thank you

  18. Magic post Heather, effortless and beautifully written. Your secret valley is stunning, and evidently a very happy place for you all. Nothing more healing than the smiles of our beloved dogs.

  19. Simply beautiful Heather...you are blessed because you 'see' the beauty in everything around you...no amount of money can better than...do you carry a little magic inside you or are you the 'magic'? I know I've said it before...but, you always transport me to such a special place...thank you. Why don't you write a book...just a thought :)
    Catherine xx

  20. Great post, Heather. I think when I was growing up I wanted a pony, not very imaginative! And when I grew up and could have one, uh, well, no thank you. You (and Remi) have writing and photography skills, have you ever considered making them into a business? People from the US love to come to Provence and learn a skill: cooking, painting, photography, writing, etc. Do look on line for them. It appears to be profitable, and an opportunity to share your skill and knowledge for a week at a time with very interested and focused people. Its a thought.
    bonnie in the Languedoc

  21. Heather, when the email arrives announcing the topic for our monthly posts, I always wonder "what will Heather write." And as always I am transported, intrigued, and I finish your words feeling like I know you a little bit better, but that some how I also know myself better, too. You most definitely have magic, which is an extraordinary gift. It's taken you to amazing places, and I can't wait to see where it takes you next. I know that it while it may not be with out some tough climbing, your path will take you somewhere beautiful and extraordinary, and not always seen by the average person - like your beautiful valley here. Love to you, dear friend! XOXO

  22. You know what I come away with every time I read one of your reflective posts like this? It is a feeling of grounding. It's a good feeling, and I love that you can do this so simply, so succinctly, so powerfully. You have a better perspective on the riches of life than most people, whether they have actual riches or not. And that brings your readers a magical richness.


  23. I just posted a similar thought about our current journey on Facebook. It is amazing to look back as well as forward and be thankful for it all!

  24. I am trying to remember my childhood dreams... you, as always have set my mind on whirl! My dream right now is being lived, my husband and I are staying in an apartment in St Germaine des Pres for a month. A couple of days ago on the way to Place des Vosges, we passed by our old apartment with the red door in the Marais (the one you posted on your site a while ago - and we wrote about. It was great to see it again - and great to enjoy Pl des Vosges. I thought of you, there! You have such a gift! I will buy your book, get busy, girl! :)

  25. "I have been living with something inside of me...something like a little bit of magic”

    "... we travelled the world together and saw such things as I had never read, not even in my beloved books.”

    Serendefity or the kind power of our making. It’s our world of abstraction and gratitude. Our life of the comforting sun and rain, creativity and setbacks, thriumphs and pain.

    I thought I will be an engineer. I ended up being a doctor.


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