Friday, November 25, 2016

Olive harvest at the Mas de la Fourbine

Last weekend, my friend Judy invited me out to her olive farm, the beautiful Mas de la Fourbine, to partake in the harvest or récolte. She had extended the same offer to me last year, as well as to our mutual friend Ellie, but neither of us were able to attend. With Ellie's recent passing, it has glowed as a missed opportunity in my mind, so I was determined to ratify that in fine form on both of our behalves.

I think that we are all a bit tired, non? So for once in a blue Supermoon, I am going to keep my verbiage simple and let the photos walk you through. That is appropriate, actually, as the act of plucking off olives for hours on end is such a zen action that even I was able to faire le vide and coast on just the contentment of being a part of something connected, joyful and strong.

"How many trees are there, Judy?" I asked as we headed out into the grove. "Well, supposedly 700," she replied. "Why supposedly?" I queried. "You know, you start counting and get distracted at 369 and it isn't like you are going to start all over again..." I see. It is such a low-key attitude that pervades the mas and I can tell you it is a welcome change from the faux modesty held at other such domaines in the stunning Alpilles, ones that could make Marie Antoinette and her Petit Trianon foible-ees blush. This is, after all, a family affair.

Judy's son Nicholas, dit Niko, runs the affairs of the farm along with his lovely wife Robin (also an américaine, she is an accessible Gwyneth Paltrow). But their children, Olivier and the tiny Juliette or Juju, are not to be underestimated for their harvesting abilities. Well, if not that for that exactly then for their nearly stoic ability to entertain themselves in the fields for hours in that lost art of "Oh, just go out and play" that so many of us mastered in our youth. Juju would sit on the tractor and sing an endless repetition of "the wheels on the bus go 'round and 'round" until someone was able to distract her and Olivier wandered from picker to picker. 

On the second morning of work, the echoing boom of gunshots could be heard and Olivier approached me with wide eyes. "They are bad guys." "Who?" I asked, "the hunters?" "I don't understand why...why anyone would want to hurt the animals" he responded with a shrug so gentle and such sincerity that I had to will myself to not tear up. "Yeah, I don't agree with that either," I allowed. "I am going to get them all to my house...and then lock them the dungeon...and let the monsters eat them," he proposed after careful consideration. "That sounds like a great plan, Olivier." He nodded stridently and walked away. I love that memory.

I did the easy bits, made even simpler by a netted wheelbarrow or brouette placed under the branches of the trees. All I had to do is pluck, aim and fire with occasional raking for the clumps that Judy likened to brushing Juju's unruly hair. For the bigger or more fruit-laden specimens, large nets were placed around their bases and an Edward Scissorhands-like machine shook the branches fervently until the black orbs toppled into the nets. Eventually, all of the days winnings were stacked into containers and loaded onto a trailer (along with the Princess in a Parade waving Juju), which was pulled by a tractor throned by the men of the family, which in turn was towed by a finicky 4x4 steered by Robin, whose smile shone through our mutual fatigue enough to light up the last of the evening sky. 

Judy and I slowly made our way to the bergerie or barn where faithful Loulou was waiting with a tail wag. All in all, we picked something in the neighborhood of 300 kilos a day. It has been a good season at the Mas de la Fourbine and the liquid gold of their olive oil will continue to flow on the fortunate tables of family and friends throughout the year. I felt grateful to have participated in a tradition that is as ancient to these hills as the Roman times and deeply appreciative to have set a former lack to right, all while perhaps doing a bit of good in the process.

I am hoping to do another post on the property itself.

For those of you whole celebrated yesterday, I wish you a belated Happy Thanksgiving. It has been a really challenging year for so many of us and yet there is still so much to be grateful for...

Thank you for being here,

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Pas si simple

I understand.

It is not so easy, pas si simple, as to say that when I woke this morning there was a bank of fog so thick that I could not see the road ahead while walking the dogs...and then, the sun broke through to burn the brouillard away.

Perhaps you don't want to hear that right now, you are far too angry; or maybe you are dying to...just a little reassurance, fingertips to pat the top of your hand as your Grandmother once did. And then there are those who might raise their chins victoriously, certain that is exactly what happened.

Save that I am not talking in metaphors.

Or only partially.

In my daily life, I am often cotton cocooned in confusion. It is overwhelming being back in France on so many levels, especially after such a challenging yet undeniably fruitful eight months in the States. There has been elation and disappointment alike. I don't know exactly what I want or how long I will be here, which means that I have no idea what lies ahead.

 But so many of us are feeling this way. Not everything is personal.

I talked the dogs up the steps and onto the green to peer into formless knowing, the humidity dewing my cheek, dotting my eyelids. Noses to the ground, they found their way. 

In this new alone, I have to remember that I am not.

Because we just have to keep going. And by so doing, shining out light to burn away all that is obscuring our view. You know what light that is. I do too. The one that is not - not now, not ever - fueled by fear.

The sun did come out. And everything was clear. In that moment. Of course I am oversimplifying and nothing is so simple anymore. But that doesn't mean that I am hiding my gaze or turning solitary contrary just yet. No. I will fight for joy or beauty when I can get it and I want out of this confusion. So,

My eyes are open and they speak for me.

Still here, still here, still here.

I will take the postcards and the reality too. Simple is a (even if temporary) balm and only a very few of us can actually see ahead. "The only way past is through," on repeat. It is a start.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Respite by the sea

On the edge of the Mediterranean Sea, I walked until the wind became louder than my thoughts and I was delivered, like palming an egg gently, to a moment of grace.

For the feelings that had been rising and falling were shimmering with too much intention to be swallowed without question, even with salt lining my lips to taste.

Heart and mind were wrestling somewhere up with the gods.


So I gave my worry to the sea.

And watched the dogs run, filling up instead on their unending joy.

They explored with nothing in front of their noses beyond that simple promise of being.

Nodding, I remembered. Tenuously but with tenacity, love is there.

It is so simple to be connected.

While Kipling chased the gulls, Ben and I took in the approach of the waves.

That is what pure means to me, to trust with the tide.

It was my choice beyond choosing, whispering true.


But I am far from that certainty in this moment, humbly confused, as the fear hydra keeps raising her ugly heads repeatedly until I am nauseated from the ducking. The lessons keep presenting themselves.

Today, I want to wriggle out of my skin, to be back in that freedom of absolute beauty... I will try instead to sit still and be present, calling on the respite I know is possible...

à tout is here.

Sending Peace and Strength to the States especially (please vote if you have not already) along with a fair dose of prayers for good measure,
Thank you so much for being a part of this community,