I said yes, finally.
Yes, to watching a home in the beautiful Alpilles for ten days, yes to keeping Lulu company. And it wasn't in a strange environment but in the bergerie at the Mas de la Fourbine, where I had gone to help with the olive harvest during days when I was feeling quite sad indeed.
But I had hesitated. As I still don't have a car (even if I do now know how to drive), I would be there and only there for the duration. "What if...?" Oh, there were so many versions of that question, those two words that do far more harm than good. After reassurances on all sides that I had nothing, in reality to worry about. I packed my bags so thoroughly as to include the desktop that I am typing on, was parachuted in and the workings of the house were explained over a long evening with the family's littlest trampolining on my lap...until the next day when they drove off (me, waving), then, silence.
And I mean the hear your heartbeat kind.
I had already decided that this time was a gift (as usual, I seriously underestimated the weight of it) and that I could bury my stories under a blanket and use it as a retreat. So it was. Within a day, I had settled into my own schedule to give the hours shape. Rise, tea, first meditation...walk with Lulu...
The property is full enclosed, doubly secured with even an electric fence to keep out the wild boars that are a nuisance and a menace. So Lulu could run free by my side as I would stamp the perimeter, regardless of the weather. I came in winter, whipped by the Mistral and wrapped tight in many layers and left breathing spring, lunching outside with the first dots of color lighting my cheeks. But for those walks? I took my camera. I hadn't been photographing much of anything for weeks, something my friend J noted was "not a good sign."
So I would loop the camera strap over my shoulder and walk, thinking of Thich Nhat Hanh's gentle suggestions to be aware of the breath and the footfall combing. By the time that I had reached the first farthest corner, of which there would be three, my endlessly chattering mind (yes, even when I am alone, especially so) would quiet so that I would start to notice the littlest of things as if they somehow had an electric glow around them.
At first I only found them beautiful, but eventually something stirred in my heart to lift my camera to my eye and squinting, then readjusting the settings (despite having had a good teacher, I am still a guesser in manual mode) to settle into a click. I would forget myself, forget my body; sitting in the grass to get closer until Lulu would run into the frame to kiss the side of my head. "Oh, Lulu..." She was always were I didn't want her to be but how could I mind?
Are the details I would notice important? Only to me, I believe. But that is how we live our lives, isn't it? Jumping from one seeming solid stone to the next across a river too deep. And yet it is there, who and what we love. Step by step, around the domaine until I was no longer exactly who I just had been but some other creature looking back with gratitude and tinges of relief.
I was waking up, that inner spring. And while I am still very much finding my way, from those mornings accumulated while walking with Lulu, I am trying to remember loudly the happy risk set into motion from simply saying yes.
"Yes, I see, thank you. Yes, I am...Yes."
PS. Since that time in the Alpilles, I have been living out of my suitcase quite a bit and am not always able to get back to my computer. That is definitely going to be the case for the next few weeks, at least. So I hope that you will understand if I am not as active on the blog as I would like to be, nor as responsive. I am in the midst of continuing to fight to find my place here, as I suggested above. But I am still in Provence and am so appreciative of you all that words cannot express it. I do have something rather exciting coming up, so if you are not already following along on instagram, you might enjoy seeing where I am going on @lostinarles.
Thank you for reading and for all of your kindness,