Friday, September 20, 2013

Falling in love again -- Crillon le Brave

It started with Remi suggesting that we go on a picnic. Now, I know a bit of him after twelve years, not all--thankfully--and could sense that there was something not at all random going on. By now, I know well to just let the explorer explore, for he has an infallible instinct. And so, packed up and armed with paté, we drove an hour north until we were at the base of Mount Ventoux.

We lunched, we drank a bit of wine, we took a nap. And then the secret was revealled: Remi wanted to take a looksee at the village above, Crillon le Brave.

Was the charm immediate?

Evidently it was.

As we rounded each corner, giving way to a different bit of lovely more glorious than the last, I sighed.

And waved a little hello at our picnic spot in the valley below (follow the road to the intersection of vines on the left, olive groves on the right, under the big tree).

Surprisingly, for such an utter patch of bijouterie, there were still corners untouched...

...But oh there were secret signs that Crillon le Brave was most definitely appreciated by a certain few.

Remi and I know Provence...quite well, I would say and yet this discovery reminded me of another and knocked me breathless. 

Literally! I was snapping like a mad turtle to the point of hyperventilation so there will be more to come...

Until then, yep, follow that good light, the one that makes you happy and have a fantastic weekend.

To listen to:

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Rain shroud

I love the luxury of other. A pool-ball click to change your track and send you sprawling, groundless into unhewn ground.

So it is for me with rain since living in Provence, the sunny South of France, where folks flock from around the world just to soak in a nearly 365 big bolt of blue. Can you imagine that it can be tiresome to have that same ceiling perpetually overhead, no matter how stunning the view? It can. 

And so I delighted in wrapping myself in a rain shroud during our recent trip to the safari tent. Up in the mountains where air can fog to trip up and fall down. We had just returned from a hike where at one point we were so deep in the woods that I was awaiting to bubble pop into Narnia, when the skies thundered an announcement over the PA that we would not, actually, be straying from the tent at any point today save for two highly ambitious hoverings over the barbecue.

Droplets pelted the tent roof like clacking typewriter keys, writing new stories.

It was such a climate shift that I felt a little lost and nearly nervous. So I just listened. And watched. Until I started to enjoy this land-fall swimming enough to turn Automatic Pilot off with a mindful fingernail flick.

There is freedom in such pounding rain when you have no where that you have to go and no how that you have to be.

Just to listen to rough music, so sweet to the mind.

Mes sincères remerciements to the exceptionally talented:
for inspiring me in general and today's post in particular.

Monday, September 16, 2013

A secret courtyard

The exhibition before the exhibition was filling up rather quickly.

 And while I do have a very special attachment to the Chapelle des Trinitaires, as it is where Remi and I had our thunderbolt "we should live here" moment, I felt a little lost amidst the bisous of acquaintances and the getting caught up after summer banter. 

However, I was delighted by an old image of the Antique Theatre, taken at the beginning of the renovation process, so late in the game, time-speaking. How much, nearly all of this grand structure had been pillaged. Stone to stone to be somewhere else, something else entirely after the fall of the Roman Empire and the trumpet's blare arrival of Christianity in Arles. We build up, we tear down, we build again, we move on.

My friend Christine touched my arm and zapped me out of my reverie. We continued along the panels depicting the efforts to support the blue vein of Heritage running through Arles until we stumbled upon a small door opening out of the church...

...and into a courtyard. Remi came to join us, echoing our smiles in his discovery. Somehow, in the very center of town, we had fallen into an unknown place. And yet, apparently not so secret after all as a restaurant that I had dismissed as "for unwitting tourists" had many a table awaiting under the fairy lights. "It is quite decent actually, très correcte," Christine nodded. "We should go one day for lunch." 

I took in this nearly imaginary corner with a gulp. The massive, over-laden pear tree with such beautiful fruit tumbled in the grass, the many layers of centuries shifting the architecture of the chapel with adds and minuses plus one very fortunate terrace overlooking it all with drying sheets flapping through what were once medieval windows. To my left, down a short flight of stairs was a side entry to the Hôtel Dieu, the hospital where Vincent Van Gogh was treated. Did he walk in this secret garden too? 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Remi and Saint Cesaire

The rays of the sun's late glow drew us towards the cloister of the Saint Trophime Cathedral. 

The air bubbled with excitement for it was the vernissage or opening for the new exhibition Sur le pas de Saint Césaire.

Fifteen hundred years ago, the Pope offered Caesarius of Arles the first pallium (a long scarf denoting high rank) given to a Western bishop. The exhibition was organized to celebrate this special anniversary and featured not only various relics...

...but also the child-sized sarcophagus in which his remains were hidden for years. Caesarius or Césaire in French was elected bishop in 502 AD and rose to eminence based on an ideology centered on the guiding force of love, austerity and creating lasting bonds of peace--this despite frequent attacks by the Visigoths and Franks during his 39 year tenure. He established the first monastery for women in Gaul and was considered "the leading ecclesiastical statesmen and spiritual force of his age."

Also according to citations in Wikipedia, Césaire dreamed of "an expanding, world-embracing, world-uniting society." It is fascinating, isn't it? Little wonder that his faithful followers did all that was necessary to protect his remains through wars and the Revolution, moving them to different locations each time they were deemed at risk. 

His tunic and the pallium were finely restored over a two-year period by Anastasia Ozoline, who is the director of the committee for the exhibition as well as it's scenographer.

It was she who contacted my companion, Remi Benali, to ask if he would be willing to contribute several of his photographs to help illustrate the areas of Arles where Césaire is most present today. There was definitely something of the "meant to be" in the circumstances of his meeting this lovely woman, who glows with goodwill. He happily accepted.

It was a delight to watch the crowds flow through the exhibition, listening to the phenomenal explanations by Jean-Maurice Roquette, whose bounding knowledge and discourse belies little of his 83 years of age...

Eyes darted down then up, quickly taking in the context. Whispers flowed like little rivers.

I felt a surge of pride...

...and I was not the only one!

Many of the prominent local historians and politicians were in attendance (as well as the Queen of Arles and a member of her court). While the official speeches rolled on, we eyed the awaiting buffet laid out in a side wing of the cloister...

...but chose to climb up to the upper walkway to take in great gulps of the cool autumn air.

How fortunate that we have this cloister, which rings with a deep peace as loudly as the bells in the cathedral's tower that rises above it.

We all took turns... falling into the silence of a calm heart.

Another day ended, another moon rising. One to reflect the memory of a fore-founder of peace that crossed these streets so many years ago. May something of his spirit live on...

from September 12th to October 31st
The St. Trophime Cloister, Arles

Have a wonderful weekend everyone. May it take flight! 

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The last miles

I am curled up like a cat, listening to the motor's hum. We have been on the road for nearly three hours and are in the last miles until Arles. Slightly compulsively, I have taken to counting the minutes to keep time from outsmarting me with taffy pulling trickery. For each moment seems longer than the last as the mountains shrink from hills to plains until I know that I am not ready to go home or even that where we live is not really our home--something I have a tendency to forget--but rather where we are. 

So we roll along, a portable family, together but silent. Before I can sink into an easy sadness, Madame Nature, who has so bedazzled me in the past few days, takes pity on me and gives me one last gift. She rolls out the black clouds with the snap of a cape, pushing the sunset down to the horizon, wiping clean all in its path. I half close my eyes and let the blur warm me past my heart, down to my toes. 

The exit for Arles is fast approaching. I fidget and bite my lip, wondering what is next.

My heart goes out to the families and friends of the victims of the terror attack twelve years ago today. Your loved ones walked their last miles in honor, now may they be at peace.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Running from the bulls

We have run from the bulls of the September Feria and returned to the safe haven of the safari tent in the Haut Languedoc. The puppers sniff through the woods by day and we dive in the galactic waters of The Milky Way each night. A gift? We have pretty much no internet. The best gift? We are going through Noise Detox and it feels sublime.

Have a wonderful weekend...

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

The jangle of time's keys

"Produits du paysans!!" I point and yell with the glee of a willful child that has just won the final round of "I spy" during an exceedingly long car trip. After catching his startled breath, Remi swings the Range Rover over to the side of the road. We are in need of supplies, red wine namely and where better to procure them than a shop offering "Peasant products" (oh all right, that is the literal translation but I couldn't resist).  Remi dives under the yellow awning, a tiny bell rings as he opens the door and I step out to stretch. We are in Lodève, unexplored territory, on our way to rent a safari tent in the Haut Languedoc region. The dogs are panting in the back so I pop the hatch to give them some fresh air and ruffle the fur on top of their Golden heads. 

Proper scratchies take time and so I let my gaze wander while my fingers do the work. As luck would have it, we have pulled up in front of an impressive and mysterious building. Closed, abandoned? No. There is a bright green metal mailbox tacked to the side of giant wooden entry doors like a sparrow on a rhino's back. The something something Archeological Society. Hm. 

I tilt my head up and up to take in a stone portico, sober and sobering. This must have been a church before and for quite some time by the looks of...what?...the details. As if stepping in to a darkened room, my eyes adjust and I see them. The oddly placed numbers carved into the planks, a connect the dot code of a lost language. It is no less secretive than a barely legible chalk scrawl..."il faut a les..." no, I can't make it out. What is it that we "had to do" here? Something before entering? A warning not to enter?

I pull myself a part from the dogs to run my fingers in and out of the swiss cheese holes of what once must have been smooth stone. How very long it must have taken for that to happen. How very long for the paint to chip and then be painted over and chip again. Rust has oxidized around the locks but not enough to close them off. They are still open and waiting. As I touch them, I can hear the jangle of time's keys approaching and soon.

The tinkle of the bell pulls me out of my reverie and I see Remi laughing over his shoulder as he says his merci's and aurevoir's, a characteristic I love about him, always with a kind word. We pull away but before the adventure continues, I take one last look at the nameless, faceless building, one that becomes more so by the minute with distance until it resembles a blank slate of nothing. And yet I know it's tiny secrets and feel quietly reassured by having read through their layers like Braille. "On and on and on, we keep going," they whisper. I listened. I nod. I know.

Today's post is for the September issue of the By Invitation Only International blog party. 

This month's theme is "patina," a subject close to my heart. While I have the good fortune to live amongst spectacular scars and beauty marks that portray two thousand years of history in Arles, I thought that this doorway of a forgotten church in a forgotten town conveyed the essence of what patina means to me  as well.

To discover the other fine entries--and I am sure that there will be wonderful takes on such a gorgeous subject--by all means...Please click here.

I am especially excited that the incredibly talented and lovely Penelope Bianchi is joining the group, now in it's third year. To see her contribution...Please click here.