July 15, 2008

Gaby Joly

We headed off through the night, up the mountainous path past Grenoble to Entrevaux, where Gaby (Xavier's aunt) lives. Gaby has nothing of value. Nothing. This fact is clear when you approach her tiny and distressed bungalow of a house, high in the mountains of Southern France (above). She sits there, at her ramshackle table, in that picturesque place, with her nothing that is so much - with her smile and her laughter (she is constantly the source of raucous laughter - she is currently in pursuit of a career as a clown). Gaby may have nothing, but she takes nothing and makes it beautiful. Look.

It is like a perfectly styled "shabby chic," French Provence catalogue spread, except this is real and made from the remnants of other people's unwanted things. Throughout the year, she collects all the scraps of left-over candle wax and then at Christmas, melts it all together and creates strange-shaped candles in half-tipped over glasses (to dry crooked) as presents.

While at her house, we had two great meals at tables full of people Gaby loves - her children and grandchildren, all there to visit, to sleep in tents where the house was too full and to soak in Gaby.

The morning we left, Gaby woke up early to offer us breakfast (the traditional simple French breakfast of bread with jam - homemade by Gaby, hot chocolate, coffee) and to be with us before we took off. We spoke about the members of Xavier's family, her animals (cats and kittens all over, and her rooster who thinks that she is his mother hen and needs to be tucked in at night in order to sleep), about how she loves winter in the mountains of Provence at her little house, heated only by a wood stove and the crunch of the snow under her feet outside. And then, as we were leaving, Gaby wanted to give us something. She told me to follow her out to her field of lavender, and she cut an entire plant's blooming stocks for us to take, wrapped in newspaper and twine.

Here is the original "La Poule," Matao, who comes from Gaby.

Here are Laetitia (Gaby's daughter) and her boyfriend, Sylvain.

In his little chair positioned behind Gaby's house, Sylvain played his guitar to the mountains.

1 comment:

Mary Elizabeth Liberty said...

Ram and I are loving all these photos, we just went through Entrevaux a couple weeks back, should have debarked the train there! Hard not to fall in love a bit with that country after all this eh?

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