June 30, 2017


Life seems to be made of the right stuff for us at present. It is a good mix of exploration, girls, play and sunshine.

1, 2, 3 soleil - a favorite. Best played while still in pajamas, despite it being time for the goûter.

Tea party galore. Little polka-dot suitcase with a dinette that has occupied these two every day since Colette's birthday (good gift, papa Joly). They rotate being queen, princess and twin. They take the cushions from the outdoor chairs and set a place for all. Serving up dirty water and caillous (gravel) from the garden, sprinkling in flower petals, mint and rosemary - all freshly picked.

Making soup

Garden bounty. Pears - a sweet little pear Jean-Marie (former owner) praised on our first tour of the house. Now we've tasted them! La Poire de Saint Jean (~June 23)

And apricots! In two days time, I consumed at least 75 straight off the tree

A little papa coiff-ing/bookshop on the couch

Morning legs

End of the day light - summers days end this way perpetually. Souse me in this, such a luxury

Performances! Our grand ballerina, Mademoiselle Marguerite, performing at the UNESCO theater in Paris. She is a true talent - hovering over her peers and just as graceful as can be

Colette's school performance, dancing away with the other children of our Provence village. So sweet. Smiling so wide watching her.

Who needs a swimming pool when you have a plastic tub

Little Romy dreamily watching the falling rain. When it rains in Provence it comes down in sheets. Just incredible to watch. Romy is only this quiet when she is observing something in nature. And Colette has been conducting a broad survey on lightning. "Have you ever been struck by lightning? Do you know anyone who has been?" (She remains riveted by events in the natural disaster realm)

Fountains remain a magnetic force for these two

Street performers too. The streets of Aix remain a magnetic force for me

Puppies in Provence! A good friend of mine has 10 puppies! The girls and I went to visit and Colette was deep in love - those eyes

Singing in the rain. Witches on brooms. Raindrops on bare skin. Abandon

Walk down the lane with trusty basket

Emptying pebbles out of slippers next to village fountain. Non potable, but water everywhere

Good news! Madame Maîtresse's fears about Colette's style of writing gone - Colette was awarded "I know how to hold my pencil correctly" in her end-of-year evaluation. Phew!

And baskets of doudous and animals

June 26, 2017

Swarms of nature

The other day we heard an intense buzzing sound - like a swarm of a thousand bees. And that was it. A swarm. They had chosen one of our big plane trees in front of our house for their new hive. For 30 minutes I thought we were being attacked - a thick cloud of bees above our heads. Lines of bees in geometric stripes up and down the camouflage trunk of the tree, leading to the hole where they were installing their new home. And then it was over and just a few bees were left buzzing around. They are all just inside there. We just stood there watching, amazed.

We read up on 'swarming' - the scout bees who come in advance and find the right location, the quorum of bees who agree on the spot and then the grand move with the queen.

Every day we are thick in nature. I am so happy for that. The girls wade through flowers and watch bees and beetles and lizards and toads. They find cicada skins and Colette describes their molting process (with finesse en français). Coming here, it is what I wanted most for them. It is everywhere, but we've found a spot where nature comes through really strong.

June 25, 2017

Ile de Ré

I headed to Ile de Ré to meet my brother, who was there doing a photo shoot. The place had long been on my list - Parisien friends all rave about the island and its natural beauty. Best was finding Stephen there.

I arrived and rented a bike to head out and explore. Stephen and I planned to meet up that night after he had finished his shoot. I took a ride along a coastal path and wheeled into charming Loix: deep-toned shutters against starch-white houses, high contrast. Hollyhocks in doorways, popping up and lining every wall. So much force in those plants. Cycling down a center village street I suddenly heard a familiar voice calling out my name. Stephen! He was walking back after lunch. "That looks like my sister," he said to a colleague. We laughed and celebrated seeing each other for a minute, then walked together back to the shoot location. I got a peek at the beauty. We hugged goodbye til later and I headed out for more exploration.

Perhaps most remarkable on Ile de Ré is the tide. The island transforms under its dominion. Riding back along the same coastal path, I found myself wondering if I had indeed taken this route earlier. Everything had been remade: the lines of the green, algae-covered oyster cages out in the sand - vanished; the small ports, where boats had been marooned in the mud - lying about in a disordered fashion, were now filled in with deep turquoise water, the boats bobbing peacefully. It had all seemed fixed, but in just a few short hours it was totally changed. Not a trace of the world that had been uncovered at low tide.

The rest of the weekend we explored together. We marveled at the movement of the water in and out.

The island is covered in salt marshes. The sauniers (salt farmers) with their long poles, raking the sherbet colored beds of salt, as they've done for hundreds of years in the same way.

Stephen and I stopped on a beach with an endless oyster farm out past the sand. Three farmers were out working in the rows, picking up and banging on the metal cages covered by emerald green algae one by one, then flipping them over. The tide was low. We talked to the farmers and asked them questions. These cages had been "seeded" four years prior; they would be ready for harvest in October of this year. I asked why they flip the cages. One of the farmers looked up and explained the oysters get tangled inside and "faire des bêtises" (make mischief - a French phrase often used when describing children). They turn them like this once a month during the four year period they are growing. "Je suis un bon papa pour mes bébés," he continued. The tide was rising around our ankles and soon grasped our calves. The window for their work was closing and the whole bed of oyster cages was swamped and soon completely covered by the ocean. Disappearing act.

We biked and hiked over the hard sand on long stretches of beach, through the salt marshes, passing horses and white swans and long water birds on delicate legs. The towns wore white with dark shutters: inhabitants in various moods, always dressed up in hollyhocks.

We rode to what might be the prettiest beach on the island: Plage de la Conche des Baleines, the lighthouse des Baleines resting on the horizon in the distance. Wide sand beaches and big rolling waves turning over the shore.

We laughed - Stephen's great gift of humor underlining the whole trip. Our neighbor on the train ride home had a difficult time veiling her smile as Stephen "spoke" French. "Trés ça va" is one of his classic lines. For a long time now he has insisted that he is Marguerite's professeur de français, producing a lot of French eye rolling and puffed out cheeks on her part. I can't wait for him to "teach" Colette and Romy some French this summer.

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