November 30, 2017


I’ve been running a lot in Provence. I love to run in wild places…often where I am more likely to come across a wild boar than another human (or hunters! fluorescent shorts and hair ribbon!). I’ve made a friend in my village with whom I’ve been running for the past year or so. She is British and has lived here for almost 20 years and knows the best wild trails I now run regularly on my own as well. Up through hills and olive groves and cherry tree fields and lookouts onto the Montange Sainte-Victoire. It’s made me a bit obsessed and I ran a 15K with 1,000 ft gain last weekend with pleasure. Next I am going for the race in the Calanques between Marseille and Cassis. It provides a good excuse to get to hard-to-reach places with views to die for and light that inspires.

Wild trails near our house lead to a château down the road...still feels wild - in the winter there is never anyone around. We often run with my friend's puppies - here is beautiful Cassius.

New York

Xavier and I have started a new work project that has taken us to New York twice this month. Whirlwind trips - 3 or 4 days. The highlight, of course, was seeing my two brothers who live in the city. And running in Central Park.

New York has enjoyed a protracted autumn this year, the leaves all still in glory in the park. With jet lag I was ready for a run before 5am and had to wait hungrily for some light. I ran with my brother Stephen one morning. We talked about the USA and the blustering political and cultural mess. I have this gnawing feeling that my culture is sick. Sick in a profound way and it makes me hesitant to even want to be there. I read the news from our village in Provence and feel a sense of incredulity. So, it was refreshing to go back and recognize the city and the people and the cultural forces that I hold dear. All the best parts. Looking at the faces on the subway, in the park, the city - people from every imaginable place and circumstance all jumbled together. It was so reassuring. Stephen made the good point that the cultural counteraction - bringing to light the pervasiveness of sexual harassment, etc is probably in direct response to the current forces at work. There is good coming of it.

And the city through the lens of Central Park is so fine.

November 16, 2017

Île des Embiez

I like pulling out a big paper map of Provence and the Côte d'Azur, tracing the coast to find any inlet or island I've not considered. We set out for Île des Embiez recently as a result. Almost at our fingertips. I pinch myself every time we do one of these day trips; this region is so densely packed with haven after haven. The more time we spend, the more I also appreciate that ability to go to each off-season. (I wouldn't go near this island in July or August).

We drove to Six-Fours-les-Plages and found the ferry boat that crosses to the island every hour. We hiked around the very small island (part of the Paul Ricard islands; he is buried here) and found a steep path down to a splendid looking beach - right up against a cliff wall. We sat on the rocks and had a picnic, considering the clear, turquoise water below. Then, despite it being the end of October, we all spent time splashing in it.

Marguerite, Colette and Romy climbed up the rock face and the little girls begged Marguerite to help navigate their steps down. I dislike saying no and 'be careful,' preferring to let them do things that seem precarious to them. Even to fall a bit. Sometimes we bridle Romy because she is totally undaunted by fear. Colette is naturally very cautious, thinking of all the potential effects of any action. Marguerite naturally falls in middle and guides both.

We all went down to the water and climbed on the rocks. I love how naturally industrious kids are. Marguerite and Colette had soon found purpose - gathering rocks of a specific size out on a rock island in the water. Back and forth with energy, rippling the jewel colored water with their tummies.

I had a short swim and then made my way along the sharp coast of rocks to explore. I came upon this swimming hole. It was something out of a dream. My feet for scale.

I would say we will be back, but there are so many places along the shore I want to explore!

November 15, 2017


I like catching them in their moments of reflection and abandon. Little niches of the house, inside and out.

Or just their traces...

November 13, 2017


Our olive trees this year weren’t overflowing, but we did have a respectable batch of beautiful, thumb-size fruit hanging there. No one else had much gumption for harvesting them, so I decided one day that I was going to fill a few baskets myself and bring them to the olive moulin of our village. I climbed up the middle of the trees, their branches low and forked. The olives came loose easily, but after one tree I realized how much work I was in for, and meticulous work too.

Marguerite, Colette, Romy and our au pair came out to join me for a bit. They sang and teased more than they picked and soon I was alone again (not true of our au pair, she helped with a proper basket). I pulled out the ladder to get the high bits. It was physical work - intense. I ended up with 30 kilos in two baskets.

I drove them to the mill. The owners congratulated me on the quality of the olives - said they were beautiful. They told me to dump them into a huge bin of mixed olives. I paused with my baskets. I didn’t really want to mix them with all the others. All of my hard work! They explained that once I had gathered 300 kilos of olives, they would press them separately for us. This time they weigh them, mix them in and give us the cooperative’s mixed oil (made from olives from trees all over our town). I stayed to watch the process as they were pressing some of the olives. They press everything, the pit and all in this rather beautiful and very simple process. Next year: ten times the work and we will have our very own olive oil, de Mondésir.

November 8, 2017

Wild things

Every chance I get I take the girls out. We find ourselves alone in wild places; they are all around here. We remark on the bumpy lumps of the field of wheat that has just been churned up by a farmer. We watch fall stain the leaves of the vineyards red and orange and amber. We stand outside in the mistral wind and let it swell in and out of our ears; we yell to hear each other. The wind charges into our bodies. We squint to see.

I watch them run together in an alley of sycamore trees - the symbol of the south of France.

And all under a Provence sky.

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