Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The year in perspective

Please click on each picture individually to see clearly.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

The fourth day of celebrations

Stand by Me

A gift of music arrived from Helen this morning and although Rob had already shown me this video, I thought I'd include a link for those of you who haven't seen it. 

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The third celebratory day

We are celebrating Christmas is our small French village. Near midnight last night, we walked through the town - Gill danced - and saw not a soul though flashing lights and a few plastic Santas trying to climb in windows made us feel Christmasy. 

Strange it was Rob who felt saddest about our no-gift rule this year. And it did feel sad though liberating - no flurry and worry about trying to find the perfect present - but Michael broke the rule (Bren too but his gift will arrive late) and it was quite lovely to have his thoughtful presents and messages under the tree - and then wake in the morning to unwrap his perfect surprises. 

While those I love sleep and hopefully dream sweet dreams in North America, I have just put a squash in the oven for our noon feast. (Kate you must be up too - hope your little ones are happy and give you peace today.) 

Soon I must think of New Year resolutions... I feel next year will bring great change. 

For now, here's my communal Christmas card. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Five Days of Celebrations

My family is rather extraordinary. From the 23rd of December to the 27th,
we celebrate each day for a different reason.

On the first day, we celebrate a sister's birthday:

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Once again

For some reason this picture will not enlarge when you click on it so I'm trying once again. 

Tis the Season

There is so much I would like to say but somehow can't bring myself to speak about, at this time - perhaps because there is so much to be thankful for - good friends who love poetry and books, who wine us and dine us. One generous couple let us take the top of a tree from their garden and gave us a pet cloth snake, aptly named Mr. Boa C Draftblocca as he lies by the door and keeps the cold out. (I keep slipping and calling him Mr. Boa Draftdodger.) 


We had two of Gill's friends with us for a week, Robyn and Brandon, who left for Paris yesterday. They were an easy-going, helpful, vibrant young couple who had been on the road for three or four weeks and were happy to do little , catch up on their laundry and reading, and entertained us with tales of their travels. 

Now the house is quiet and today I've tried to catch on my correspondence - not quite - and clean a few rooms. 

   (remember to double click on pictures)

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Simple Pleasures

Monday, December 08, 2008

C'est la vie

My daughter leads me to the bar this cool, crisp morning. (On the way, we stop at the Patisserie for 2 pain aux raisons.) We greet Mark, the owner, find a table at the back and order a cafe creme and tea. 

The French language surrounds us. Rapid and undecipherable though Gill understands all that is said. She tells me that my grammar is better than hers but what use is good grammar if I don't understand the responses to my questions. Still I survive.

I survive in this little village. Survive. Is that what I want? To survive pure and simple? Part of me thinks no I want more than survival. I want pleasure. Another part says why not? You're alive. You're here in the south of France not saddled with responsibility - just debt. 

My thoughts are muddled. I just want to live a good life. And I want more time - a dozen years, at the least. Two dozen would be even better. But no matter how much time I have left, I feel that I had better get started on what I want to do with the rest of my days.

I see this is a shift in my thinking. A sign of aging? Carolyn Heilbrun wrote that middle age is the best age. Old enough to know that time is finite. Young enough to be physically capable of realizing dreams - like climbing a mountain, cycling through Italy, writing a book. I figure that I'm near the end of middle age. I'd better get a move on...

After Patrick's, Helen's mother, David Lee's death... and today after learning of Wenda's brother's death, dying is on my mind. Death. I have no words. Why do I weep? The tears flowed at Patrick's wake when really I have only seen the man once in twenty years. And yet, I loved him. But those who have shared his life before and since I knew him, their stories reminded me of what a sweet man he was, how he touched me. I remember one morning, when Rob and I had just started living together and Patrick arrived early to pick him up for work. I sat up in bed when the door opened. In my bleary morning eyes, I saw Patrick stick his head around the door and remember his words: "Oh Yvonne, you even look good in the morning." 

Death. C'est la vie. I have had such a hard time lately finding words to express my thoughts. Gill helps. She wants to write with me and so we write. Why is it, I ask her, that it is easier to do something for someone else than one's self? 

I ordered and received the other day "Times Alone: Selected Poems of Antonio Machado" translated by Robert Bly. Marlene introduced me to the poet, to his lines "Last night, as I was sleeping,/ I dreamt - marvellous error! -/ that I had a beehive/ here inside my heart./ And the golden bees/ were making white combs/ and sweet honey/ from my old failures."

So many poems in this collection are about dreams and death.

   Like Anacreon,
I want to sing, and to laugh, and to throw
to the wind
the sophisticated sarcasms, and the sobering proverbs.

   And I want even more to get drunk -
you know about it - bizarre!
A true faith in dying, a thin joy,
strange dancing a little ahead of time. 


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Gilly arrives in France

Our long-legged high-heeled lovely loving daughter arrived last night near midnight. I embraced her, talked for minute, and then had to crawl back into bed. The bug that kept me prone for two days running, lingers, refuses to leave me alone though yesterday I worked all day, cleaning and organizing so that I could spend time with my baby.

I awoke at seven this morning, made a coffee, and climbed up the stairs to the second floor. Her door was open. Unable to sleep, she was sitting at the white desk that looks out a window to the green garden across the narrow road, writing in a journal.  "Everything is so luxurious," she tells me. "From the light switches beside the bed to the motion-activated light in the hall to the elegant bathtub with tap that allows you to set the temperature of the water." 

I was worried that she wouldn't like the changes as she had said that everything was perfect the way it was. No, she says. "The house is perfect now. All the little things that I didn't like are gone." 

Sigh of relief. I worry that in my desire to do things right in this home that I have gone too far. I want only what I find beautiful. I have adopted my eldest son's philosophy. Live without until you can find or afford what pleases you.

We talk for a hour or so and then Gill, who has only been able to sleep a couple of hours after her long flight, goes back to bed.  I come down to my office, content to have her here.