The Beauty of Change

IMMERSION!

‘Twas grand.

Living in Montanel, has given us a vast tapesty of life experience we would not ever have touched.

But now that home in France is completely anchored for us, our children and grandchildren, both Liam and I have shifted yet again; actually fulfilling the bigger picture of what we sought to create in the first place.

We always wanted ‘one foot on each continent’ but not realizing what we asked for, we got just that.

Liam is back in our beloved Pacific Northwest following his passion for radio journalism with great joy. And I have finally turned my focus back to the joys of my heart: home and family.

Since embarking on the Mayflower of our lives, the family has expanded! Grown! There are grandchildren to consider! Family dinners to cook! Doors to dust and open!

With one foot there, and the other  in the fields of Normandy,  I will be working with the groundbreaking launch of our boutique tours in France: http://www.lightoffrancetours.com for those with a similar penchant …

You can look there for that information.

In the meantime, we  will share our garden & home in  France with family and friends, in the summer.

As we can, we will continue to carve out precious times to share with you on/from both sides of the pond: our family & friends,  those we meet and greet along the way ~ we who love travel, the diversity of foreign cultures, the expanded global family, buying and renovating property abroad (once is enough) and last but not least, we who are lovers of France, look forward to meeting you here.

à bientôt!

Toussaint

It starts earlier in the month than you would think … once the page turns to October, the French begin to consider coming home to pay annual respect at the family cemetery for All Souls or All Saints Day.

For us as Americans, Halloween.

My first experience of it was after two rugged weeks of Work.
I had planned to close the arduous with the sublime, and I booked a room at the Trianon Palace, which of course backs up to the gardens of Versailles, summer chateau of Marie Antoinette.

I was there for a few days prior to the 31st, and then, that day, had a taxi take me into Paris.

La périphérie, going into to the city was empty. It was hard to miss, mainly because of the contrast — the opposite direction, leading OUT, was in a painful standstill, five rows across, snaking along patiently …

I asked my driver WHAT was going on?
I’d not ever seen la périphérie EMPTY!
And where were THEY all going?

The soft, smug, proud smile … Ah, Madame, it is TOUSSAINT.
Everyone leaves the city today, to  be with their family for the weekend.

I had no French. The word Toussaint was completely foreign to me, but I did the math.

People were going home to visit the graves of their ancestors, to eat at the table together, to be family.

By the THOUSANDS.

Here in our 250 year old village townhouse on the Normandy/Brittany border, we are directly across from the village church.

Yes; that does mean church bells — and it also means le cimetière.

It has been such the bird’s eye view into an area of life I had not ever experienced.

It’s actually pretty difficult to immerse yourself in a foreign culture, and not see their traditions.

Unless you want that.

To take it in, to watch the gentility of the tradition emerge day after day …

The stonemason who is in the hardware store standing in line at the END of his day, at this the END of the month, the LAST DAY POSSIBLE to get the crysanthymums for the family grave — does he show up?

Bien sûr.

The family who are waiting in the village of their generations-deep family for their relatives to come home?

Are they ready?

Bien sûr.

The elder gentleman wearing his beret, cane to the side as he ponders, bends and scrubs the stone of his life … the widow, in her house frock, not anyone you’d want to get on the wrong side of, digs into the nooks and crannies … the grown children of, now married and subdivided, all come in suit jackets or work jumpers with scrub brushes, buckets and rags every year to make sure the family’s name is polished bright and laden with the loving memory flowers impart.

The cimetière turns into a park of every color where old friends meet and catch up, where children are always brought along to instill the tradition year after year after year, and where together, they reflect and pray.

Then there is the all-consuming advance of the west …
In years past, there were no children here in our village.

No commerce, no schools, is not enticing for family life.
But people more and more are commuting farther and farther, to work, and then be able to come home to the gifts of country living.

We now have three children here in one family in particular, who have befriended me. They know I am an American. They come around on their bikes a few times a week and always insist on practicing their English with me — so we do play!

Toc, toc, toc … last year I was caught unawares, and was mortified!
There they were, all dressed up in costume…and there I was, in culture shock.

This year I was ready … toc, toc, toc … I opened the door, and voila.

They really didn’t quite know what to do.

I will have to teach them the phrase ‘trick or treat’.

Imagine, knocking on someone’s door, it opens, and candy goes into your sac.
Their noses led their heads into the sac, behind the drop, amazed that they had scored.
That HAS to be revelatory.

All they know, is to say ‘merci’.

But they are getting the hang of it quickly.

Given there are only 3 kids here in our tiny village, we had a pretty high turnout…..

Life in Motion

I’ve not posted in a while, for a couple of reasons…one is it’s easy to briefly post on FB but it doesn’t hold the content, and two is I’ve begun a new blog for our incredible journey with the lightoffrancetours.com, and that does a similar bend to what this does.

 

But what I’ve realized, is this is personal; among family and friends, and FB just doesn’t cut it.

So I am going to re-start posting here, NOT link it to FB, but pull a line for FB friends who are truly friends, so they can have the clue, there is a new post!

Onward.

It’s a beautiful HOT July evening here, the garden is in splendor, the sun is setting with a rose sky, the swallows are finally settling down for the night (they DO love the heat), and the windows are all open for the sweetness of this night’s air…

I’ll post tomorrow about goings on to share with our dearhearts here.

Sweet dreams,

Ani

Vierville sur Mer

 Omaha Beach

Vierville sur Mer
As it has always looked.

Tall stone walls of sun-bleached creme
Bending with each turn in the road
Urging one on.

Point du Hoc
As it has always been

Before
The darkness
Rest assured of itself,
Left bereft of life, the living.

What that this force does with our humanity;
Usurps the Soul
Morsel by brutal bleeding morsel
Until it breaks the spine of Spirit dwelling there.
Lets It swing from rafters
Dead to Mothers,
Lovers,
Children all.

St Mere Eglise
As it has always stood,
Today like any other
But for the thin veil
That breathes its fabric
Between the worlds
And gives rise
To not just the living memory
Of the fallen
But to the Ineffable;
Ever present,
The unending sorrow
And blinding light.

Ten thousand of my sons came that day
Braced to die.

Just that day alone.
Here.

Fused by Spirit unbroken,
Could do nothing but press on.

They fought.
They died.

There is but one light in us all.
It shines
Eternal in this soil, the sea,
And in time immemorial
With we
As witness
That it will not ever happen again.

And yet it does.

The Glows of our Lives

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The summer and autumn were full of finishing projects — to glow.

What you’ll enjoy most is the work you didn’t have to do!

With blood, sweat and tears, Liam busted his ass and brought out of the dark into the light of day, incredible spaces.

Then we took a break for a day of roaming in Normandy, from the cornucopia at the Cathedral of Coutances, to chasing the bread wagon delivery (avec un cheval).

We are wrapping up autumn in its final days  of November, keeping the fire lit, and awaiting the first cold frost, and family at home in France, for Christmas:)

Enjoy!

La Toussaint

One day in France,  I departed the hotel of my dreams in Versailles, to return to Paris.

There is a corridor main road between Paris and Versailles off the peripherique (the circle/ring road around Paris) that brings commuters to and fro day in and day out.

The taxi driver was flying along. The roads into Paris were absolutely empty.

Unheard of.

I looked across the barrier to the traffic going in the opposite direction, and it was standing still, bumper to bumper thick. The roads leading south, out of Paris were jammed and not moving.

So, I asked him, “What’s going on?” He smiled quietly and said, “Madame, it is La Toussaint. It is one of the biggest holy/holidays in France. Everyone goes home to be with their family and visit those who have departed.”

Pause.

That was quite a while ago — way before I ever even considered I’d be living in France.

Here now in this life, we live in a small village across from the village church. Every year for weeks leading up to La Toussaint, the French come and tend the graves of their families. They bring buckets, brushes and rags. They soap up and scrub down the polished marble stones…they talk out loud to their dear ones…they pray…they reflect…and they visit their neighbors who happen to be there at the same time doing the same thing.

The last week before La Toussaint, the entire cemetiere becomes  a park of living color. The families come home, eat together, visit and laugh, pay their respects,  ponder life and living, and those who have departed.

They teach their children to do the same; generations come together…Cars roll by one after the other, parking in front of the houses, walking a block to the church, all with huge plants of mums and asters in full bloom, leaving them as gifts to mark the last year turning into the next.

Then there is Ireland…where Toussaint is marked and cherished as well…

‘Druids, chanting, fires and mulled wine on a hill top overlooking all  of the county, we are pitch black in our wellies, in the wind and cold.

It’s lit up with candles and fires..

We start off from the village green and walk up to the base of the hill, about a 1-mile walk in a candle lit procession.  We climb the hill led by Druids chanting.

It is fantastic looking forward to it.

It’s the only time of the year when you feel closer to those who have died; it’s the time when the veil is the thinnest between the living and the dead. You feel as if they are all around you. It’s a  magical place at any time of the year…and we are so lucky to live near it.’

Here it is, the 1st of November. Our life is full but always filling.

Just celebrated my 60th birthday with a fine dining experience in the countryside of Brittany. So my reflections of this past year are of pages turning in the book of life; chapters closing, chapters opening. Softly, gently, like breath itself.

It feels like New Year’s is supposed to feel but it is La Toussaint:)

I’ve reflected and witnessed chapters being absolutely ‘done’…on friends that have come, and gone…on my response to the changes; a constant mantra to what has gone before — ‘may the wind be always at your back.’

I’ve found myself saying this more than once this year. It’s a good approach; a soft and gentle one, to acknowledge what has come, what has been shared, what has been lost, and what remains.

Last night on Hallowed’s Eve in the dark of our garden, I lit a bonfire too. Ushered out the old, welcomed in the new.

Looking out today with the crisp autumn air and east morning sun?

It is brilliant and soul-filling.

Thank you, France, for being in this my life.

……………………….And thank you, Ireland, for being in this, my blood:)