January 15, 2017
We set out for a drive to the beautiful Parc National Région de Camargue today. The Camargue region is only about an hour from our house and it feels like a different planet. Salt flats, the sea, flamingos, wild horses, tall reeds, sandbars and marshes. It is a gorgeous region. We found flamingos almost immediately and Colette and Romy shrieked, delighted. Long, reed-like legs and those necks circling around - and pink! They had only read about flamingos. We took a wild drive through the region on a dirt road. It was a very windy and cold day - the reeds dancing frantically with the wind (I wondered how the flamingos weren't cold). It was a local safari. I loved to see the wonder on little Romy's and Colette's faces.
We stopped in Sainte-Maries-de-la-Mer for lunch. The town is a beach town and is pretty much boarded up at this time of year (population swells from like 2,000 to 50,000 in the summer months). We did find a little restaurant with some locals hanging about. We also stopped in the town's church, which dates back to the 9th century. France!
January 14, 2017
January 6, 2017
A new year. Like many, I’ve been evaluating. Thinking about this past year: our move here, what life would have been like if we had stayed in New York, people we’ve met, looking forward.
Growing up, my dad would sit all eight children down for our new year resolutions every January. It was run pretty much like a meeting. We would take our journals and draw a grid, separating compartments of a life/self, setting goals for each: spiritual, physical, academic, music/art, emotional. (My parents are both remarkable people - very complete beings). My dad would even meet with us regularly to check in and gauge our progress.
I went out on a run the 1st day of the year and considered all those compartments. It is easy to get really focused on one aspect of life and neglect some of the other parts of yourself. I admire that my parents, from a very early age, encouraged us to be mindful about the whole. Our piano practicing and kind acts were as important as the grades we were getting in school.
So, thinking about my various compartments and our family I’m projecting myself forward a year. Sitting here in this house next January, what will I want to have accomplished in these coming months? I have a few ideas floating in my mind - in my agenda book. I want to crystalize those and draft some others.
Time is made of something new here for me. It is unrooted. Less tangible. Cut loose. Foreign. In New York, my days were structured by the hour and I was in continual pursuit of some specific goal. I could relate too well to the lumbering feeling of being ‘busy,’ feeling harried. Here, I let myself be carried by the season and the weather. I don’t feel overwhelmed. I feel unregulated. It animates me; I like feeling free and untethered. It feels too good to be true sometimes. I am a bit worried about it, in the sense that I don’t want time to slip away without being purposeful. So in that spirit:
I want to play more with all three girls. Run outside with them. Let Romy boss me around while cuddling under the covers in bed, pretending it is our chateau. “OK - go to sleep mama.” Then suddenly, commanding, “Sit up. Let’s talk.” My mind right there in that moment. I want to read Charlotte’s Web to Colette. I want to help Marguerite find the right scraps and materials to make her endless creations. Make them with her.
I want the girls to all smell like the wind, the ocean, the sunshine and our grass - and lavender in the summer, since we are here. The soles of their shoes filled with mud, or better, their bare feet covered in it.
I want to spend every day outside. Run/walk/hike/jump/bike/stretch/downward dog/breathe deep.
I’ve signed Colette up for piano lessons starting next week. She is so excited. A local teacher here in our village (Florence) will come - suggested by a friend whose daughter takes from her. I want to take time to teach Romy American songs. She loves singing and every song coming out of her mouth these days is a French one. Sitting down to practice music with my mother is one of my best memories with her. In a family of eight kids, it was special to have time with just her. In the first couple of months of this year I also want to learn a new Chopin Nocturne.
I want to read more printed pages/smell books. I read article after article on my phone every day. When I step back and listen to my gut, it isn’t satisfying. And yet, it has become hard to sit and read books. That feels like a pitiable confession and I dislike that I’ve let my mind become lazy in that way. Maybe it means I need to meditate. There isn’t a good excuse given the available time and freedom I have. Scrolling down to read endless news that feels surreal and disheartening (especially on the political front) isn’t a good use of time.
I want to improve my French. It is happening naturally because we live here and the reality is most of the people in our lives are French. Ten years of French means that French is one of my languages today. But, I am too careless with it. In some ways, it is a bad cultural fit for me. I am intuitive and lively in my expression, not methodical and precise. The French value the latter (they also value the former, but only when you’ve got the grammar just right). They are sticklers for articulation and grammar. I’ve come to admire it. I see Colette’s pre-school teacher’s exigence with their language already and I see how deep it runs in their veins. (The good news is the French language isn’t at all a hindrance for me. I’m comfortable living my life in French. When we moved to Paris ten years ago it was so difficult for me - such a barrier. Now, I often don’t realize everything around me is in French - and that I am too. It just is). So, I think this year calls for a concerted effort to master things that I lightly evade: certain instances of the subjunctive, past conditional, direct object/subject complements and the endless battle of memorizing the correct genders of things!
I want to eat less - but more really good food! There is so much quality around us - at the markets, in the shops. No reason to eat junk ever. I want to keep cooking. I was really late on the start (just this year with this move) and I’ve got so much to learn. Love the heavy doses of garlic and olives and anchovies around here.
I want to formalize some of my creative projects. I have two I want to move on and make something of.
I want to call my friends more. I am a terrible friend from afar. I am naturally present-minded and what I see, smell, taste and hear gets my care. I want to be diligent about making plans to see people who count.
I want to make travel and exploration a priority. I don’t want to get bogged down by things.
I want to take good care of my relationship with Xavier. Happy to report that this move has been wonderful for us (and to be honest, I went into it worried that all this time together, a bit stranded from everything and everyone we knew, could be hairy for a relationship).
(Here is Xavier, up in a tree with his favorite cat. He is constantly 'training' them).
I want to be mindful and never let the beauty of this place wear off. Let it always take its effect. Look up at the stars every time they are out (almost every night), watch the sunset from the roof, know exactly where the moon is in its cycle all year long, marvel at the wind. Observance of these things, for me, is a meter of quality of life.
I want to find a way to be involved in helping refugees. A tangible way. France is very close to the issue. Humanitarian crisis right at the vestibule. It feels to easy to celebrate my easy existence without finding a way to respond. I also want to find a way to channel some of my political angst. I am not sure the right way to get involved from afar. Maybe it means getting more involved here, since I can also vote and am a citizen in France.
A year ago we really couldn’t have imagined we would actually upend our lives in New York and make this move. Even in April 2016 when we saw this house for the first time, we still were daydreaming. There have been moments in the past 6 months that I’ve felt doubt - especially with the girls - their transition was rough. Now, I warm myself with the overwhelming feeling that we made the right choice. Maybe we feel that way because we are all in - there was never the possibility of turning back. Or maybe just because it really is the best thing for all of us. Either way, we are glad we are here.
January 2, 2017
Three years old today. Little Romy Danda. Wild - always wants to be barefoot and free. I like her spirit. We go outside and I show her the sunset or a beautiful block of clouds or some trees and every time it is like she's been hit with a blast of elation. (deep breath in) "WOW!" Love it.
She is a good-natured kid. Colette sobbed and threw a fit during Romy's 'party' (since is wasn't hers) and Romy put on a sad face and said, "Poor Colette." Then she convinced her to dress up and play.
And Romy's birthday ushers in mimosa season. Love these winter blooms.
December 27, 2016
Provence villages each celebrate the Noël season with public concerts and live crèches and Christmas markets. In our village, the local church (whose domes have blue hues to die for) hosted a hunting horn/organ concert. Colette and Xavier's mother were enthusiastic enough to join me (Colette was a total peach - the horn blowing lasted 2 hours). The horns players were arranged in a V shape - facing away from the audience. At first, the tooting sounded comical - like ducks. Then, paired with the church's massive organ, it was a beautiful fusion.
The church also has a Provençale crèche - ladies surrounding baby Jesus in typical Provence threads.