as i wrote in last week's post, 'i think it's incredible that we have the opportunity to hold the whole earth on our lips'... inspired by a course i am taking in food & travel writing, i have been reminiscing about the days we spent in the south-west of france last summer... won't you take a little journey with me, in two parts, through the poetry, through the images?
i don't know exactly what a prayer is.
i do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what i have been doing all day.
tell me, what else should i have done?
doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
mary oliver, from the summer day'
what i will do is to gather together the deep attention and grasses and wildness and precious lifetimes of the south of france. i hold them nearby to me, idle and blessed, idle and blessed. stroll through fields, and wonder, what else? nothing else. for all fades too soon, and this is what matters - deep attention and grasses and wildness and precious lifetimes. idle and blessed, idle and blessed.
the moments are ripe. in a tiny street of toulouse, i sit with good friends at a small gallery restaurant. clean glass bottles are filled with drips and drops of the peppery softness that comes from fermented grapes. traditional produce touches our tastes, organic local cheeses, dense paté
a meal is served, seated on cushions around a low wooden table, in various pottery wares and with antique silver. we meet a woman with a beautiful face and the deep heart of a mother. she makes a soup from the long cooked goodness of tomates et aubergines et pommes de terre et carrotes et navettes et courgettes. it is eaten in the true way of provence, with freshly ground pesto mixed in, creating a pungent garlic and basil addition to the bowl of vegetable love. a sharp, hard cheese is sampled among greens and breads and wines. this is a meal that resonates with the word 'organic' in its production, in its ingredients, in its conversation. sweet cherries and sweet tea and a sweet slice of light and nutty almond cake make a sweet ending, it's true. once night is falling, i meet the city and i climb through the window onto a river-front terrace. a paradox of danger and quaintness. fifteen other voices charm the air with their french slang. we celebrate birthdays over bottles of wine and jars of tapinade and pans of quiche and drawls of smoke and sounds of guitar and costumes of hippies and sights of sunset. in the stables where i sleep, i hear the dreams of sleepy horses...
i take a breakfast of french chocolate pastries and fresh juices and warm sunshine and beautiful pottery and hot tea and best friends and shaded balcony. in the kitchen of dappled wood, i wash dishes, warm water and suds up to my elbows, completely present in the slowness of the moment and the quietness of the day. the morning is spent bringing dry breads to the gentle animals. again, we meet with friends around a table for the melodies of laughter and foreign language. macarons from the best bakery, made of many flavours. framboise, vanille, caramel, café, chocolat, pistache, limone et violette. light, delicate, elegant. through a discrete stairwell hides a latched door, many stories above the streets, and the way onto the rooves of the city. here we sit and sun and admire, i am perched carefully between the slopes of the terra cotta tiles. later, an evening is just right when it is made of kir and beautiful simple flavours and merriment and little handmade tarts and kittens and like-minded values and cold beer and candlesticks and diverse accents and the sense of family and a classic black and white film. wise words are said by the fatherly figure, 'i believe in the generosity of life.' du coing. i stay in a home, down a small wooded lane, admist wildness. once quarters for stable hands above the stalls of the horses, today a sort of rustic penthouse decorated with rich tapestries and the whinnying of majestic animals. influences from the mediterranean and the north of africa are strong; each object holds a journey and a breathtaking story. wood that feels older than life itself is what forms floorboards and tables and family. the odors of pungent spices, wild blossoms, and cacao invite the weary, invite the curious, invite the idle, invite the blessed. ancient, crumbling french books line the shelves; a drip of wax is suspended, dried, from a candlestick; all things tell of stories that have happened, in the distant past, or just days ago. the wooden shutters and glass panes are wide open, alluring fresh air and constant bird song. glasses are half full of strong coffee. cracked, hand painted bowls are half full of jasmine tea. half full, i say, rejoice. a bowl of lemons, a terrace, jazz music, quiet sleeping. and the indescribable smell that invites the weary, invites the curious, invites the idle, invites the blessed. and then, a walk is surrounded by wild poppies and wild figs and wild fresh air. strong horses give sweet bisous and tell stories of wildness. a hot bath is drawn in a massive tub, in front of a large picture window, celebrating unripened plum trees and shea butter bubbles and the sound of trotting hooves.