My France visit from September to December 2019.
My France wanderings take perspective as a broader written story fill-in detail of my visual interpretations.
My France visit from September to December 2019.
Deepening into this old land, travelling its narrow back roads, walking stone streets in ancient towns, my journeys quietly unfold. Without clear intention I allow the pull of something far more visceral to guide my movements. An ancient compass draws me down a lane, round a corner and lifts my view to sunlight dappled on a crumbled wall.
The motley bark of plane trees line village roads and centre squares of matching colours and textures to cobbled streets and exposed stone walls. Tightly packed row homes jiggle, supporting each other up a curved lane. Habitation is sited by individual painted doors, shutters open or shut, potted plants tended or decayed.
What is that stir in me that compels my view to beauty?
An intricate iron balcony, a polished worn stone step, crafted hinges forged so very long ago. I companion the quiet whisperer my constant guide. It invites my knowingness to dance once more with this delicious place I call my other home, France.
For three months I and France merge. I invite my old companion, to guide my actions, gift me inspiration, tools for my craft, something to believe in.
I photograph, delete, dab paint, blot, rework, write and edit. I fill in gaps reading stories of olden times. The Cathars, Knights of Templars, Artist lives, story tellers and troubadours, common passionate lives steeped in mystical experiences, I breathe deeply. Evidence is tangible in the lay of the land, curve of the road, strength of old buildings.
Energy sense from each, emits love, diligence, patrimony. Or despair, grief, horror. Which is the greater pull? My homework is to ground deep and anchor my beingness to my heart. My soul knows it’s purpose this I trust and this is what allows me safe passage.
I choose to see, feel, experience its beauty.
After flight rejuvenation and a two day immersion in Monet’s world in Giverney we make our way in Brittany. Two weeks anchored in the Morbihan area a cottage by a back of beyond home we foray to thousands of megaliths, magical standing stones in Carnac marveling its meaning, witnessing a message not yet understood in this reality.
We walk Merlin’s footsteps in the great Brocanlaid Forest in Paimpont and dream his alchemy aligning to a belief of magic. An excursion to exquisite Port-Aven the draw of artists, drink the elixir of inspiring composition.
Brittany fills me with belief that France would take lifetimes to explore.
Our drive south to The Dordogne area takes a sidestep to the delightful Chateau de Beauvoir the home of Claire Basler.
Inspiring living legend, France’s protege surrounds her castle in and out with prolific flowers whimsically rendered on bedroom walls, canvas and growing live everywhere haphazardly in love. My pleasure was in meeting Claire! Moments spent in her home I savour. Much later that night we finally arrive in Rignac, greet our old friend who rents us her 15th century cottage snuggly situated in an authentic farming hamlet our rue, steps from our door a road equally trod by cows, chickens dogs, farm machinery and cars traveling far too fast. Life here smacks of yesterday, slingshot to today. High speed internet gives us daily communication to the world while the rickety cupboard yields crockery slurped from since early 1900. Walking the farm lanes now navigated by gps means leaping into high grass verges that later revealed a biting mite that finds me far too tasty. Numerous trips to the pharmacy to relieve the continuous itch, it proves to be TeaTree oil that finally assaulted the buggers. Unfortunately it put a sudden end to my daily country walks and gave consideration to where our outings for the day would be. The Causse, is a wild limestone land with lots of secrets, it gently held my hand to guide, opened my eyes to the gentle pace of farmers caring for nut forests, locals shopping their weekly markets. Its pleasurable villages invite walkabouts while kind people share their enthusiasm unlocking an old church. New friends share their renovations in a centuries old village
Maison a newly purchased holiday home and curious invites to artists studios. Our return visit this year to The Quersey Causse in The Lot was just as beautiful as a Spring visit several years before. Revisiting old places we see fresh our reasons for returning.
By mid October it is time to head south for a new home base in The Languedoc for the balance of our retreat here in France. A similar size to Rignac in The Lot we take up residence in the village of Poilhes in The Herault of Languedoc.
A village embracing its sleepy canal du Midi that winds through the Languedoc. It is the marvel of Pierre Paul Riquet and at our doorstep! Canal boats and village cats are our daily pleasure. We trace the walking paths along side of The Canal and retell our stories to each other of navigating a portion in the early 70’s. Curious to see what was the same, Duart expertly mapped out villages so as we could drive and find treasures built out of necessity in 1668 when Pierre Paul’s vision took root. He created an engineering marvel now listed as a Unesco World heritage site, clearly a wonder! Originally built for wine commerce navigation today pleasure boats are it’s revenue. Locks are now electronic and canal boat companies abound giving tourists hands on or catered to experiences all for a beginning price of 1500euros a week. All boating activity halts October 31 coinciding with Halloween as many locals all ages dress in their fantasy and children come to our door trick or treating. It is all too much that I hide in my newly purchased book a thriller ‘The Priests Code’ by B.B. Balthis similar to ‘Holy Blood Holy Grail’ by Lincon, Baigent, Leigh and ‘The Labyrinth’ a trilogy by Kate Mosse.
Now November, Canal du Midi it’s fascination is now draining like so many of its byways where boats teeter to plantain trees rest on mud until Spring resumes the holiday travel-way. Immersed in reading older history of The Cathars, Albigians and Knights of Templar a new spell brews. The late Fall quest becomes a revisit the mysteries of The Languedoc, my deeper reason for coming.
Days are spent pouring over maps, navigating remote Pyrenees back roads in search of certain villages. Their the energy feels ancient, whispers to stop, walk, feel. I listen and know not why.
We come across Mount Bugarach shrouded in mist.
Our approach takes in views to valley fields and mountain homes, while the narrow road twists about to finally arrive in its village. It’s mountain clears for a moment to reveal craggy faces, dark patches. I imagine portals only my eyes can see. The stuff of Jules Verne’s inspiration behind ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ and Extraterrestrial sitings a privileged few have witnessed over the mountains.
This wild land has held its secrets, harboured safe passage and offers time warps, parallel dimensions with the right password one can enter.
It is a spirit land whose language my spirit understands enchanting my imagination. I vacillate with practical questions and doubting thoughts while I inhabit my angel wings, soar over and through time ever searching.
Deeply interested in the story of The Essences I have researched some of their practices. They reawaken a truth I know. I feel their presence here in these mountains between France and Spain.
A November rains drive us to a week visit to parts of Provence in the southeast. Some of my favourite villages in the Luberon include Rousillion the ochre town, the subject of my painting ‘Simple Pleasures’ a pleasant walkabout day revisit. Uzes and Isle Sur La Sorgue we take in their lively weekly markets.
Provence in late Fall means old villages are void of the hoards of people experienced in peak season. We can have quiet contemplation walking deserted streets, opportunities for unlimited photos and little chance for a open cafe.
I thought about our year in 1989-90 when we lived in Beaumont du Ventoux a tiny hamlet village at the foot of Mount Ventoux. For a school year our children friended local farm kids, had sleepovers, sang in the choirs and preformed in the school plays. As parents we were welcomed into a tight knit community of generational peasants proudly welcomed as les Canadiannes. Our ninety year old neighbours The Chauvins were every bit the surrogate grandparents. Sparkling eyes, bold laugh and demonstrative sign language broke the language barrier of their thick provincial patois.
Tara and Lauren attended the one room school in the tiny Hameau L’Eglise while I painted or Duart and I explored the delightful orchards, vineyards and local markets. This was the pivotal year where I fully immersed into my visual art.
It was the year that launched a career that would support our family for the next thirty and more.
Indeed I have reasons to revisit France as I have many times since 1989.
In 1972 I lived for a year in Paris, France.
I took an apartment in a six floor walk up near LE Gare de Lyon while attending LE Sorbonne.
My heart is French, my gypsy blood curious, my soul wanders searching to express that intangible fragrance I call beauty. Early mornings I walk to lectures across LeSeine, linger at booksellers, flower stalls, cafes. After class I would lose myself in antiquarian shops, galleries, museums, past Le Tuileries, Le Louvre, often I walk the whole of Champs E’lazes and then back to my little apartment skipping up the six flights as lights turn off just before each landing. This was a magical year I embraced my love of beauty. The Impressionist Painters particularly influenced my views of art as each week I spent hours in Le Jeu du Palm where most of their works were housed.
My ‘Course de Civilization’ at Le Sorbonne included Le Chanson de Roland, little did I realize my learning in the most elegant routounda lecture hall would be about the famous ballad in the borders of Spain and France. this same location where earlier in August Duart and I had a memorable drive in our ancient Thames Dormobile we had purchased to tour Europe. Through Languedoc including Andorra to Spain I can remember some of these same ancient mountain villages we are still called to on this 2019 trip. Yes I would say a very deep connection in this land and probably many lifetimes brings us back to France.
Home now on Salt Spring Island my France wanderings are of painted memories.
My virtual world is ripe with imagination I am delighted to continue sharing visions of my beloved experiences.
Spring, Salt Spring Island.