Three months of wanderings in France
Months of wanderings in France, my blessings indeed.
Stock taking allows satisfaction to seep into my pondering while reminiscing on highlights of a journey.
Dozens of painting sketches, Facebook and Instagram photography posts, half dozen books read, written stories, discussions with Duart of what, where, why and how. We pursue catalogues of homes to buy while allow reasons of why not to creep in, watch documentaries on history, podcasts on alchemy all the while surrender into a traveling life of struggled comforts, less stuff, lumpy hard beds, cold sheets.
Wide open time to paint. I spread out creative tools, paints, water and brushes on kitchen tables, ironing boards, benches, and cafes. I risk it all, no comforts of my huge studio on Salt Spring Island with running water, heat, boxes of paints and selections of brushes at hand.
Our days in France are of planning meals, navigation through language and colloquial dialect to understand where the grocery shop or boulangerie is and when it’s open. Maps, gps, toll roads and roundabouts, ‘the rosary’, Duart says. Traffic, fast drivers and weather. France can have terrific storms, hot days, rain and more rain and cursed wind that blows a donkeys tail off. It’s been wonderful every inch, every discomfort, all the incomprehension and searching for what? This is my journey while here in southwest France since early September.
Weeks left a new stirring niggles of what else do we want to see, experience, embrace before leaving.
Conversations of how to integrate this into a new life at home.
And of the many very patient clients, their orders promised to be filled before Christmas.
Our lives are brim full. I breathe and take stock of this very moment.
Sunny, chilled outside, a committed day to write, paint in my little bed sitting room. Cold tiled floor, hot water bottle on my lap, a view to the little balcony with crisp edged shadows, lined zigzags from the terracotta roof above.
This sweet hamlet we reside in by The Canal Du Midi with it’s Collection of row village homes, mostly shuttered, its laneways leading to the 17th century canal with boats lined tightly to shore, moored safely until the season opens again. The three restaurants closed for the winter, I imagine the owners basking in Greek sun.
A crumbled church that persists in ringing out the hours at 7, 12 and 19hundred. Three bells, then again to make sure. Then oddly 14 more bells at various times. Someone here told us the bells have been broken for sometime, good to know.
While choosing a subject to paint I realize the memorable are the unplanned.
While driving small backroads looking for a certain 13thcentury church and it’s tiny village as I had been reading about in ‘The Priests’ Code’
by B.B. Balthis. This author's search for truth adds to my unexplained attraction for mysterious places.
Remote villages of the south east Pyrenees contain a history saturated in bloody history for a thousand years. Whispers of The Magdalene and buried treasure, secrets carved in stone and passed down in families.
I wonder of the weird reasons this area attracts me. We are in Cathar country. I remember one small village well as Duart had asked ‘shall I stop so you can walkabout’. ‘No’ I say, lazily I had lapsed into driving revelry while purposeful about finding my ancient 13th century church. Those few moments through that village haunts me!
I ‘see’ stone crumpled row houses, each door stoop tucked a meter from the road, windows and doors shuttered but one, a women on a ladder trims away every leafed branch on a prolific climbing rose by her entrance.
And then I see it!
Each and every door in the whole village is graced with climbing roses neatly tied, flattened against their worn stone faces, twisted about windows, pinned to jutted metal trellises. No other climber in the village had been trimmed. I had noticed the moment this Lady had begun the ritual of clipping away all evidence of summer bloom. The cold season is now upon us in the south west haut Occitanie.
Our car speeds through this rose memory, but, now I am infected, my sense of excitement pricks at my imagination. I ‘see’ a village in fullness of bloom, people that care, create, thrill in the fragrant rose. It’s collective history, families generational for centuries, beliefs, customs, all etch into my dreaming mind. These brief moments through a remote village stir my imagination, hooks itself into a memory I may have shared.
Rose, a symbol of The Knights of Templar and alchemy tool for magic.
Perhaps deepening into these thoughts that tug at my regret, trigger my imagination, become the visions in my paintings and call me back to strange wonderful remote areas of France.
Painting is but a dream of the world I choose to see for its beauty.
I have a need to wonder.