Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mardi Meteo

Rain in the forecast with a high of 20º C (68ºF) expected today.  (Actually just a skooch higher if the morning news is to be believed.) At this writing it is a fresh 17ºC (63ºF) and the night's accumulated warmth is being breathed out the kitchen window as the morning's cool air finds its way in.  Lovely, really, this exchange. 

My pots of basil are getting a good drink and the air has the scent of wet earth and wood.  Perfect morning for breathing in the sweetness in big gulps during my yoga practice...which I'm off to do before the day's work begins.

Wishing you all a lovely day and offering up a bouquet of roses to seal the deal.


Monday, May 30, 2011

Provence - Je T'Aime

Un petit curtsy of gratitude for your patience and your gentle nudges (to those who sent email) wondering what was up with La Fourchette.  The unintended absence was due in part to an abundance of work and a curious derangement that has landed on my little French life.

I suspect that the current state of disorientation and disorganization that I'm feeling is due to one of the many manifestations that grief can take on.  My father's death did not bring up a sense of sadness - but for the passage of a life - as he had suffered for so long with Alzheimer's disease.  Relief seemed to be more in order for the release from the agony and lack of dignity that this maladie brings to its victims. 

What has descended upon me is a very intense spaciness that was quite unexpected.  My entire life feels re-arranged somehow.  These days have been spent as if I'm walking around in a familiar inner space but all of the furniture has been moved and every kitchen drawer has been switched around.

Having said that (doesn't that expression usually mean everything that has come before will now be placed in some sort of conditional context or negated altogether?),  in this process of disruption there have been a few things that have remained unchanged:  I received an extra bouquet of flowers from my favorite flower vendor at the market;  my popular poissonier tossed a few extra shrimp into my bag;  and my adorable fromager gave me a very generous discount on a recent purchase of thisses and thats - including, of course, cheese.  Such events serve to steady a wobbly soul that has experienced her share of ups and downs in the recent past. 

On such days, when I'm not swamped by countless pebble-sized-but-they-feel-like-boulders frustrations, I could give Provence affectionate bises on both cheeks...just to thank her for all the petit-rien-but-they-feel-like-diamonds gifts that fill my little French life. 

We may as well start back at it right here.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Little World Views

Bonjour à tous!  Yesterday's Blogger hiccup prevented me from posting and commenting so we're catching up today.

A little shot from a wander through the streets of Cassis last week - up close and personal.

Have a lovely weekend!


ps:  It appears as though Blogger has eaten some of the comments in previous posts.  On behalf of their system, I apologize.  Hopefully they've got all of the bugs worked out and we'll be good to go from this point forward. 

Thursday, May 12, 2011

À propos de...

Since childhood, I've had this fantasy about the creative process as it applies to marketing.   During commercials on television, I'd have a simultaneous short film rolling in my mind's eye that would show the back story on how this product or that got the particular spin that I was watching at that very moment.  (As you can imagine, I'm a big fan of Mad Men.)

My short film is pretty consistent:  a group of people are sitting around a table.  One wall is all windows that overlook some view that includes lots and lots of sky.  Someone on the team is sticking pencils in his nostrils while someone else is winding up a little plastic gorilla that does flips - all part of the process, of course. 

Ideas are rapidly tossed out that range from the ridiculous to the nonsensical and all are accepted and added to the mix.  Until finally, something is tossed that catches the collective attention.  There is a brief moment of silence as it is digested by the group, then some cheery laughter as it catches on, then a burst of energy as the idea is refined and drawn up for a final presentation.  Simplistic? Perhaps, but that's how my movie goes. 

Sometimes I have a sense of how the team got to the final idea that I'm watching unfold before my eyes.  Sometimes, it makes no sense at all and the team in my film looks chaotic.

Today, I offer you an example of the second.  The first time I saw this, my immediate thought was, "How in the name of reason did the team get here?"  They really should have asked me before they went forward. 

Someone sitting at that table wasn't paying attention to some pretty universal symbols that make a beeline to the psyche.  Somebody was paying too much attention to the flipping gorilla! 

People, people, people.  You get paid the big bucks to stick pencils in your nostrils and come up with brilliant stuff. What happened?!

Judge for yourself:  I offer a photo of my bank.  Yes, you may remember seeing an image of this place back in the day just before the entire financial world came crashing down.  I should have taken it as a sign that this group didn't really have my best interests at heart.  (Nothing personal, of course.)

You may have also noticed a change in the logo.  Yes, this is the new logo for Société Générale. 

A big ole whopper of a minus sign!  Somehow, the white line in the old logo seemed reasonable, an underlining emphasis of the place.  But now?

Who could possibly think that it would be a good idea to market a bank with a sign for subtraction?!? 

I've been meaning to  move to a different bank anyway, but now it seems only prudent doncha think?


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Taking the Waters of Aix en Provence, La Quatrième (et la dernière!) Partie

...Just as the squeeze of transitional challenges eased and my little French life was looking up, I stepped in one of Aix’s dirty little secrets as I dashed through town one morning. I felt the squish of a still-warm pile as it filled the tiny crevices in the soles of my shoes like mason’s mortar.  In a town of so much water, puddles are never far away.  A few skillful dunks and scrapes had me laughing at this dream into which I had chosen to leap.

Later that day, as I walked through town, eyes on the toes, a “Merci, Madame,” caught my ear, offered by a grateful passerby to a woman of a certain age. I looked up just in time to see him tip his hat to her.

As she plucked her dog’s business up with a plastic sac and tossed it in the trash, her too-polite reply,  “Mais c’est normale, monsieur,” cinched the exchange between comrades who knew they shared a hopeless cause. 

I had understood each and every word and nuance.

Perhaps I just needed to put one foot in front of the other.    And watch my step.


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mardi Meteo

24ºC (75ºF) expected today with a mix of sunshine and showers.  I'm loving this mild spring. 

A couple of shots to share from my 'quotidien' (day to day life) are a diversion from any images to illustrate how sweet the weather is at the moment, but I couldn't resist.

Falling in the category of 'Whaaat?' is this bit of graffiti slapped across wall that Bodhi and I pass on our daily walk:

Translation:  Oatmeal we hate you.

Alrighty then.  I guess the local taggers have a different political agenda than in some other areas.

In sharing this next image, I ask for your indulgence in saying, 'Is Bodhi the most adorable dog you've ever seen?!' 

After a long walk to an outdoor vernissage (art show opening) he was ready for bed last night. 

And what, you may ask, is that pair of eyes next to him?  Why that is his favorite 'poupée' (doll) 'Lambie' (oh stop.  I save my creative energy for things other than naming my dog's favorite toys).   He will not go to bed without it.  Snuggles up right next to it to fall asleep. See what I mean?  Adorable.

Taken with my Blackberry as it was at hand, this is not a staged shot.   Bodhi and Lambie   {from left to right  ;}
Have a lovely day, all of you.  Tomorrow we'll resume the fountain tour with the final splash.


Monday, May 09, 2011

Taking the Waters of Aix en Provence, Troisième partie

...Along the Cours Mirabeau, I watched fountain pools sparkle as they caught the light, dotting the well-known passage under a canopy of towering plane trees.  

The Fountain of the Nine Cannons replaced a watering basin where herds would stop for refreshments as they migrated to and from higher grazing grounds.  The original sculptures are hidden under soft mounds of verdant vegetation which thrives in the dappled light along this stretch of human watering holes:  the cafés that provide a perfect view for fountain- and people-watching. 

Nine Cannons Fountain - Bodhi's personal favorite as far as watering holes go on Cours Mirabeau.
A little further, the Mousse Fountain, draped in green velvet moss and steaming with the thermal waters that made Aix a spa town, invited me to sit on its edge and spend a few moments in the radiance of its warmth. 

Mousse Fountain flowing with thermal waters
The good King René, a favorite in these parts for what he brought to Aix (including the Muscat grape – a cluster of which he holds as a reminder), is found at the top of Cours Mirabeau, surveying his lovely town from the fountain built to commemorate him in 1819.

The Roi Réné fountain at the top of Cours Mirabeau, Aix en Provence

Following his gaze from this fountain and looking straight down the Cours, I could see the magnificent Rotonde Fountain that had welcomed me as I circled it upon my arrival. 

Looking down Cours Mirabeau toward the fountain at La Rotonde
Constructed in 1860, its three statues represent the three main activities of Aix en Provence:  Justice, Agriculture and Fine Arts.

This very entry point marked the beginning of my leap and anchored me as I navigated the challenges of this new life.  And believe me, challenges were aplenty – even though I was buoyed by the local waters...

To be continued...

Friday, May 06, 2011

Taking the Waters of Aix en Provence, Part Deux

Continued from yesterday...

...As I introduced myself to these new watery friends, I learned that the oldest fountain in Aix is the Espéluque (meaning cave in Provençale).  Once serving as the only source of water for the town, it had been moved around the 'hood several times before being installed into its current spot in the Place Archeveche in 1756.

Yup!  This is the same image as the one included in yesterday's post in which I had clearly jumped the gun.  So you get to enjoy it again today!

In the place d’hotel de ville, I sat on the edge of the Town Hall fountain to stare down the four vigilant gargoyles who spewed steady bubbling streams as they watched over the square.

The fountain at the Place de la Mairie near the Hotel de Ville.

Strolling past the Musée Granet and L’Eglise Ste. Jean de Malte in the Quatier Mazarin, I found the Four Dolphins fountain.  Shaded by plane trees, the smirking quartet posed for a leap above their circular pond in this romantic corner of town.

Quatre Dauphins fountain near the Musée Granet.
I could almost hear the voice of MFK Fisher echoing in the surrounding walls from her days near the Parisian-style Place Albertas.  The fountain did not exist in this spot until 1912.  Cracks in the stones of this square were discovered radiating and the fountain was added when the repairs were done – with the basin made by students in the Aix School of Arts and Crafts.

Place Albertas - another fountain around which I could happily create an oeuvre of 60 images.
 To be continued...


Thursday, May 05, 2011

Taking the Waters of Aix en Provence

Would it be long gander at the magnificent fountain, spontaneously arising from the center of the approaching roundabout, or a quick peek at the map stuffed between my thigh and the seat of the car?  Torn between options - I chose the fountain.  That decision ultimately had me circling in a traffic whirlpool, attracting puzzled looks from fellow travelers and locals alike.  Too bad.  Concern evaporated along with the spray of a few errant drops on my face as I made my first tour of La Rotonde, the entrance fountain to Aix (pronounced “ex”) en Provence.

Once off the wheel, I was eager to know more of this Town of a Thousand Fountains. In reality, Aix is punctuated with 40 bubbling baths, each murmuring its own recitation of history.  They whisper of Roman settlements, brutal battles, religious crusades, the devastating Black Plague, the reverberation of German boots as soldiers marched through town during World War II and the crack of gunshots as they settled in for the duration.  These ancient fountains have swallowed countless secrets of a sometimes dark and violent past. 

And here, upon these eternal springs, I would build a future. 

It quickly became clear that just enough French to get by – which was not enough for managing day to day.  My expectation of fluency within six months?  Didn’t happen.  Alas, my shoulders began to take up residence around my ears, moving slightly forward to create a shelter around my tightening heart. 

Un-spilled tears found their soul mates in the bubbling basins around town as I explored the cobbled streets.  While the fountains chattered away in staccato passages, I realized that theirs was the only language I could understand.  They murmured encouragement as I passed.  They gargled daily reminders of my Buddhist underpinnings, wordlessly illustrating each moment falling into the next. No grasping. No judgment.

The fountains of Aix, from the ornate to the ordinary, were my first friends as I navigated this new world.

A native southern Californian, the scarcity of water is nothing new.   The same is true in Provence, a region that enjoys an average of 300 days a year of golden sunshine.  The romans were onto something when they discovered the hot springs of Aix en Provence, (originally Aquae Sextiae – named for the Roman consul Sextius Calvinus) in 123 B.C.  They created a settlement here (their first in France) that would last for almost 300 years.   A popular spa town since its discovery, the underground springs of thermal waters were given an abundant additional slosh when the Verdon canal and the Zola dam were built in the 19th century...

...to be continued...

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Wednesday Window on Provence

Cezanne is believed to have created more than 60 paintings of the mountain that overlooks our fair ville:  Ste. Victoire.

My favorite subject is this fountain at my favorite little place.  I've not hit the 60 marker quite yet, but I'm working on it.


Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Mardi Meteo

24ºC (75ºF)

Hello beautiful day!

We've had an interesting cycle occurring in the past week or so.  Mornings are warm and soft.  The air almost has a viscosity to it - something different from humidity - that makes it feel as though it is wrapping around me as I walk through the market or down a little rue.  Then in the afternoons, the light becomes grey and cool.  A breeze moves silvery wisps of clouds into a dark mass in the north and the resulting bruised and towering heap becomes the source of our afernoon thunderstorms.  Buckets of rain fall quickly and with tremendous force, catching people off-guard day after day.  More fun to watch from inside, believe me.

As quickly as it begins, it ends.  The sun peeks out in shimmering rays and reveals the recently-tossed diamonds in the shallow puddles between the cobbles in the old streets.

I expect today will be no different.  This is one of the ways spring shows up in this little corner of the world. 

And you?  What's shakin' in your corner?

Bonne journée à tous!


Monday, May 02, 2011

On the path

Just a note to stop in to say hello as I find myself in the process of tying up loose ends that have been tripping me up along the path for some time now. It's curious how death can initiate rebirth and liberation. 

Between the loose ends being tied up and the ducks lining up nicely, I think my little life - French or any other flavor - is really looking up.

I hope your week is off to a splendid start.


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