Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Getting away...

Sitting around the apartment stewing over things I can't change and fuming over people I can't influence yields nothing.

Donnemarie Dontilly ~ Cloitre XIII-XV

So it was a pleasure to get out and participate in the kind of life we moved here to enjoy in the first place.  Our friends Jacky and Michèle invited us to la maison dans la compagne.

For us it was up at the Crack of Dawn and hustle over to the Translien toward Provins out of la gare de l'Est.  We thought we were plenty early to grab a seat to enjoy a peaceful ride through the lush green isle de France countryside.  But as we walked toward our train we realized this was the weekend of the huge medieval festival.  Tout le monde was dressed in medieval attire.  Corsets, bustiers, cloaks, capes, leather boots and replicas of ancient weapons abounded.

Nangis ~ French countryside

Jude and I knew well our duty and we instantly laid siege to the train.  With shoulder and knee, with hand and foot, with sharp elbow and quick shove, and with strong, vigourous and, dare I say, courageuse action we stormed une grande porte de chateau, er, train, and won our vainglorious right to be braced, literally, cheek by jowl and, in my case, rump against very ample jiggly clearly overweight Americaine rump with the not yet drunken revelers bound for Provins.

Trying Times, these.  Once our Right of Place was gained we all too quickly realized we were required to wage on-going hand to hand, foot on foot, rump shoving ample rump close quarters combat.  There wasn't enough room in the train for the hordes.  It was nearly too much.  Not only this but the air conditioning was doing it's best to behave like old fashioned of the period medieval air conditioners would.  That is to say, AC was yet to be invented and we suffered the heat of a thousand humans in constant skirmish to win a few centimeters of space.

Nangis ~ French countryside

The spell was broken when Jude and I started a conversation with a woman who worked in Paris during the week but has her home in Provins.  She told us about how it is to live in a small, normally sleepy village and to have a vast feting horde lay siege to the upper part of town.  She tried not to grumble about it, but it was clear these were Trying Times for more than just Jude and I.

After a 45minute ride, er, running battle with the Time Travelers in the Way Back Machine (our Translien) Jude and I happily bounded out the door to breathe the wonderfully fresh air in Nangis.  The Future Drunken Revelers carried on to Provins, wine, fete, and combat against dragons of a by-gone era.  We bid them a fond(?) adieu.

What unfolded next was to prove our wisdom in having moved to France.

Nangis ~ French countryside

Our friends met us quai-side and drove us to their country home.  They showed us around their property and home.  They showed us their apple trees.  Those would be the ones that produce apples that, in turn, produce tasty cidre after the Fall harvest.  We shared an amazing wonderful delicious three hour lunch.  The table was set on the lawn under a cherry tree.  Under which we enjoyed the shade from a sun that shone brightly against the kind of azure blue that I thought only Montana could deliver.

Jacky insisted that I help him by drinking his allotment of wine.  He was our driver and he didn't want to be collared by The Authorities.  What?  No wine for le chauffeur?  Either this is not France or times have severely changed.

We went for a walk in a forest to visit an ancient, massive, though now dead, oak.  The forest smells are what Jude and I sometimes miss.  They can be delicious.  We visited a cloitre in a small village.  The grounds-keeper is a wonderful woman who showed us the medieval gardens, showed us around the church, and she opened the gates for us to enter the chapel.  It was through this chapel that passed the village's dead to (not) hear the mass said for them before they made their way to be buried.  We walked quietly to the gates of a medieval farm to look at the outline of a destroyed church.  We traded curious looks with race horses as they leaned out of their paddocks.

Nangis ~ French countryside

After so much fun we were running rather low on energy.  It'd been a full, long day.  After a quick drive back to the station we saw we had a 30 minute wait.  So we sat down and talked and traded more stories.  Our friends are very kind, cordial, and generous.  As we heard our Translien approach Jacky and Michele said goodbye.  We boarded our train for home.

It's hard to imagine a better tonique against stewing over unchanging things than a day out.  It's hard to imagine a better day than this.

Donnemarie Dontilly ~ Cloitre XIII-XV

Monday, June 15, 2015

Of light and floating things...

We awoke to the delightful sounds of baby birds being fed by their parents.

Mesange charbonniere

Raising the shutters revealed a pair of baby Mesange Charbonniere.  They seem to be closely related to what would call Chickadees in the US.  Their parents were busy finding tasty bugs to eat in the Dove Plum tree that's growing not three meters from out back window.

All day I pointed my camera lens toward the Dove Plum.  All day "click click click" went the shutter.  Hungry babies.  Parents hunting.  Babies fed.  Peaceable things, these.

Our courtyard is filled with birds this time of year.  We have at least one pair of nesting doves and one pair of Merle, or what one might call Blackbirds in the UK.  There are several pigeon families as well as these cute little Mesange Charbonniere.

Mesange charbonniere

Jude and I agreed that the day had been a wonderful one.

The next morning we awoke to the sounds of very agitated Mesange Charbonniere.  Raising the shutters we looked on a scene of death and destruction.  A Geai des Chenes was on the hunt.

It was terrible to watch the efficiency with which the bird hunted.  The Geai des Chenes is closely related to Jays in the US.  Unlike the Jays we used to see the French version is lethal.  Little bits of fluff and feather floated through the air.  Terrible strings of meat and gut were unstrung.  Tiny legs and claws soon hung limp in a laurel tree.

On a human level, the two days which started in beauty and grace but later ended in dismembered white and dripping red is the perfect metaphor for what's happening around me.

Geai des Chenes

It is all too easy for me to compare the cute little birds being cared for by their parents with the feelings words can bring when someone says you are regarded and things will be shared.  Someone else says to you is given this very important future task.  There is safety and comfort sometimes in words.  Particularly in important words.

Death came both figuratively and in reality.  The aftermath of floating downy feathers are beautiful words too soon pulled from the body of beautiful truth.  Lies and half lies, darker truths and controlling demands are the beak of destruction.  Words that do not lead to proper action is death of a terrible and disturbing kind.

Those supposedly close, those who uttered such fine words are instantly seen as false and shallow.  They are shown to be simple managers of their own self interests.  Greed and gain, responsibility and authority lay on different bed rock than their words described.  Like a Geai des Chenes on the hunt the effect is swift, brutal, and efficient.

Geai des Chenes

Those who can and could say, don't.  Those who know and have known for a long time remain silent.  Their claim that all one needed to do was to ask so as to know what was really meant, what was really the truth use tightfisted, thuggish ways of avoiding what they have done to their own family.  Their approach only works if you know the questions to be asked and it is very well understood that you cannot know nor could ever imagine the right questions to ask.  Thereby, those who have motive and opportunity gain.  Those who were said to be included, those who were to shoulder serious responsibilities won't.

It is in the deep and very nature of those involved that their lives unfold as they do, is it not?  There is no mystery how this happens.  The only mystery is why they are believed for as long as they are.  For that I must bear full responsibility.  For all the rest, the drama they created is their's to live and deal with.

The Geai des Chenes has so far destroyed two families of Mesange Charbonniere.  The first attack took place in full sun.  The second on a cold and rainy day.  The cute little birds keep trying to bring to adulthood a brood of chicks.  Their optimism is sometimes horrible to consider.  The attacks were 30 days apart.

Geai des Chenes

We see that a third family of Mesange Charbonniere are in the nest.  Will they survive?  By the looks of the middle of the courtyard where Pigeon feathers are spread all about after yesterday's attack by a crow or perhaps a cat we have our doubts.

It's been a brutal Spring.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

au Mans!

The day started poorly but it changed for the better the closer I got to le Mans to watch the MotoGP Grand Prix de France.

When I was young my uncle gave me a copy of Road &Track to read.  It fueled my young mind with visions of exotic racing machines, high speed, and good European living.  I've dreamed of visiting le Mans ever since.

Five decades later my dreams came true.

This is the story in pictures.

Waiting for the departure platform to be announced

I'll take the one on the left, thank you

This must be the place.  It even says so.

Tramway to Antares

Show your support by buying a name or number

Or show your support by hauling a flag with the number of some famous racer

No doubt the barbed wire keeps the racers from getting into the crowd

Demanding French Independence from Normandy?  Or???

I'm ready to make a few photos

Italians like #46

Pict advanced invasion forces scout enemy terrain

Wow!  What a beer!! er, I mean race!!!

Premature frites death

Hoping to get a few more photos before heading to dinner

Spotted in the parking lot (1)

Spotted in the parking lot (2)

Spotted at the gare (1)

Spotted at the gare (2)

Before steak-frites with red

Inspecting the Mens Room at the gare

Please don't let the train be late

This is it.  Home to Paris we go.

One last look at the Madness

I processed the images to resemble faded scenes from fuzzy Road & Track illustrations and my memories of them.