Monday, June 14, 2010

Week 3: On the river, in the woods, around the track and of the past

A path through the forest of Montmirail

After a light rain last night, the climbing yellow rose on the front of the house has left its petals strewn across the terrace, as if the bride and groom's recessional had just passed. Instead it was Dena and Bud Allen, who left Maison Conti this morning on their way back to Paris.

But I am getting ahead of myself. The week began under clearer skies and with a visit from grandson Quinn and his family. We pulled down the kayaks, dusted them off after a long winter of disuse, mounted the roof rack and off we went to the nearest lake at Le Plessis Dorin, about five miles away from our home, to give Quinn his first nautical adventure.

We had never seen a boat on the lake before, but there was no sign posted against it. After asking at the cafe across the road if it would be alright to put in, and being told there was no problem, we were just about to launch our kayaks when a fisherman, who with his partners on the far shore had been observing our activities, approached us in a bit of a lather.

"Est-ce-que le maire au courrant?" (Does the mayor know what you're doing?)

"Well, no, not really."

After giving us some grave warnings about the mayor's temper, the private nature of the lake and the necessity of staying away from the fishing zones and wild life preserve, the gentleman suggested that he had not really meant to discourage our adventure. After all:

"Il faut permettre le bon homme d'avoir son expérience de la navigation." (The little boy should be allowed to have his boating experience!)

So we launched, if with just a little less confidence. First Jos, Quinn and Emily and then Rick and I took to the water. It was an entirely pleasant time puttering among the carp, ducks, coots, herons and mating dragon flies. Something about the quality of sound from water level, qualitatively different than street level, has always been particularly enchanting to me.

After our paddle we had a drink at the cafe and there we were officially introduced to the Mayor who happened past. Word of our doings had preceded us, and he approached our table as we sipped cider and Perrier with mint. He seemed much more accommodating and mild-mannered than our fisherman friend had indicated. In fact Emily was able to engage him in a long and productive conversation. He happily gave us his blessing for future discrete paddling on the lake and even suggested he might stop by our studio to see about ordering some business cards from us. 

We took a pleasant family walk in a stretch of the woods that I had never explored before, down our hill in a direction I don't generally walk. Quinn met his first horse, who excited and tickled his fancy. He raced up to him without trepidation, and when we showed him how to offer the horse a few morsels of choice grass, laughed as the horse took the bits from his little hand. Jos placed him on the horse's back and Quinn was delighted. 

Quinn encountered a very nice big snail on the road as well, along with a grouse mother and her two babies.We called our walk "Quinn discovers nature." Since he lives in Paris, the countryside is a very big adventure for him.

When it comes to revisiting relationships from the distant past, one can never be sure that they will translate comfortably into current life. In the case of Bud Allen, Rick's roommate from boarding school, there was no problem in making the leap. Bud and his wife Dena spent three most enjoyable days with us. Rick's memory of his youth is a bit sketchy, perhaps due to attending just one too many Grateful Dead concerts, so it was quite delightful to find that Bud has retained much from those days in great detail... he could actually recall the very first words Rick said to him:

"Do you dig the Stones? I crave their furry little bods."

Apparently this made a strong impression on Bud and really, no wonder. (Had that been the first thing Rick said to me when I met him, our relationship might have turned out differently.) But of course this must be put in context. 1965, age 15. Bud described the conversation of some of the other students as being a bit like an east coast version of happy days, so Rick's vocabulary was exotic. For Rick, apparently, things were "cool as a moose". Bud reminded Rick that they had discovered the Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion together, as well as Lightnin' Hopkins, the Doors and Howlin' Wolf. What a phenomenal memory bank this man has! And as one of my children once said "Your generation thinks you were the best ever." Well, weren't we? We really enjoyed having Dena and Bud even when we weren't reminiscing about the music and madness of our youth. The days passed quickly.

This past weekend was the 24 hour Le Mans car race, a time when we're always busy. There is that famous movie with Steve McQueen that I slept through. It involves a lot of cars vroooooooming around and around. I never felt that I missed anything, since every time I woke up the scene would be the same, Steve in the driver's seat negotiating a turn at incredible speed. This is basically the thrust of the thing. The Le Mans race is the oldest endurance sports car race in the world and still the most prestigious. The idea is to build a reliable and fuel efficient car that can take the incredible punishment of 24 continuous hours of driving at maximum speeds. The vehicles can reach up to 250 mph and circle the track over 300 times during the course of the race. Last year Peugeot won, which was a boost to the motherland. This year it was all Audi.

I've had several calls for etching courses. Next week the mother of the local fois gras producer is coming to learn a few techniques from me. The following week we have another day student. I was also amazed and somewhat horrified to open up a brochure on summer events in the area and read that I will be giving a lecture on etching in August. I really had no idea I'd signed up for it. This is the danger with having a limited grasp of the language. You sometimes find that you've agreed to things you had no idea about!

View of Montmirail from Melleray


  1. Lovely post and I really enjoyed the adorable pic's of the little guy..too cute! I am really enjoying all the light and sunny colors you are using in your art...they all make me smile. Have a wonderful week and don't fret over the lectures. know much more than they do :-)

  2. What a great post! I love the format you're using, little snippets.

  3. Vraiment étonnant ! La photo des canoes sur le lac semble avoir été prise ans le grand far west américain de mon imaginaire. Montmirail déborde vraiment de ressources.

  4. 能猜得出女人真實年齡的男人也許耳聰目明,但肯定毫無大腦。哈哈!...............................................................