Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 27: A Week of Extremes

the studio window

The week began with sun and bright skies. It was a welcome change after days of gray. The angle of light accentuated colors and cast intense, interesting shadows. It was a great pleasure to work in the studio in the morning, and an even greater pleasure to walk around the village. We rested for several minutes with our backs against the toasty castle wall and let the sun bathe our faces in delicious warmth.

The church had its doors painted last summer, so they are fresh and vivid, especially against the crystal blue of the sky. The little stooped woman who arranges flowers each morning drives her Deux Chevaux from the bottom of the village. It looks good parked in front.

The church of Montmirail, just outside our gates

In our terrace the sun played upon the walls, and the last valiant rose opened in the light.

The Virginia creeper has lost all its bright red leaves by now

A white tree rose in the terrace garden doesn't seem to know it's winter

The bones of the lime trees show up starkly against the winter sky.  Gilles will arrive in January and prune them back to their knobby stubs, but first he will festoon them with Christmas lights.

One of the four lime trees on the Place de l'Eglise

After a very pleasant reminder of September and October days, the sky clouded over, hinting that the weather was about to change.

Clouds roll in

And change it has! We woke up mid-week to find our view obscured and to discover that the first snow had fallen overnight. The castle grounds out the back window look magical.

The castle grounds

Our morning view

In watching the evening news, I see the long S curve that represents the jet stream, so I'm aware that most of Europe and even corners of North American are experiencing this dramatic plunge in temperatures. In Scotland it is minus 14° and one of the coldest Novembers on record. Apparently we can expect the cold to continue for a few weeks. It's a bit early to be this chilly! In our big house, especially when we have so few clients, we can't keep everything warm and toasty, so we have our comfortable zones, (the studio, the bedroom, the office) which we hustle between. In some parts of England people are receiving an emergency subsidy to cover extra fuel costs. Alas, that is not the case over here, so we keep the fires burning and the furnace low.

We always have a book we are reading aloud to each other, and currently it is The Eternal Frontier, by Tim Flannery, subtitled An Ecological History of North America and its Peoples. It starts out with a fascinating and graphic description of the meteorite that plowed into the earth 65 million years ago, creating the Gulf of Mexico and causing the extinction of not only the dinosaurs but of many other life forms, especially in the Northern Hemisphere, in the protracted winter that ensued. Since then, the continents have floated here and there and the temperatures have varied crazily. Did you know that once upon a time, just a few million years ago, North America was a lot like the Serengeti of Africa, with elephants, rhinos, hippos and other such creatures roaming the savannah? The point is, of course, that the climate does change on earth and natural events do occur which can have profound effects on life. Man, however, never before had the power to influence these events. Thomas Friedman likes to call it "Global Weirding," rather than "Global Warming," since the climate change we're causing does more than just warm up the planet, it sends unexpected storms and extremes of every kind. Each year I feel I note the effects more and more profoundly.

Next week we travel to London to visit James and celebrate a belated Thanksgiving. I will have  photos to share and adventures to relate if the Eurostar doesn't break down in the cold, as it did last year. However, I won't be back before the beginning of next week, so my post will be a day or two late. See you then!

Beautiful but frigid