Friday, March 28, 2014

The View from here...and there

View of the landscape beyond Montmirail, with prunings being burned before spring planting

Our beautiful late winter climate has given way to a chillier and stormier early spring weather pattern. As usual for this time of year, I spend a lot of time gazing out my windows and snapping pictures of the ever-changing moods of the big sky before me. Previously I had never lived in a house where I could have a view of surrounding countryside. It is truly mesmerizing at all times of the day and night. I never seem to tire of surveying this quiet little corner of the world around me.

Dramatic storm clouds over the village

Coming as I do from California, where the weather can be easily predicted and events planned without much fear of miscalculation, days here seem full of surprises. In the space of a few minutes, you can have rain, sun, cold, warmth. Clouds simply race across the sky.

Two of our most typical bird species overlooking our terrace where they make their homes

The early birds are back in town, sparrows, black birds and morning doves are busy building nests. We found a new little home tucked behind our trellis where two varieties of clematis grow. The little ones can be raised up amidst a profusion of flowers that these plants offer in late spring and early summer. Seems a splendid way to begin life. The morning doves always like to build their nests in our wisteria branches, although we vigorously discourage them. The wisteria has not leafed out so is not yet a target for their construction ambitions. In the meantime, we have found them at our back sill with sticks in their beaks, trying to negotiate our dormer window eaves. This is not a good idea, as this window remains open all day and night in summer months, and I can see a serious conflict of interest developing.

Crows in large groups swoop through the sky each evening before settling down for the night

The noble crow is a year long resident of Montmirail. Some consider them pests, and they certainly don't have the most beautiful song, but I'm not ashamed to admit that I admire this big old graceless bird. Crows are a highly intelligent, social and fun-loving species. I find their constant presence, roosting high above the valley on roofs, chimney tops, spires and turrets both reassuring and entertaining. This time of year they begin to leave their normally massive group and form smaller family units, but as soon as the young ones are old enough to fly, they rejoin the larger community. They seem to enjoy communal life immensely; one hears few squabbles between individuals. They are such social creatures.

Full moon shines over our valley

This weekend our clocks are set forward an hour and those long summer days begin to be anticipated, but in the meantime the moon and stars come out long before we retire. A recent full moon made a dramatically beautiful appearance from behind dark clouds.

Rick enjoying a moment before dinner

Rick has been working hard, helping some friends remodel their house in Le Perche. He takes a well-deserved break before dinner preparation begins to enjoy a beer and read the headlines while sitting in the window seat.

Emily across the table at a Parisian cafe

Recently we went to visit the family in Paris on a Wednesday, which is still a day off for Quinn. Traditionally all young children have the day off in France. The rules change about this next year, when Wednesday morning becomes a school day for elementary students all over the country. This is a slightly controversial new law, as Quinn, who is only five and still in kindergarten, like most young children, is in school four days a week from 9AM until 4:30PM, a relatively long day of learning for a kid. Four days of that a week has seemed enough to many people.

On the Wednesday in question, Quinn had a morning workshop at Le Centre Kapla. After dropping him off, Emily, Rick and I took a little walk through the neighborhood and then had coffee in an atmospheric retro cafe down the street from Le Centre.

Structure built by the older children in the workshop

Kaplas are beautiful and simple pine blocks, all of the same size and shape, an elongated rectangle. They come in a few colors as well as the classic unpainted variety. They were created by a Dutch designer living in France in the late 80s. They stack beautifully and with nothing but gravity to hold them together, allow for some remarkable constructions. At Le Centre kids of all ages learn a little engineering and physics and work at making some marvelous structures.

Some of the creations made by the younger kids

Quinn is an enthusiastic builder, spending hours with his blocks, brio trains and legos, so the Kapla class was right up his alley.

Quinn proudly shows off the boat he helped to make

We had a very pleasant morning as did Quinn, followed by a lovely lunch at a Lebanese restaurant not far from Quinn's workshop. I have to admit that one of my favorite activities in Paris is going out to lunch or dinner. There are so many choices. Here at the maison we scarcely ever venture out for a meal.

Quinn and Zinnie share well together. Both love books.

Zinnie did not join us on this particular adventure, as Wednesday is not a holiday for her from her pre-school course. She is growing up fast and is at that stage where if you know her well enough you can understand what she is saying. If not, probably her phraseology will remain a mystery.

Finished portrait of Emily Dickinson in my authors series

In the studio I have been working on several things, including a couple of new prints, a big quilt for Emily and Jos and some old photographic techniques, including photo-etching and cyanotype. I have just received a chemical which when mixed with watercolor will allow me to add color to cyanotypes. I have yet to give it a try.

Bernard and Françoise at the breakfast table

Our good friends Bernard and Françoise came to visit us last weekend. Our relationship with them goes way back to 1998, when they hosted my son James for an AFS cultural exchange year in France, when he was 16. They have since become some of our dearest friends, helping us out in so many ways since we moved to France.

Rick and Françoise in conversation

We have had many happy encounters with these lovely people. Lately our lives have made it harder to meet nearly as often as we would like, so to have the opportunity to be together for a couple of days was a treat.

The cherry tree pregnant and waiting to burst into bloom

Without doubt, my very favorite springtime activity is gardening. Truth be told, it's the only time of year I have much interest in it at all. Summer days are too hot and the plants are tired and over extended, putting the garden to bed in fall is tedious. And of course we don't even bother to come up to the garden during the winter months, except to gather kindling from our shed. But spring weather calls like a siren to me and I become completely obsessed, to the point where currently I am so tired and achy from all the bending and shoveling, that I really would be grateful if it rained this afternoon to save me from myself by preventing me from over-doing it again.

The grass is full of violets this time of year

At the end of the summer last year we built a deck in the garden. We haven't had a season yet for enjoying it. This spring we are putting in a back flower garden, to harmonize with our new entertaining space. We're starting from scratch and are also completely redesigning our existing yard, meaning that almost everything is being transplanted to somewhere else. Hopefully there will be many more photos to share next time, although, of course, the garden isn't in its glory until June.

Rick begins our new garden project

1 comment:

  1. Photos of the surroundings roofs and landscape are completly amazing. Being on the top of this house is really a gift. Also Quinn and Zinnie drinking from the same glass is so cute ! It deserves at least a drawing.