|Marie Gervais - 106 years young - Le Pontillou|
Childhood slips quickly away,
faces fade without names, only
a few lifetimes visible on the periphery.
You can hardly keep track of now,
it's illusory eternity. - Morning Glow: Reflections
Stewart S. Warren
Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a persistent one. Albert Einstein
|My friend Madame S. - Le Pontillou|
The hands that turned the first earth,
the hands that watered the sprouts,
the hands that raised themselves in praise,
the hands that knew what leavening was,
For an instant--this particular loaf.
Morning Glow: Reflections
We are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever.
|Monsieur Gervais - Le Pontillou|
I'd been thinking about light a lot, because there was so little of it. It rained steadily most every day from November thru February. One day in mid-February, there was a break in the clouds.
|Chateau de Charras|
I pedaled to Le Pontillou, a farm outside of Doumerac, to visit Madame S. She had invited me to tea weeks earlier, but the rain, the cold inside my chest, had kept me indoors.
|The River - Alessandro Sanna|
The River, by the Italian artist, Alessandro Sanna, is a book about the seasons and the different kinds of experiences and stories that each season brings, and about our connection to place, as well as the connections between geography, setting, and the stories we tell. The River is also about the flow of time, which flows like the river, and carries us.
|The River - Alessandro Sanna|
When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy - Rumi
|Poster on frigo|
When I arrived, Madame was tending to her rabbits and chickens, and readying her garden patch. In her early 90's now, she manages the farm by herself. In the kitchen she had orchids lined up and seed packets organized. Minette, her cat, jumped right onto my lap. Recently I learned that Minette is slang for "puss," young teenage girl - Attention! Can also mean "muff diving". As Minette purred away, I was sure Madame didn't have a clue about her lascivious background.
Madame's farmhouse is enormous, large enough to have housed the main family and all their extensions, brothers and sisters, belles-sœurs and beaux-frères, aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. I took a picture of the family tree, the Gervais line growing right out of the trunk, the branches of La Farges, Baruches, Tricards, Barrets, Brejouards, Reytoins, all flourishing right there on the wall.
|Gervais Family Tree|
Then we went to a section of the house I'd never seen before, another dining room and salon. On the front of a large china cabinet was a blown up photo of Marie Gervais. I thought it looked familiar; then I saw the affiche (poster) on the refrigerator from the gallery/Vernissage I'd attended in 2012 at La Tour Saint-Jean in Marthon. Her great-nephew, Franck Brudieux had paid hommage to Marie for her 106 years on the planet.
And the fruits of her life...
|La Tour Saint-Jean Vernissage 2012|
Eight years old at the beginning of the First World War, over time, in spite of herself, she became a symbol, a representative of another world, that of early aviation, suicides linked to the shame of being a single mother, and a certain idea of the sacrifices of the peasantry. From her window at Le Pontillou, she had seen men go to war, the effects of consolidation, rural exodus, and the arrival of the mechanization of agriculture, steadily knitting through it all.
All this time I'd been getting to know Madame S., I never connected her with Marie Gervais, who was her adored belle-soeur, sister-in-law. Madame showed me photo albums of the early days of the farm, the men bringing in the hay, les chasses, photos of the hunt. I remembered the very day, three years ago, when I was biking along & stopped for a chat with Madame as she was taking her walk, and she told me her sister-in-law had died - she was now all alone. But there was no self-pity or even great sadness, rather the forbearance that I've come to expect and appreciate in the French character.
Her nephew, who became an "urban", a city dweller, recalled his vacations at Le Pontillou, when Marie was still there, "part of the landscape, equal to herself, unperturbed." At the crossroads that are called "The Pearl," Marie was always waiting at the end of the white gravel road Franck traveled on his bicycle -- the same gravel road that I traveled to see Madame S. Men, like "rocks," had shaped this small hamlet in their image and Franck had tried to "freeze-frame" twenty years of stability and happiness, as he watched their small world disappearing.
It's ironic, because much of the time, Kevin and I feel as though we are living in very rural France, where life is simple, old ways are honored, a "Reality Unadorned." Another persistent illusion!
In Paris, in 1924, an American artist, Berenice Abbott, working as an assistant in Man Ray's studio, stumbled across some photographs by an elderly French neighbor of Man Ray's, Eugene Atget.
"The impact was immediate and tremendous. There was a sudden flash of recognition - the shock of reality unadorned. The subjects were not sensational, but nevertheless shocking in their very familiarity. The real world, seen with wonderment and surprise, was mirrored in each print. Whatever means Atget used to project the image did not intrude between subject and observer."
|Berenice Abbott - Light thru Prism|
On Sunday, as we wandered thru Charras' annual Brocante, my psyche was flooded with the artifacts & remnants of an Old World, epitaphs of the rural exodus - some treasures and loads of junk.
|Brocante, Charras March, 2015|
and spontaneous release,
a moment of freefall and doubt.
|Villebois-Lavalette, Sunflowers in January 2015|
|Medieval Fortress, Villebois-Lavalette - January 2015|
|The first Crocuses, Doumerac - March 2015|
|Mushroom Hunting with Pierre-Jacques in Vouzan, Nov.|
|Wales - Pembrokeshire Coast|