After years of dreaming, really dreaming, we woke up to a dream come true. All is said and done we own a place on the port of Cassis. Excited. It is far from grandiose, nor anything resembling fancy. I would dare say it is a fraction larger than a hole in the wall in need of major work.
We will start renovating in a couple of weeks or so... Are you ready to watch?
It is on three floors, less than eleven feet wide, two windows, one skylight, stairs steeper than Mt. Everest and altogether 645 square feet.
But it is ours, our very own Cassis "Shack-Teau" -- a word my friend Mari said the other day.
Tonight I will dream of tiles, paint, angles, beams, tape measures, light sockets, stairwells...
P.S. We are not moving.
Each year when the season of Lent approaches I recall the time I spent living in a monastery. This year is no exception.
Today is the first day of Lent, and with that the onset of hopeful promises to be a better person. Many Catholics promise to give something up during the forty days of Lent as a way to be mindful of Christ's love and sacrifice. The question often asked is: What to do, or what to "give-up" for the next forty days.
Forty days of Lent can be a long time. Usually, one forgoes the pleasure of something that they truly enjoy, as a self sacrifice to keep them aware of Christ and to help them become a better person because of it.
When I went to live in a monastery I knew I was going to "give up" my freedom, spend hours praying and that my focus would be on becoming an empty vessel for God to work through me. I assumed I was going to be scrubbed clean of my faults, and shine in holiness and goodness.
The scrubbing I imagined to come with the day to day life of living the monastic way. I expected it to be hard, but grace-filled. I went into the monastery I was 19 years old.
When the Lenten season approached I wondered what more I could do? I couldn't imagine what else I could give up... Lent was another word to describe monastic life in my youthful mind... "I mean, really what more could I possibly give up?"
As I sat in prayer, hour after hour, as Ash Wednesday beckoned I knew I had to think of something, and yet nothing came to mind. With that I went to see the Abbot (The head of a monastic community.) to seek his guidance. (Yes, I lived in a Benedictine monastery in a community of men and women.)
The Abbot's office was on the top floor of the monastery. The large windows allowed a full view of the Pecos river and miles of wilderness could be seen. It was an eagle's nest, symbolic on many accounts.
Before meeting, the Abbot started with a prayer. He took my hands in his and prayed that our conversation might be guided and bless one another. Then he opened his eyes, leaned back and asked what was up.
I dove right in, telling him that I was bothered because I did not know what to do for Lent. I went on to say, "...you know this is a monastery and we already pray for hours, go to mass everyday, contemplate, mediate, sing, don't watch TV, don't eat sugar, never go shopping, don't drink alcohol, wear straight lace clothing without lace, wake up early, go to bed early, read scripture, do not eat between meals..." I rattled on and on with every little thing as if I was cleansing my soul, as if I needed to remind him that I was doing a heck of a lot given up and that I was wet behind the ears when it came to spiritual matters... and what more does God really expect?
The Abbot laughed, his big belly laugh. I smiled nervously.
Eventually, he stopped laughing. Though I was utterly confused, perplexed as to why he laughed.
The Abbot stood up, rubbed his hand on top of my head like I was a silly, little, sweet thing and gave me a hug. He then looked right in my eyes and down to my toes and said, "You can do many things, you can give up and let go of all that which isn't important or needed...
though the main thing is to be.
Focus on the gift that God gave you and give it freely away."
"Give it away?" I asked "My gift?"
"Share in life. Give of yourself." He reassured me.
It was and is my Lenten journey.
Who am I? Who are you? What is the gift we have been given? Do we give of ourselves fully, openly without strings or doubts? Are we aware of our beauty? Do we run into the arms of life with thanksgiving.
Lent... a time set aside for us to look at who we are and give it away freely.
I am no longer nineteen, and the lesson is still a tougher challenge than giving up eating meat which I did when I was nineteen the year before I went into the monastery.
Paradise is where you find it, and hopefully it is right next to you, inside you, and every where you look.
Sacha is home for a few days and since he hadn't been to Cassis in awhile, we ventured yonder in the late afternoon for a walk on the beach, plus he had an ice cream, three scoops.
Cassis in February
Cassis had one of its rare day where the waves were crashing in,
Sacha and I went towards the lighthouse as he wanted to take some photos.
Out he went along the rocks, the breaker to catch the sea mist on photo.
Sometimes it caught him instead.
Strike a pose.
Over the top.
A special day in Paradise is when the ordinary surprises, when it makes me catch my breath, when out of the blue everything seems extraordinary, delighting the heart in the simplest way.
The problem with brocanting in France is that it never ends. There is always a brocante, one way or another, be it a fair, a shop, someone's garage, a second hand store or warehouse... or the dumpster on every block. So if you have a brocante bug France is the place to be for utter joy. Or if you live in France and have the brocante bug badly the only way to stay focus and do other things like eat, work or do the daily things one must do to survive is to close your eyes, plug your ears and tie your hands behind your back... other wise you will go brocante crazy living here.
Take the seafoam green canape in our bedroom... did I need it? No. Though it needed me. Yes that is how the brocante reckons, it makes you think that the item at hand needs you to save it.
I am such a sucker for saving old things.
How could I leave that canape when it was calling, "Corey save me!"
All those bits of 18th century fabric that I had saved over the last few months finally had a purpose too... My friend Denise made pillows.
It is brocante's way of getting under my skin...
The demi-lune table. Natural unstained walnut, 1700s perfect condition. It spotted me at an antique fair, called my name.
I admired it. Did I need it? No.
But when the antique dealer told me I had to have it, I resisted, walked away even: Cause I wasn't looking for a demi-lune, he called out, "...take it, otherwise I am going to leave it."
How could I refuse?
And it looks so happy in my living room.
Thankfully the brocante can create a home, it is recycling at its finest. It has helped me furnish our home, and allows me a creative fun way of working. I think I will love the brocante bug forever.
How could I not.
Just think if I did not love old things I would not have gone to the brocante fair the morning the chandler came out of the truck with its 92 crystals, nor would I have ever found that darling three foot charcoal drawing in a gilded wooden oval frame.
One of a kind wonders lurk at the brocante.
The sneaky lurkers calling out, "Corey save me."
Stone carved gargoyles and an urn.
Heavy puppies. Did that stop me? Did it matter my car was two miles away?
Did it matter that French Husband wasn't there to help.
The brocante bug gives me superpowers!
The 18th century Italian wooden crown, a glass vase filled with old French letters and documents, a fragment from a wooden statue, and recently my friend Mari from Texas told me about chucks of glass fragments. Actually left over chucks, oh Wiki says it better:
"Slag is the glass-like by product left over after a desired metal has been separated (i.e.,smelted) from its raw ore..."
So how could I not buy the taupe colored slag at the brocante?
Sure I love books. The older the better; Better yet if they have engravings.
Books often come home with me, they jump at me, run after me, call my name, hide in my car, when old books see me they throw themselves on me. It is as if I am a rock and they are barnacles.
But the one thing I adore collecting more that books is repaired 1700s ironstone. The piece above I found twenty years ago, it is wired repaired.
...to be continued as brocanting and I are tied to the hips.
28 good things.
82 good things-
About you. About love. About life.
In a silver locket
a relic from a Saint.
Red thread wrapped under a red wax seal.
Was the heart intentional?
And it seem to say,
"Unloosen the thread that holds me back from loving."
Prayer comes from somewhere deep.
You know I like things that have a history, worn true.
Those are the things that last.
Silk pincushion heart.
Little bead trim with daisy petals...
650 Euros a pair. The dealer had four.
But it was the glass coffee table that attracted my eye... though it was
sold to some Italians before I arrived, "Great," I shook my head, "That is what I get for looking at the pincushion!"
Around the brocante.
Alice had the brocante bug.
And dare I say the French Husband too?
Green trunk, pink chair.
A random photo.
"What are you looking for?" the antique dealer asked me.
"Whatever catches my eye" I said.
"Ah un coup de coeur! (In English: What attracts your heart.)"
Old books with those beautiful bindings?
How about a hat box with a handwritten label, stuffed with lace?
If I bought every stuffed animal that crossed my path at the brocante, I would have a zoo.
Instead I take photos of them.
One-Eye-Wonder, that is love. Imagine all the loving it shared.
Alice bought an old quilt, because when your suitcase is stuffed you can wear a quilt as a scarf.
Plant the seed.
Watch it grow
Two years ago... we took Alice on a Mini Tour of Paris in an Electric Car:
We got up at six.
Took a bus to Marseille.
Caught the train to Paris.
We arrived at lunch, stopped at the Train Bleu.
Alice's socks fell off.
I was pleased, "If you like this you are my kinda of girl!
Chauffeur-Who-is-Always-Lost-Though-is-French" drove us around in an electric car.
The-American-Me-Who-Knows-Her-Way-Round-Paris-With-Her-Eyes-Closed did not fall asleep while commanding the mini tour of Paris.
I asked Alice who was the Person-to-Show-Around, "Are you game for a mini tour of "in and out of the car" of Paris?"
Chauffeur drove, turned on a dime and stopped wherever I gave the shout,
Alice hopped out, laughed, glowed, admired Paris in a flash and jumped back into the electric car: A Go Go Girl!
I was in my element, off the wall, loving Paris, spontaneous, in the moment:
And so it went:
Take photo and go.
Eiffel said, "Hello! Come again!"
Reassuringly I offered, "This is just for fun! How much can we see in an hour? Are you really ready?"
Alice jumped out at Napoleon's hangout.
At Pont Alexandre III the bridge, The chauffeur refused to stop in the middle of the bridge,
"You are craz-zee!" I did not listen.
Alice jumped out on command, at the stoplight before the bridge.
She ran across. I cheered her on.
Across the bridge we made a pit stop at the Petite and Grande Palace.
Down the Champs Elysees, around and around and around the Arc de Triomphe.
I pointed to the Eiffel Tower, "See it peeking out over there? Its a show off!"
Standing in front of the car on the Champs-Elysees avenue.
Then we did it again.
Alice ran around the Place de la Concorde.
She is such a good sport.
(By the way, I got out each time to, ran and took a photo of her.)
Alice stood in front of the L'église de la Madeleine! At the stoplight.
I had her run into Fauchon to admire the macaron tower.
And stood by the man who parked the cars for Fauchon.
We were getting out exercise getting in and out of the car so many times.
Alice took a second to stop and smell the roses at the flower market.
We stopped and admired Joan of Arc.
Next to the Louvre.
I saw a young man sitting on a bench, I nearly peed my pants when I shouted, "Stop!"
And French Husband did, which is nothing short of a miracle as the street was crowded.
Alice and I jumped out, as French Husband drove on. I asked the young man if I could take a photo of him with Alice and he agreed. Better yet he remained in the same position as I had seen him.
Every girl needs to cozy up to a French Man.
I loved how Alice did whatever I asked:
Jump out of the car...
Sit with the young man...
Pretend you are at the cafe... Nemours in Paris.
She was game, which made the mini tour hilarious.
"Oh Alice... Stand on the Pillar!"
"Where are we?"
"At the Palace Royal."
And poof we were gone.
Two Parisian waiters were taking a break. I asked if I could take their photo with my dear Alice.
How could they refuse such a sweet girl.
I should have asked for champagne.
How to burn calories in Paris?
In front of the Orsay.
In front of one of the many billboards depicting what is happening in Paris.
Our mini tour lasted an hour and forty five minutes.
The sunset was the reason we stopped.
We took this photo in front of the Louvre.
Across the street the Eiffel smiles with the setting sun.
Night fall in Paris is equally as beautiful.
I wanted to have at least two more photos.
My iphone was proving to do the trick.
I took all the photos on our mini tour with it.
One of the:
The Belle of the Ball and the Mini Tour as well,
at sunset over the Seine.
And seeing the Eiffel Tower twinkling for the first time at sunset.
The mini tour of Paris, a non crash course of seeing some sights.
Alice returns home to Australia tomorrow.
We will miss her xoxo
First I want to thank you for the lovely birthday messages. You made my day with your thoughtfulness.
Finding old art at the brocante is always a treat. But finding art portfolio is another thing all together. A few years ago at the brocante I found just that: A nineteen century, French jewelry design portfolio.
Above are two drawings one is a bracelet design, and the other a pendant.
The design on the ring is a bee, its main body would be a precious stone. The other is a beetle of some sort holding a diamond. Interesting.
What type of jewelry do you like best? I like pearls.
Gold over silver,
Necklaces over bracelets,
Statement over delicate.
The bracelet in the design is intricate, delicate and if made would cost the price of a small used car, or a couple bottles of Chateau Margaux 2009.
What would you prefer:
A small used car?
A couple bottles of Chateau Margaux?
The ability to design and draw like the above artist?
This one appears to be a sword with fabric draped over it.
I am not so fond of this one. Though I admire the workmanship.
I prefer necklaces, long ones at that.
A cameo, and a couple of drop pendant.
I wonder if the designer ever saw any of her designs become pieces of jewelry? If so what stones were used, and how much they cost to produce. I wonder if any of these pieces are around, and if someone is wearing any of the today?
As I blew each candle, one by one, I thought of those who have loved me to life.
My Mother, Father, Yann, Chelsea, Sacha... and I thanked them as I blew each candle out.
Birthdays in February
Alice made a birthday cake for me.
Hazelnut, pinenuts, chocolate, ricotta...
May I be worthy and thankful of the gift of each moment.
He held my gaze as his eyes became hands taking me into another world.
From a bottomless well his love poured softly, soaking me.
Barely could I hold on.
Have you ever looked into someone's eyes and seen the universe?
Where the sun, the moon, the stars seem like sand under your feet as you catch a glimpse of the other side.
Holding his hand we flew touching a distant shore. How could I doubt heaven after this?