An afternoon walk

Please join me and Mocha on our walk around the village this afternoon.

Along the footpath between le Barri and le Bouysset.
C D B ?
The new owners have cleaned up the area behind a house along the path.
This is part of a ruin that now has a sign on it saying it will soon be renovated.
A lovely old garden gate in le Bouysset
I know this valerian is an invasive plant but it’s so beautiful!
Poppies root anywhere. The walls in Cordes have lots of these arches built into them.

Now I’ve come round the west end of the village. This is the guardian of a garage, I think.

Abandoned gardens like this one aren’t uncommon.

Heading down the north side now.

I’m walking on footpaths mostly.

It’s high rose season now.

Almost home now. The cat disappeared when he sensed Mocha coming.

And look! Henri IV is in his place waiting for us again.

Flowers we saw on our evening walk

Mocha and I usually take a walk after dinner. This is a small sample of what I saw.

Mocha, of course, only paid attention to the smells and the other dogs.

The weather has been so bizarre that I thought the roses were already done. Fortunately, I was wrong.

Same goes for the irises. The red valerian (Jupiter’s Beard) is doing very well this year. It doesn’t care if the weather is bizarre or not.

This time of year the vines start taking over. I’m not sure what this one is, but it’s everywhere.

When we came home, Henri IV was waiting.

More reasons to love Cordes-sur-Ciel

This morning we welcomed a new member to our French conversation class, Samaher Alqadi, whose documentary, “As I Want” is beginning the film festival circuit now. Here’s the trailer:

And here’s a short interview with Samaher:

Then, the end of our conversation, another participant shared this recently released music video, filmed in Cordes:

Recent photos and some thoughts about Facebook

A few weeks ago my Facebook account was hacked. It wasn’t the ordinary kind of hack where someone (or something) sends lewd pictures to your friends via Messenger. Instead someone used my account to post something so egregious that Facebook immediately shut down my account for violation of terms of service. I was told my account was restricted for thirty days and a Facebook bot wrote to me to acknowledge that I’d been hacked, but a few days later, a picture I posted on Instagram showed up on Facebook, and I found I was able to post.

This is the image I posted on Instagram.

I thought the issue had been resolved until a couple days ago when I received an email from Facebook telling me that my $250 limit on paying for ads automatically had been reached. It turned out that my Mama Ganache ad account was attached my private Facebook account and that when we turned over the Mama Ganache page to the new owners, the ad account remained in my name.

Now someone had ordered $2000 worth of ads. If I hadn’t had a limit on automatic payments, the whole amount would have been withdrawn. I immediately wrote to Facebook, deleted the fake admin on my ad account, changed my passwords on my account, my PayPal account and my bank account, reduced the limit on automatic payments to $2 (the lowest I could), and removed all viable payment methods from my Facebook account. I wanted to close the ad account entirely, but the restrictions on my account didn’t allow me to do that.

The next morning I saw that the $250 had been refunded to my bank account through PayPal, and I closed my Facebook account.

I’ll miss Facebook. There are lots of people I kept in touch with there that I won’t be in contact with now. And even though I can’t deny its dark shadow, the connections I’ve made on social media, many on Facebook, have enriched my life. Cartoons on Facebook made me laugh, I mourned friends’ losses and cheered their successes. I used the local buy, sell, trade site, and I connected with neighbors. Facebook offered me a window into the lives of dear friends and relatives I rarely see, and resources for news I wouldn’t have come across otherwise.

My mentor, Alice O. Howell, loved social media. Though Facebook gained prominence late in her life, she embraced it. The Internet was part of the Age of Aquarius, she used to explain, because Aquarius is an air sign depicted by the symbol of waves. She was thrilled to see electronic communication blossom.

I may open a new Facebook page in time. But for now, I’ll be posting here more often, though – if the ex-president’s blog is anything to go by – a blog will never have the same impact or response of a Facebook post.

All the same, here’s a window into my life over the past couple weeks:

Last week we had guests. Mocha enjoyed Oona’s company very much as long as Oona didn’t try to eat her food or want her to play too much. Mocha is nine now, and Oona is only two.
We were so happy to have young friends from Paris here too.
Dear friends from Vendée cleaned up and moved into the vacation house they bought here. We’re so excited to share this beautiful place with them.
A view of Albi from the Château de Castelnau-de-Lévis.
The tower at the same chateau.
We were sad to say good-bye to our friends (well, maybe Henri IV wasn’t so sad) but we know we’ll see them again soon.

Les Terrasses du Barri

In French and Occitane

The name of the street on which Tom and I (and Mocha and Henri IV) live is called Rue de l’Acampadou, which we’ve been told means something like “between the fields and the town.” Our neighborhood is called Quartier du Barri. Opposite our house is a low wall and the stairs to our garden.

Below that, almost all the way down to the stream, L’Aurasse, is a wooded hillside.

Our house is blocked by trees in this picture, but you can see Simone’s house with the blue shutters next door.

When we first came to Cordes, we walked along the road below our house and tried to come up the hillside on some overgrown footpaths. Mocha was so covered in burrs and sticky seeds when we came home from that walk that we stuck to better maintained paths for a good year and a half after that.

One day during last spring’s confinement, I discovered that the paths on our hillside had been cleared. I went down a set of formerly bramble-covered stone stairs just up from our house and found that there was a maze of cleared paths zigzagging up and down the hill in broad sloping swaths.

Some of the paths were left narrow. I preferred those to the wide ones at first.

Mocha and I began to explore the maze of paths. I was surprised at how wide most of them were, as wide as roads. Over the summer, you could hear the noise of brush cutters as the village cleared more and more.

It was a dry summer. The cut grass lay on the dusty pathways. I took Mocha along the paths but all I saw was the wildlife cover that was gone. The paths made me sad.

Then fall came and it began to rain, and the paths became beautiful grassy walkways. I read somewhere that they have a name, Les Terrasses du Barri, and I realized that they were indeed terraces, and no doubt very ancient.

Now that we’re in the second confinement, which limits walking for exercise to one kilometer from home, I’m realizing what an extraordinary treasure is across the street from our house.

Mocha enjoys being off leash.
Sunset is our favorite time to go
You can see how they zigzag here. At the top a house on rue de l’Acampadou is peeking through.
There are a few landmarks. This spring is running now.
It’s just off a a small meadow with rock I like to sit on to meditate.
There are a number of very big trees like this ash that I like to lean on and look up.
This structure was part of the Medieval Festival a few years ago. Wood was stored in it and burned in the small building next to it to demonstrate how charcoal was traditionally made.

The woods are full of foods, like these wild plums, and medicinals waiting to be gathered.
Rosehips
Figs
Nettle
And blackberries.
It’s the end of our walk, but Mocha thinks there are still interesting things to see.
Tomorrow, Mocha.

Adèle

The number of coincidences, through people I’ve met, books I’ve read, the information that has come to me unbidden—or only bidden in thought— as I’ve been doing the research for Two Suitcases was already extraordinary when we met Monique Lagard a few days ago, courtesy of Montalbanais friends, Ian and Janet Milligan. 

In 1993-1994, Monique and her lycée students made a short film about Adèle Kurzweil, a young Austrian refugee who came to Montauban at the same time as my parents, in 1940. Surely Adèle’s parents knew mine. They were active Austrian Social Democrats. Adèle’s mother worked for Ernst Papanek at Montmorency, outside of Paris, between 1938 and 1940, at the same time that my mother did. Her father was interned with mine. And the film project began with the discovery of three suitcases (not two) filled with the family’s memorabilia.

Now that I am writing about this, vague memories of hearing my parents talking about Adèle and her family are returning. 

Thank you so much, Ian and Janet. Thank you so much, Monique.

The film, which is only thirteen minutes long, is subtitled in English.

Click here to see it.

Cordes in winter (Cordes en hiver)

We’re told that this winter is not typical for Cordes-sur-Ciel, that it was unusually short, that, in fact, it may well not be over yet.

On nous dit que cet hiver n’est pas typique de Cordes-sur-Ciel, qu’il a été exceptionnellement court, qu’en fait, il se pourrait bien qu’il ne soit pas encore terminé.

After six weeks in California, we came back to our little house in Cordes on January 11. The skies were gray, but the fields were still green.

Après six semaines en Californie, nous sommes rentrés dans notre petite maison à Cordes le 11 janvier. Le ciel était gris, mais les champs étaient toujours verts.

January 11
11 janvier

It was cold that month, cold and damp and very gray.

Il faisait froid ce mois-ci, froid et humide et très gris.

January 17
17 janvier

It even snowed a little.

Il a même neigé un peu.

January 23
23 janvier

January 25
25 janvier

But it was cozy indoors and there were at least a couple sunny and clear days each week.

Mais c’était agréable à l’intérieur et il y avait au moins deux journées ensoleillées et claires chaque semaine.

My favorite chair for reading.
Ma chaise préférée pour lire.
Tom is trying it out.
Tom l’essaie.

It was a good time for making potimarron soup.

C’était un bon moment pour faire de la soupe au potimarron.

And poached pears.

Et des poires pochées.

I love seeing the trees and bushes without leaves.

J’aime voir les arbres et les buissons sans feuilles.

We took long walks with the dog. One day, I noticed hyacinths in bud in front of a neighbor’s house. It happens, our neighbor said, but then it gets very, very cold again, and the buds never bloom.

Nous avons fait de longues promenades avec le chien. Un jour, j’ai remarqué des jacinthes en boutons devant la maison d’un voisin. Cela arrive, a dit notre voisin, mais ensuite, il fait à nouveau très froid et les bourgeons ne fleurissent jamais.

January 19

It was about then that a fortunate thing happened. We’d wondered who the abandoned garden across the street from our house belonged to, and had asked around before we left for California. We could look over the wall and see that, though largely covered in brush, it looked like there there were fruit trees, a chicken coop, and maybe a well.

C’était à peu près alors qu’une chose chanceuse s’est produite. Nous nous étions demandés à qui appartenait le jardin abandonné situé de l’autre côté de la rue de notre maison et nous l’avions demandé avant notre départ pour la Californie. Nous pourrions regarder par-dessus le mur et voir que, bien que largement recouvert de broussailles, il semblait y avoir des arbres fruitiers, un poulailler et peut-être un puits.

Travelling for so long – we’d left Cordes in mid-October for Morocco, stayed four weeks, returning for only a couple, before our time in California – I was longing for roots. As I fell asleep in all those different beds, I’d imagine asking for permission to use that garden: cleaning it up, pruning the trees, digging over the beds and planting vegetables and flowers, and maybe even having a few chickens.

Voyager pendant si longtemps – nous avions quitté Cordes à la mi-octobre pour le Maroc, sommes restés quatre semaines et n’y étions revenus que deux semaines avant notre séjour en Californie – je rêvais de racines. Quand je me suis endormi dans tous ces différents lits, j’imagine que demander l’autorisation d’utiliser ce jardin: le nettoyer, tailler les arbres, creuser par-dessus les lits, planter des légumes et des fleurs et peut-être même avoir quelques poulets.

Our neighbors, Dominique and Lucie, were kind enough to keep Mocha for us while we were gone. A week or so after we came back, we invited them over for dinner. To our delight, Dominique told us the garden belonged to Lucette, who passed away three years ago, and whose house was maintained by her children, though they rarely use it. Coincidentally, they were there that weekend.

Nos voisins, Dominique et Lucie, ont eu la gentillesse de garder Mocha pour nous pendant notre absence. Environ une semaine après notre retour, nous les avons invités à dîner. À notre plus grand plaisir, Dominique nous a dit que le jardin appartenait à Lucette, décédée il y a trois ans et dont la maison était entretenue par ses enfants, bien qu’ils l’utilisent rarement. Par coïncidence, ils étaient là ce week-end.

The next morning, Tom went over, introduced himself, and minutes later, we had permission to use the garden.

Le lendemain matin, Tom est allé se présenter, et quelques minutes plus tard, nous avons eu la permission d’utiliser le jardin.

The chicken coop. I took this picture from an angle where the piles of trash and old building materials weren’t visible.
Le poulailler. J’ai pris cette photo sous un angle où les piles de déchets et les vieux matériaux de construction n’étaient pas visibles.
I was pleased to discover a clothesline, partly covered in vines and brambles, but functional. Artichokes, planted randomly on the lawn and in the beds, were thriving. That’s the door to the chicken coop in the background.
J’ai eu le plaisir de découvrir une corde à linge, partiellement recouverte de vignes et de ronces, mais fonctionnelle. Les artichauts, plantés au hasard sur la pelouse et dans les parterres, étaient en plein essor. C’est la porte du poulailler à l’arrière-plan.
It is a well!
C’est un puits!
There’s an old pump that we haven’t got working yet.
Il y a une vieille pompe avec laquelle nous n’avons pas encore travaillé.

And, even though it was January, there were irises blooming.

Et, même si c’était en janvier, des iris étaient en fleurs.

I think they are Iranian iris, Iris reticulata.
Je pense que ce sont des iris iraniens, Iris reticulata.

We also found a peach tree already budding.

Nous avons également trouvé un pêcher en herbe.

So we began work in the garden, pruning, clearing brush, cleaning up in general.

Nous avons donc commencé à travailler dans le jardin: élagage, débroussaillage, nettoyage en général.

Shirtsleeve weather
Assez chaud pour pas de manteau
I had no idea how much joy hanging the clothes to dry would bring me.
Je n’avais aucune idée de la joie que j’avais à suspendre des vêtements.
A neighbor gave us a little table and chair.
Un voisin nous a donné une petite table et une chaise.
Tom repaired the steps going down to the well.
Tom a réparé les marches qui descendent au puits.
We found a small enamel bucket and began using the well to water the fruit trees.
Nous avons trouvé un petit seau en émail et avons commencé à utiliser le puits pour arroser les arbres fruitiers.
We carried the water in a bigger bucket.
Nous avons porté l’eau dans un plus grand seau.
One Saturday, we bought four little strawberry plants and set them in the ground in a neat row.
Un samedi, nous avons acheté quatre petits plants de fraises et les avons placés dans le sol de manière ordonnée.
Every couple days I pick fresh irises for the table. They’re very
delicate and don’t last long.
Tous les deux jours, je choisis des iris frais pour la table. Ils sont très délicat et ne dure pas longtemps.

On February 10, M. Jazz de Rodez, a cat of great dignity and considerable curiosity, came to live with us.

Le 10 février, M. Jazz de Rodez, un chat d’une grande dignité et d’une grande curiosité, est venu vivre avec nous.

He took over the upper floor of the house immediately.
Il a immédiatement pris possession de l’étage supérieur de la maison.
At this point, he owns every room except the one Mocha is in.
À ce stade, il possède toutes les pièces, sauf celle de Mocha.
Mocha likes Jazz a lot more than Jazz likes her. If Mocha showed her considerable interest in the cat in some way other than barking, the process of integration would be going better.
Mocha aime beaucoup Jazz beaucoup plus que Jazz ne l’aime bien. Si Mocha manifestait un intérêt considérable pour le chat autrement qu’en aboyant, le processus d’intégration se déroulerait mieux.

While the two of them make their peace, the garden keeps growing.

Alors que les deux font leur paix, le jardin ne cesse de croître.

Daffodils on our street
February 20
Jonquilles dans notre rue.

Peach blossoms about to open.
Fleurs de pêche sur le point de s’ouvrir.
February 28
First peach blossom.
Première fleur de pêche.
March 3
Tree peony.
Pivoine arbustive.
February 28
Apricot blossom
Fleur d’abricot
March 3

Now there are trees in bloom everywhere.

Maintenant, il y a des arbres en fleurs partout.

Wild plum or maybe almond
Prune sauvage ou peut-être d’amande
March 5

Inside, Mocha waits a little impatiently to be taken for a walk.

A l’intérieur, Mocha attend un peu avec impatience de se promener.

And Jazz is sleeping on my lap.

Et Jazz dort sur mes genoux.

I don’t think winter will come back this year.

Je ne pense pas que l’hiver reviendra cette année.

But I could be wrong.

Mais je peux me tromper.

Ninety Days outside the Schengen Area – Cordes and a California Christmas

After four weeks in Morocco, outside the Schengen area, Tom and I were home in Cordes-sur-Ciel for two delicious, story-filled weeks. How that place fills my heart!

window view Nov 2018
The view from our bedroom
le sentier bleue
Walking to the hardware store
reading corner
My reading place
Porte de la Jane
Full moon over Porte de la Jane
garden gate
A garden gate in Quartier du Bouisset, Cordes
A drive-through bakery in Albi.
Only in France.
Our first Thanksgiving in Cordes
The vibrant Christmas Market in Toulouse

We visited the market just before the yellow vest movement ruined it, disappointing holiday shoppers and devastating the vendors, many of whom depend on the holiday season to pay the whole year’s bills.

The yellow vests have legitimate complaints. The rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. Surely change is needed – indeed it is upon us in full force – but I grew up in a mom and pop store, and I just spent several years pouring heart and soul into Mama Ganache. I feel for those vendors who just lost the years’ profits. A peaceful vigil would not have caught the attention of the world, but violence is not the answer.

Saying goodbye to Cordes. Mocha is staying with neighbors.

The next steps in our long term visa and my Austrian citizenship process required flying back to California, also outside the Schengen Area. We spent the holidays with beloved family and friends.

Pismo Pier
Visiting Eva and her new brother Noah
Decorating the Christmas tree in Berkeley
The beginning of a gingerbread Hogwarts
Fluffy sunning in Josephine and Frank’s garden
Santa Maria BBQ for lunch with Tom’s family
A Danish lunch in Solvang
Almost ready for Christmas dinner at Joanne’s
Christmas lobster!
Relaxing at our Airbnb.
At last!

Living in Cordes – Stone walls

Cordes-sur-Ciel was built as a safe haven for people who lost their homes in the nearby city of Saint Marcel, which was razed during the Albigensian Crusade. Said to be the first of the bastides, it has five walls built in concentric circles.

(More about the history of Cordes-sur-Ciel can be found here.)

A neighbor recently told us that the stone wall across from our home is the unfinished fifth wall. Indeed, our house is just below the Porte de l’Horloge, the eastern entrance to the medieval city, which is in the fourth wall, built between the 14th and 16th century. Our neighborhood, quartier du Barri, is a 17th century suburb of the medieval village.

Cordes sits on a rocky outcropping, and is entirely built of local stone: limestone, sandstone, and dolomite. The houses are stone and the streets in the medieval village are cobbled. Walls surround every garden and line every street.

IMG_3621

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There are walls upon walls upon walls.

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Living without a car gives me plenty of time to appreciate stone walls all around. One of the most delightful things about Cordes is its authenticity: it looks like and is a place that has been continually inhabited since the 13th century. The walls reflect its history.

They bring me peace, connectedness, and a sense of stability. They are the keepers of the stories.

I never tire of their variety, their richness, their complexity.

In a village of art, the stone walls are perhaps the greatest art.

 

Living in Cordes – Mornings

Most mornings I wake up before sunrise, open the shutters, roll out my rug and light a candle, and then do some stretches, breathe, and meditate for a while. When I open my eyes, the sun is up – or on its way up – and the view is so lovely, I try to save it in a photo.

These are some of the morning pictures I’ve taken. They begin in early August. The last one was taken this morning, the first day of fall.