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Jean

For almost sixty years, my brother Jean blessed our lives with his profound love and unwavering generosity. An unpredictable man of excessive character, he did everything with passion: eating and drinking of course, but also working as an accomplished landscaper, or as he preferred to call himself, a farmer.
Of all the gifts I received from him, the most precious is the love of gardening, and to this day, I cannot see a flower without thinking about him
I have a lot of fond memories of the times we spent together – and one regret: We never did go bicycling on the flat lands of Vendee. It was one of our projects. I can only imagine what an adventure it would have been in his company.                                                                                     

                                                                                   

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The Divine Mr M at the Sandbox Village

Mylo came into our lives, right on time and his eyes wide open, already pondering the world around him. If I call him The Magnificent Mylo or The Divine Mr. M, it is because he is just that: Magnificent and divine. 

If my brother’s parting brought me to a standstill, Mylo pulls me, with his impatient will to live, toward the future. I worry about the world he is entering with his wondrous and observing eyes and because I want that world to be full of love, compassion and generosity, I will myself to forget old resentments, unreasonable angers, unforgiving disappointments, and my reward is not only a brand new peace of mind, but the smile he bestows on me with unwavering generosity.

Our House In August

This is our farmhouse: Tiny, unassuming, romantic. Six years ago, after I had told my sister to find us a place to stay in the area, she emailed me a picture of the house: It was a hovel with dismantled, unpainted shutters outside, and inside, walls smoke grey and floors of broken bricks and tiles of various shapes. A simple sentence accompanied the picture: “I have found your dream house.” I gasped. But she had a vision and she was right. It took us six years of hard work inside and out, but when the sun shines on the old cupboard and the garden is in full bloom, it is paradise. 

Our House In August

By The Pond

When we arrive at the end of April, the garden which was left unattended for almost a year is in dire need of care. There are dead stalks and rotten flowers, thistle and crabgrass everywhere. The pond is covered with a thick layer of green algae. By mid-May, after days of weeding and cleaning, and some serious backache, the buds on the irises explode one after the other. Week-end hikers stop on the trail along the pond to admire them and I bask in their appreciation because it is partly for them that I work so hard: When I am gone, and until mid-November if the weather cooperates, they will still stop to admire the dahlias, the petunias, the roses, the nasturtiums…

By The Pond

Our Neighbors To The West

Our neighbor Joel is a farmer. He owns a herd of gorgeous cows called “Reds of the Prairie”. In the spring, the mothers come to graze close to our house, their just-born calves glued to their flanks, looking shyly at us across the fence. It is a blessed time for them, and for us. Soon enough, weaning time will arrive and Joel will separate the mothers from the children into separate prairies. When evening comes and until dark, the countryside resonates with the sorrowful mooing of the cows and their calves, calling for each other from one prairie to the other.

Our Neighbors To The West

Our Big Plum Tree

Our Big Plum Tree

By the end of June, the big plum tree is ready to let go of its fruit. Every summer, it’s the same story: for about a month, the small yellowish, juicy, slightly acid plums keep on falling, and falling, and falling. I eat them just picked from the grass, I make jam, I give baskets of them to my neighbors, to our contractor’s wife, to anybody walking up our road who is willing to take them, and still they keep on falling. What started as a tremendous pleasure evolves, as we are faced with the sad reality of half of them rotting under the tree, into a disaster of almost biblical proportion. 

 

Veronique’s Bicycle

Veronique’s Bicycle

After all the family has been visited and friends have gone back home, we get the bike we bought last year out of the barn and borrow Veronique’s bicycle: We are going to take a ride along l’Huisne river on the other side of the village. The path there is straight, flat and shady so it’s almost like spending the afternoon sitting under the big plum tree.

Our own bicycle has two flat tires and Veronique’s bike has no breaks. When we finally get around to fixing the breaks, we discover that her tires need air but we cannot find the right pump in any bike store (she has a very old bike). We certainly have the right pump for our own bike but the air will not stay in the tires We can never understand why.
So I spend my afternoons sitting under the big plum tree, painting the east side of the garden.
 

Dominique’s Old House

On a sunny September morning, I helped my sister move her round kitchen table and one chair to her garden and sat in the shade with my tubes of paint, my brushes and my 300 lb watercolor paper. Calico, Dominique’s kitten had watched me carry two plastic containers of water to the table and I was hardly seated when he landed in front of me, proceeded to drink with panache, splashing water all around, and finally contented,  lay with his belly up on my paper with a look on his face that said: “Move me if you dare”.

Dominique’s Old House

Dominique’s New House

This is my sister’s new house, enormous and imposing. Because of its length, it is called a “Longere”. This past summer, spent many afternoons in her garden,fighting off bursts of wind lifting my watercolor paper and her Labrador puppy Sonore trying to run away with my sponges or one of my brushes.

Dominique's New House

Quiet Time

The back of the house has an orchard with pear, apple, plum and peach trees, and a terrace along the kitchen wall with a beautifully open view on the western skies and in the evening, some magnificent sunsets. Around five o’clock every day, I hear the rattle of cups and saucers in the kitchen and my sister calls me for tea. I dry my brushes, hide my sponges, secure my paper against the wind and join her on the terrace. There, our back against the sun, we munch on her home-made cookies between sips of hot tea and let the afternoon glide away as Sonore, with steadfast energy, jumps after the bees.

Quiet Time