Hearth


Winter Solstice 2016 – Tuning the Radio 2

At first we were just ruminating and tinkering.  How to entice beneficial micro critters into the soil; how to prepare potions from the “weeds” in the prairies… At first it was mostly amusing.  Stumbling on Henri’s odorific jars of fermented vegetables in my linen closet (sauerkraut and the like for healthy gut flora); trolling a pasture for fresh cow patties to fashion a “praline” dip for fragile tree roots. Just trying things out, trying to find our north. In our ramblings, we sought out the rural elders. They proudly hobble around their havens of pre 50’s bio diversity, amidst beehives […]


The Summer of So Much 8

A chapter ends. A chapter with an arched eyebrow – enough rich desserts for awhile.  These past months, one wave after another, richness after richness. How often I wanted to shout, hey stop there just a second.  When will we savour and assimilate?  I need to pause and capture before the next wave comes.  But the best you can do is try to let go, so you’re supple enough to take it all in. Letting go.  Letting go of the illusion of permanence.  Trying to let go of the illusion of control.  Trying to balance between willful action to create […]


Reinforcements 10

When we sent our children across the ocean to finish their education, we didn’t consider they might never return. But as the nest went empty, we changed course.  Sold the city apartment, acquired land. We told the children this farmer’s folly was not to be confused with that burdensome genre of family legacy laced with bad drama for future generations.   Sell it all when we die if you wish.  No ties.  Lead your lives, fly we said. So they did.  Of course we delighted in their discoveries and cheered their adventures.   Secretly we mourned to see them so rarely.   Sometimes […]


Parallel Lives 5

Crisscrossing the land on this hilltop are several roads to nowhere.  They are the vestiges of old rural lanes that once connected farms and hamlets to villages.  A few of these paths still lead from one place to another, but most of them were chopped up a century ago and have fallen into abandon. My favorite path has an intersection at our front gate.  Like the scarecrow’s choice, from this point you can meander south along the ridge, east down to the stream, or north to the river.  Or rather, one could a hundred years ago.  You wouldn’t know you’re […]


Going underground 4

There was a time I thought it strange and frightening to bury our loved ones in the earth.  So much dark and heavy.  So much mystery.  So unfriendly. I should have remembered my own first plunge into deep earth.  Four years old, imploding with confused fury after an act of injustice, running away blind.  Searing indignation, prickling hot tears, and then a fall into a deep hole.  Later my family found me asleep, wrapped around the trunk and roots of an old oak tree. Of course my older brothers teased me for decades, via their scathingly pejorative epithet – tree hugger. […]


For the Friction 3

When we renovated the kitchen of this old farmhouse we installed two sinks because generous guests are forever asking, “what can I do to help?” So all through this glorious month of bounty – fruit, vegetables and convivial gatherings – cheery teams have put those workstations to good use. The teams migrate as projects are conceived. One morning someone wakes up and says, “let’s build an extension to the deck.” And out come the power drills. On the hottest afternoon of the year our neighbors Nikky and David * arrive with expertise and physical prowess to help move the huge […]


Summer Linen 9

Nothing makes me feel as safe and secure as the ritual of summer linen. Even the word linen calms my breath, conjuring up a daily life when real linen was a household staple for everyday use; an era when things moved more slowly. Linen is heavy and wrinkles terribly and must be ironed to regain its wonderful skin-caressing, cool smoothness. To care for linen, one must have time. Today I’m preparing summer linen for the arrival of family and guests. I recall what my friend Helen said the first time she visited: “I fell into bed last night and thought – […]


Summer Solstice 1

Millions of years ago the Dordogne carved a series of caves into the rock cliff under our house.  The village historian told me they were the site of Druidic rituals, later appropriated by the Romans for their own gods. Since it’s the Summer Solstice, I took myself down to the caves this morning looking for the wisp of a Druid or two. The spot is somewhat difficult to access, and hidden most of the year by the shadows of thickets and tress.   But in late June at sunrise, the caves present several niches of warm and inviting nooks.   […]


Witch Doctors 2

The image of the wild man or woman living in the woods, stirring up cauldrons of potions for ailments, seems to have been filed away into the long-ago-and-far-away category. A mostly irrelevant archetype unless you’re reading tarot cards. We might ask how mankind ever survived without modern pharmaceuticals. Right up until the 1950’s, our parents lived and breathed customs and know-how that changed radically when industrial agriculture was introduced post WW2. Something as modest as the omnipresent hedge – with varying plants to attract beneficial insects and creatures, provided wind breakers that protected crops during storms, and valuable, earth-nourishing root […]


Away With the Dead Wood 2

I suppose everyone has their own version of dead wood.   Stuff accumulates, it’s probably part of the law of Inertia. Not too consequential if you’re just clearing out a junky closet.  But when the inertia has descended onto several acres over 40 years, it gives one pause. The hilltop across the valley has been an eyesore for longer than we care to remember. The real shame of it is that the grove of acacia trees – so valuable for their hard wood, intoxicating perfume, and bee-attracting flowers – has been devastated by the fatal appetites of mistletoe and thorn bushes. […]