Spirit of the Place


Resistance 3

I turned away from last week’s Economist, with its haunting cover of Trump’s lipstick kiss on Putin’s cheek, to page 10 of our local newspaper, Le Resistant. Unlike most of today’s news outlets, Le Resistant doesn’t live on bad news.  Of course there are the usual reports of burglaries, fires and accidents, but most of the stories are about people who don’t groan much about the world because they’re busy doing something about it. Like the tiny village down the hill, where the mayor sponsored a drive to set up a young woman in her own vegetable growing business; 200 […]


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.   […]


Rosé 2014 – L’esprit de Jeanne 7

Every land needs a protective spirit.   But where do they come from?   Are they settled in a place depuis la nuit des temps?   Do they migrate in search of suitable territory, like pollinators looking for a place where they can thrive? A few years ago we found our protective spirit hovering near the grotto in the woods. The place was wild, hidden by thorn bushes, inaccessible except to forest animals, asleep for decades.  Here the water flows right out of the rock cliff wall, filtered by fronds and moss and ferns, sweet and delicious. Our spirit is an adolescent […]


Hands 3

John has been complaining about his hands lately. They’re cracked and irritated and purpled with wine stains. Made worse when we filled our first oak barrels to age 1200 bottles. It was a bit of a circus, as always when we do something for the first time. He gripped a fancy nozzle to feed the barrels and yelled to keep me alert on the pump. We assumed there would be some kind of signal indicating almost full, like when you fill up your car. No such luck. No signal, just an exploding geyser of purple, gushing into the air, all […]


Our Move to the Farm 3

It has taken three years and we’re far from finished.  But lock, stock and barrels, we have now officially moved to the farm. A hundred years ago John’s great-uncle bought this land on a hilltop, with its enchanting chateau on the river below.  It was handed down to successive generations, and during the lifetime of his parents, family life in the big house made sense.  When they died that logic seemed to evaporate. Some of the current descendents are separated by an ocean and the joint maintenance of a far-away petit chateau turned out to be more than blood alone […]


Farewell Fair Lady 9

We always called her the Big House.  The locals called it Le Chateau.  As of this week it is the house that belongs to that nice family with two cute little boys. So I’ve taken my last look from the window. The children have walked the creaky floorboards, breathed in the reassuring aroma of our old room, closed up the iconic red portail for the last time.  We’ve bid farewell to the fair lady. And tried to come to closure. It’s one thing to say goodbye to the stones and mortar one has loved and lived.  Parting with the ephemera […]


Apparition in the Vineyard 5

Over the past century France has acquired the veneer of a rather secular country.  But deep in the veins of the rural places there is a quiet yet undeniable veneration of the land, and with it an ancient connection to the Mother of Them All. Those latecomers, the Christians, often built female deity shrines on the sites of Roman female deity shrines; they in turn often built theirs on Druidic earth goddess sites.  Some say there is a magnetic energy in these places. August 15th 2014.  Here on the hilltop it was the Feast day of the Blessed Mother. A […]


A Golden Thread 3

The English cousin called it a golden thread.  The filament that brings them all back each year, to this place, to each other. They’ve known each other since they were toddlers.  Our children, the neighbors from Carbonneau, scattered friends, the English cousins… They’ve been playing Marco Polo in the deep end of the pool since they could swim.  Years of kayak rides down the Dordogne, croquet in the afternoons, “Deux-Cent-Un” around the old trees at dusk… Now in their twenties, they bring along girlfriends and boyfriends to play, toasting après-game with a glass of wine on the terrace. All year long […]