When I am in France, I’m surrounded by blues: the sky, sea, horizon, pool, ornaments, chair/bed coverings, and a lot of the time, my clothes too. The blues make me feel abundant, young, with open arms and smiling white teeth; there is a radiant energy… as if anything is possible. During those times I feel a little bit ‘on top of the world’. Being ‘on top of the world’ feels somewhat disconnected, a little removed from my responsibilities, or difficult people, topics, emotions – I suppose it feels like being a little bit in heaven.
I observe the world from afar – I can see boats and yachts, entering and exiting the harbour, being anchored and idling for the day with the odd water skier being launched into the water. Every now and then the sea gets a colourful ‘flower’; a little sailboat or windsurfer, and then you definitely know that it’s summer. I can see ‘planes and helicopters landing and taking-off every now and then, mostly small, and the microlights of course being the loudest of them all (reminding me of how ‘small’ people can make such a big noise at times, where-as big vessels seem to be more quiet at times). I don’t get too involved in France with the local news matters, only to a certain extent… or even with the garden matters – it’s a garden that I enjoy from a distance – it’s too big and too dry and we’re not here enough to give it intensive love and attention. The garden is well maintained though. (We might explore this a little later… intensive love and nurture for an achievable size and volume vs. maintenance when the size and volume super-exceed a certain threshold).
France is governed by no governance except practicalities of ‘heat’ and ‘business’. If you want to go and bike, run or play golf, you most certainly have to get up early in the mornings; your safety conditions drastically decline after 9am and you will only have another ‘bearable’ opportunity way after 7pm, even 7.30pm. The earth really retains its heat here and I have been caught on many occasions where I could have sworn that my feet were on fire, engulfed in flames. When you want to get a parking space next to the sea for your beach day, I would definitely advise you to be there before 10 am, by which time you would already have to scout competently and your parallel parking skills as well as your ego, with very aggressive drivers around, would be tested! As for going to the Boulangerie, well, if you want to avoid the queues and the wonderful chats of the more senior ladies in front of the queue, then go early… once they have reserved and claimed their position at the till to order and chat then the queue becomes very long. Mostly they do have a lot to chat about and to consider before they choose their baguette for the day, and yes the price is still the same and it is very important to always use all of your small change from your purse… (it is actually wonderful).
Going to the supermarket – well if you could just avoid that all together then that would be best. I have never experienced trolley queues like that anywhere in the world. Yet, they do it every week of their lives and they all stand there, looking relatively at ease and patient. I just cannot get my head around the ‘demand and supply system’ in France. I only hear that it is murder to employ.
Coming back to the view, because that was the reason for my writing today (before I got side-tracked). On hazy days, which are the norm here in the summer, you cannot see The Alps (about 500 metres away), yet on rare clear summer days, and in the winter, those white-covered Alps look like diamonds glittering away. They are truly magical. Imagine the turquoise water, no pollution and the wide, blue horizon with glittering Alps… It is breathtakingly stunning and it makes the world a very special place and in those moments, I have no idea why, I also feel special, probably because I feel so grateful to be a part of it, to be a spectator. There is nothing I can do to make or change it, it is purely a gift from the universe.
Back to London. The long lens gets changed to a 50-125 mm and even closer… The world zooms in. The colour palette changes to browns and greens. After being in France for a while, I am shocked ‘how dirty and dark’ it looks and I am always a little bit shocked when I wake up, open the green curtains and look out over a brown/green pond, brown/green trees and by the end of summer, depending on the rain or lack of rain, brown/green grass.
It takes a little bit of time to adjust, as blue has been the default colour and I remember distinctly how I got really worried one year, because I found the brown/green really upsetting and ugly. I felt enclosed and the colour of the clouds did not help on that day, because this was the beginning of the grey palette and we know when the grey palette starts, you will be painting in grey for quite some time.
Yet, with a narrow lens, you start to see detail, you start to observe more intently, your thoughts get focused and you start to draw in. You get more involved in ‘a single moment’ or a ‘single event’ or a ‘single border of the garden … bushes, flowers, petals, buds, bees (the flatness of the wings, the vibration) the hue of the colour, the shadows and the shapes…
Seeing the swan family makes me feel re-connected, it brings warmth. The heron, always alone, always still, brings comfort and a sense of solidarity. The parrots that are not meant to be there, yet roaming and screeching as if they own the heath; a reminder that once upon a time we all were new to a place and after a while we start to call it home.
The view in London is full of intricate details but here I observe and I don’t find fault, however I cannot help to miss a dead head of a Petunia, the work of a slug or snail, seeing new flowers coming out and reminding me exactly what season is on its way or has already arrived. The change in the nature in London is so stark compared to the evergreen France. The stark, bare trees, the cold air, the wet air forcing us inside; they encourage us to look at our internal landscapes to apply ourselves differently – they also test our courage and determination to get out, regardless. The distinction between a good weather player and an all-weather player.
I decided to become a good weather player 9 years ago in my life. I remember how I applauded myself for ‘surviving yet another winter’… I then woke up to my thoughts and thought ‘what the hell’, you have decided to live in London, have you then decided to ‘survive another winter’ for the rest of your life? Take note the winter period in London far exceeds the summer period in London, just in case you have not noticed. My life is not for survival, it is for living. I invested into good outdoor clothes and called my friend Kati, to go out for a walk in the country to test said clothes. The walk lasted 9 hours and it barely stopped raining, yet, if I have to define the best walk in my life, it would be that one, on that dark, muddy, grey, cold, wet day, because we were out there, in it, only us for the whole day. A choice and a day that have changed my outlook on ‘grey’, ‘wet’ and ‘cold’ forever.
Now, I embrace the silence and the solitude of the woods in the winter. I love to know and to see how nature is recovering after the summer’s use and abuse. I love how I can run anytime of the day, ‘feet on fire’ never being a problem…
Every year I have been trying to come to a conclusion as to which is my favourite view – one is an ‘involved, close-up mind-set’, the other is a ‘from a far, slightly above it all’ mindset: ’intricate details, in action, involved’ vs ‘maintenance, restorative, less involved, breathing space’.
From a pure sense of observation I prefer France at night, with all the lights; it is incredibly romantic and special, and to be able to sit outside under the stars, listening to jazz, with a whisky in my hand ‘til early morning must be top 10 on my list of special things..
Daytime though: The garden and ponds in Hampstead, the intricate details, the colours and that ‘close involvement and participation’ which reach to my community are pretty magical and always come with a sense of true belonging and connection. Pride, Love and Joy.
How unbelievably lucky to have views in life and to know that they will always change, like one’s moods, and yet in many ways they will always stay the same… to bring that comfort.