Friday, 3 November
It’s gilet jaune season again – not the human type where the discontented French take to the streets – but the canine version when a dog needs yellow-vest visibility in the face of possible stray bullets.
The hunting season in France lasts about five months, from the beginning of September to the end of February, a long time for those of us not predatorily inclined. Although Sunday is the biggest day for shooting, you need to be vigilant every day of the week, especially when from a distance, your errant, fleet-pawed pet could easily be mistaken for a deer. Preparing for the early morning walk is like tacking up a horse: first the gilet jaune, then the harness. It has occurred to me that a bridle would not be a misplaced addition to The Indefatigable One’s (aka Tasha's) gear.
Our friend and green guru Claire complained the other day about the guns going off in the wood next to their house all Sunday long, but we are lucky down here at the end of the lane. Most of our neighbours don’t shoot, and the danger for Tasha lies mostly beyond the perimeter of our walk (ie, if she scampers away on a hunting expedition of her own).
The season also evokes mornings that are dark and cold and perfectly still, bright falling leaves and hearth fires. But increasingly autumn means over-warm days that keep the leaves green and clinging to the trees or vicious storms like the one we had yesterday. Wind and rain lashed the land all night and most of the next day. Our thick stone walls felt solid, but unable to sleep with so much noise, I imagined the car being lifted from the ground and hurled into the house. Again we were lucky. Chez nous, Storm Ciaràn, classified by scientists as a "bomb cyclone", only broke some branches. Our electricity didn't even flicker.
My best pals from college, Megan and Tala, were visiting this past week. It was as comforting and entertaining as an episode of Friends, a show that has been on my mind since Matthew Perry's death the day they arrived.
Tala lives in Paris, but I hadn’t seen Megan or her husband Ned who live in Maine since before Covid, and they hadn’t seen Deux Champs since before its renovation. Megan said: “Every view through every window is like a painting.”
All the credit for this compliment goes to Monsieur et Madame Jaussaud and Claire, the inside and outside architects, but I know what Megan meant. I often photograph the windows and the glorious landscapes they frame.
During our three days together, we of course talked a lot about the miserable state of the world. The war in Ukraine that has been shoved off the front page and possibly out of the US budget by the horrors now taking place in the Middle East. Because my husband David works to support national parks in the Caucasus, we talked too about the recent ousting of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and how Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, may take advantage of attention turned elsewhere to seize more territory. David said: “The country of Armenia may not even exist in a few years.”
Maybe I take the inside-out photos to frame the picturesque, but it's also, I think, to highlight the perceived safety of being inside, of being protected from whatever's out there. Like the 500-year old walls shielding us from the storm or Tasha's gilet jaune from the hunters. But shelter seems more and more of an illusion, or at least a fading premise.
Our friend Amanda came over to supper last night. The storm did blow out her electricity, so she recharged her various batteries, got warm near the fire. Over dinner, we of course talked about the miserable state of the world.
"We've been safe in the Perche," she said. "But it's not going to last."
Don't we all feel it? That the hatred and violence playing out elsewhere are closing in, coming closer and closer to home, no matter where we live?
As I finish this blog entry Saturday morning, rain is again needling the windows and more strong winds are on the way. But Tasha still needs a walk, so I'll saddle her up and head outside into the storm.