Spring is in the air…

February 10th and despite a cold morning, with actual frost on the windshield (a fairly rare occurance in my corner of Brittany), I can feel spring in the air.  It is still a bit cold, but the sun is bright, the skies are blue, and I feel like I am behind in my gardening.  All sure signs in my book.  So many questions, things to decide.

Get a slide, or a roulotte for the kids?  My heart leans heavily towards roulotte!

What to plant?  Where?

Buy a tunnel?  Oui!  Where to put it?

What to do this summer?  Spain?  Staycation?  Road trip?

It feels like endless options at the start of spring!

I alwas seem to get antsy in Spring.  Since we moved fairly often in the past 6 years or so, I feel as if we should be gearing up to move again, even though nothing is on the horizon.  As much as I wanted to put down roots, I feel a bit wanderlust…  I find myself persuing for sale ads.  Not just any for sale ads, though.  Chateaux, manoirs, exceptional properties.  None of which are anything we could afford, but to dream a bit…

 

 

I saw something on my Facebook feed a few weeks (months?) ago that I’ve been sitting with ever since.  Thinking about, rolling over and over in my mind.  It was a word “hireath” and the definition.

Looking it up, now, I get the following:
hireath (n)
1. homesickness
2. an intense form of longing or nostalgia, wistfulness.
The usage notes I find interesting, too, as we now live in Brittany.  It states that the only exact translation of the Portuguese “saudade” are the Cornish “hireth” and the Breton “hiraezh“.  Living in Brittany we often see the “zh” ending.  Even “Brittany” in Breton is “Breizh”.  Bretons are fiercely proud of their region, dialect, the crachat Breton, and many choose to stay here for love of their region and roots, over higher paying jobs elsewhere.  It is some sort of poetic harmony in a way, that this word, feeling, can only be described in one word in a few languages, one of them Breton, a people so attached to their piece of land.

What I originally saw was a bit more vague, perhaps a bit more poetic:
hireath (n)
a homesickness for a home to which you cannot return, a home which maybe never was; the nostalgia, the yearning, the grief for the lost places of your past.

This exact feeling is something I think about a lot.  I haven’t been able to unknot in my mind yet if it is due to becoming an adult far from home, alone, in a way.  Or maybe this happens to all of us as we become independent adults.  I grew up in a small town that I still consider one of my homes.  My parents have lived on the same street since I was five years old.  I am known and liked there, I still have friends from high school that are raising their own families there.  The comforts of knowing a place intimately, the comfort of sending child to the same school you knew and loved as a child, is one I can touch but don’t experience.   I wasn’t yet an adult of my own when I came to France, and as such there were some important years and life events where I was here.  I actually have never been an adult, on my own in my home country.  I feel like I have a foot in each country, a manageable split, but one that requires some mental gymnastics.

While I miss my family and bits and pieces of my first hometown, what I miss most is what is *was*.  The way I remember it.  That nostalgic feeling of safety, and security, being carefree, almost invincibile.  But, I can’t go back to that.  I’ve grown.  My life, views, feelings, even politics have all been forever changed, expanded by this other experience.  It is as if I am on one escalator, and my base, or roots, are on another.  And we are not moving at the same speed, and maybe not even in the same direction.  But isn’t this true of everyone?  We all spread our wings at some point, break away from the nuclear family unit to form our own.  I wonder if the sort of double culture I have means the gap isn’t perhaps larger.  Or maybe I simply compare me, to others, and I shouldn’t.

Life can’t stop there because I’ve left, it continues on itself, just as my life here grows and changes.  Mine just happens in incremental ways, that I participate in, that I see daily.  There, it changes by what feels like leaps and bounds, only because I not there to see it often.  Of course things change a lot over the course of a year, or eighteen months.  And the people I know and love also grow, and change, or even become more anchored in their ways in some cases.  No one is to blame, it is what it is, and is clearly part of the whole package I’ve bought into.  But it does leave a nostaligic, somewhat bitterweet feeling.  One of moving foward, while also being left behind…

Limping along

… what our reality feels like these days!  Not due to injury, just trying to have a foot everywhere all the time!

I’ve got so much happening.

I have to work on Christmas shopping, which feels weird as I have 2 children that still have birthdays before then.  Speaking of which, 2 birthdays and their respective parties to organize, and a house to have clean and tidy for both!

I’ve been spending a lot of time wrestling with my California ballot. In addition to the federal elections, there are 17 measures submitted to voters statewise, even one from my district.  Wading through all of that information to make a hopefully informed choice, is time consuming.

My laptop went all wonky with the latest iOS update, though if I am honest it too was already limping along before then.  I have to take it in for repair, I hope.  One thing about living fairly rurally- no Apple store with a Genius bar nearby!  They’ve suggested a local person that is approved by them, so, hopefully he can be my hero du jour.  I can also hope it won’t be too pricey.  Both may be in vain.  I really do need that laptop though, and I definitely do not want to be replacing it at this moment in time, so, here I sit, fingers crossed.

We changed banks, this is not easy anywhere, but I think French red tape takes the cake here.  We still have a few accounts lingering at our old bank, along with their fees, so I would really like to get those closed, asap as well.  It is a bit like a dog chasing its tail- around and around we go, hoping to one day actually catch the end goal!

My day to day life is also generally busy when school is in session, volunteering at school, cooking, cleaning, keeping up on laundry.  None of it seems huge in the moment, but, it all adds up to busy days.  My great plan for today is to hopefully make some applesauce with apples from the yard and an apple tart or maybe a pie.  Because nothing sounds better right now then a gorgeous slice of apple pie warm from the oven, to just sit with and enjoy in the moment.

One year later

One year in Brittany and the bilan is overwhelmingly positive.  I haven’t worked in the garden as much as I would have liked to.  I’m still a few boxes short of having sorted everything we have, mainly too small girls clothing but I am still holding out on actually getting ride of those (a hearts secret hope, maybe, or perhaps a bit of folie, it is what it is, I am not ready to get rid of anything, yet)…

Our village was very welcoming to us.  The girls love their school.  They have friends.  And so do I.  As many expats can attest to, making friends, your own friends, can sometimes be difficult.  I have been lucky to have made friends in France fairly easily from the start, but many were girlfriends of my husbands friends.  I am lucky to have them, even still many moves later, I count them as great friends, women I can count on, women who I witnessed becoming mothers, and vice versa.  But these friends, here, in our village, are my own. I have found them, and befriended them, on my own.  We have some things in common, children in the same school, but they are kind, they invite me to events, send me text messages, check in with me if we haven’t seen each other in a few days, they would pick up my children from school if needed, who would watch them if I had an appointment.  And it feels good.

I am invited to the girls classrooms to read or play games in English fairly regularly.  I was asked to read at the library (albeit for now in French; but I hope to start an English story time now and then).  I Zumba with the village ladies once a week, walk with the school on a hike weekly as well.  I go to the weekly market for the organic goat cheese, fruit and vegetables, the roast chickens, the cheese monger for the thick cream and eggs and beautiful cheese choices.  I know the local supermarket ladies, my neighbors, the postman.  This village has become our own.

I still let myself dream of a little chateau, or many acres with a farmhouse, animals, and extensive vegetable gardens, or even the field behind our house to add to our own 1.25 acres.  But I am content, happy, and in a place in my life I enjoy, and we are so lucky to be here, right now.

 

Summer solstice, sous la pluie

It is Brittany after all…  So, like clockwork the slight drizzle of rain and gray skies have filled the day of the summer solstice.  A sunny first day of summer would be just a bit too much to ask, it seems.

We couldn’t see the full moon last night, I wish we could have.  The rain finally cleared out  this afternoon, clear skies would be too much to ask for, but I was able to hang out my laundry.  At least my vegetable garden is got some water without me needing to haul it down…

I’ve been trying to savior each season for what it has, and brings.  It is a bit of an exercise in Brittany when seasons can resemble each other quite a bit- variation isn’t huge.  But it is most often doux, which is also appreciable.  I’ve been really practicing flipping everything on its head to see the good side.

Onwards through Summer and the approach of Fall, la roue tourne.  Time goes by so fast, a blink of an eye, and things are always changing, and some, always constant.

My garden is growing.  It is simple, since it is my first real, dedicated, potager.  Some squash, several tomato plants, salads, potimarron, bell peppers, courgettes, carrots…  The papi that lived here before had some gorgeous artichoke plants that are doing well, and some raspberry plants that also seem to do well.  I put in some verveine, mint, lavender, sage, basil, coriander, aloe vera..  I think of it as my miniature “medicinals” and first aid, along with basic herbals.  I really get a lot of pleasure walking down every day, see what everything looks like, pulling out weeds.  Another way to mark the seasons, and the wonder that is mother nature.

La Bretagne…

I was a bit worried before moving to Brittany.  I heard a lot of things before moving here, some great, and a lot that weren’t so great.  Above all, I was worried about the weather.  Oh, the weather.  One of the many idées reçues about Brittany is the weather.

While I always keep a parka type jacket in my car, because it is Brittany after all, I actually really enjoy the weather.  Brittany is a paysage of blue and green, soft and harsh, all at once.  The exact same spot looks different 365 days a year, dependent on light, season, weather.  It is a photographers paradise, a living water color that changes constantly.

It feeds my soul.  I can imagine generations, thousands of years, of feet walking the same trails, paths, rocky beaches.  I sometimes feel like I can see Viking boats land on the beaches, watch the Celts arrive after years of west word movement.  It feels to me like a home you continually rediscover.  An old manoir filled with secrets that uncover themselves over time.  The gray misty mornings are mysterious, and hauntingly beautiful.  From our house I can see fields of yellow, green, brown- like a quilt thrown on the ground.  Hints of celtic traditions peek through, whispers of ancient pagan traditions mixed with abbeys, churches and other traditional monuments that are a constant throughout most of France.

I find it to be magical, beautiful, haunting mix.  A place I think I could never tire of, a place I hope to continue to explore and call my own.

 

A friend recently sent me a message.  She and her family have a vacation planned in Europe in a few weeks time.  Her concern is that they are doing something rash, irresponsible, or imprudent by bringing kids, to Europe after recent events.

It is pretty easy to say that I feel safe in my (very small) corner of the world.  Our village has maybe 2,000 inhabitants, the closest villages/towns are very similar.  The largest “city” near us is Brest, which isn’t very large itself- around 140,000 people.  I don’t feel in any immediate danger, though I do freely admit the tightened security at our small village school makes me feel a bit off.  New security measures were put into place; they are now locking the second gate until it is time to use it…  Talks of nuclear terrorism make me feel uneasy, but there is little I personally can do about it.

I do generally feel very safe.  Our community is close, people look out for one another.  And that is what we all need more of.  More watching out for one another, for one another children.  More checking in with each other, more love.

Bad things will, and do, continue to happen.  But I’m choosing to focus on the good, the light, the happy.  I have three kids, so an endless supply of laughs, and also, a lot of hope for the future.