I have travelled to our home in France for the cherry season and next to me on my desk is a bowl overflowing with sweet, juicy, black cherries from the garden. This is where the journey of my tribute to Eugene and Pieter began. It is both significant as well as poignant as this is one aspect of my life Eugene and Pieter never had the opportunity to share, for many conspiring reasons. Eugene so wanted to experience our life in this part of the world, but alas, time was not on our side.
It is early summer and I have just gone for a walk along the piste verte. It is a track that follows a disused railway line that meanders for miles through the mountains, from village to village. To access it I walk to the top of our village and my daily exercise is to go for a long walk in either direction, depending on the scenery I want to enjoy on that particular day.
Whenever I have travelled to France with my Spaniels, Scally and Scampy, they have always accompanied me on the walk. Sadly, Scally died a year ago and it is now just Scampy and I. The track is fairly wide and even and therefore very popular with cyclists and walkers alike. It is lined on both sides with numerous varieties of trees, shrubs and other vegetation that in places provide a welcome canopy from the blazing summer sun. Scampy’s excitement on the walk is to go and find a pinecone with which to amuse herself.
As it is early in the summer the mountains are bursting with endless shades and varieties of green. The boundless palette of green provides a lush background for bright yellow buttercups and miles of wild purple irises. The new growth of the hedges deviates from their green surroundings and instead provides a sharp contrast of blazing reds and oranges. It is indeed a beautiful sight to behold and the air has the fresh smell of early summer, accompanied by the many perfumes of wild flowers.
Coming from a fairly dry and arid environment, Eugene and I were always fascinated by the breathtaking variety of green to be found in Europe and in particular the lush, velvet greenery of England. Having lived in Europe for more than thirty years, I have yet to grow tired of the beauty of the gentle green hills and fields of England which greet me as my flight approaches when returning from foreign parts.
However, here in France we are located in the dramatic mountains of the Haute Languedoc Regional National Park, a paradise for all outdoor sports and nature lovers alike with its lakes, gorges, valleys and quaint villages. It is likened to a balcony from where one has a view of the Mediterranean sea. The mountains drop away to the sprawl of vineyards as far as the eye can see. There is hardly a space that is not covered by growing vines. The breathtaking scenery that surrounds me is indeed conducive to contemplation and creative writing.
I shared a number of aspects of the actual process of writing I have experienced this far on the journey in my previous blogs. What I also totally underestimated was how lonely the journey of writing can be. As a relative loner I have always been happy to work on my own, researching and writing in the privacy of my study without engaging with the outside world for days on end. However, doing so in short bursts is one thing, but spending a big chunk of your time engaged in researching and writing is much more isolating than I had anticipated. Scampy is getting a lot more walks and thoroughly enjoying the attention and company, as is the cat who has taken to snuggling up on my lap whenever I’m in front of the keyboard. My poor long-suffering husband has to listen to my endless ramblings that half the time probably doesn’t make any sense to him.
At first I was anxious that my extensive travelling would hamper the flow of writing. However, I have found that it has helped a great deal. Often being in a different location punctuates the possible monotony and isolation associated with one location. I also find that a different environment provides me with an alternative perspective on what I am writing and stimulates different ways in which I want to express myself. It is a bit like the windows I referred to in my previous blog; a different environment provides me with a different window and therefore different perspectives.
It remains to be seen what the contribution of the beauty and warmth of my French environment is going to make to my writing.