Today during our hike to Cubservies, I thought it would be fun to stop and write a short impression here in this place, having these experiences.
When I was in France last fall I wrote a series of what I called "french sentences," which were merely a riff on Allen Ginsberg's American sentences—a seventeen syllable sentence with the qualities of a haiku. I was writing about what it felt like to be in this part of France.
But this time around seventeen syllables felt way too short&mdashand I set the parameters at 17 words, still with a concentration toward the qualities of a haiku.
Here's the one from yesterday:
We find the chapel after hiking steep miles, old stories pieced into walls, layer upon rocky layer.
Hey—the French sentence returns! 17 word sentences (based on Ginsberg's idea of the American sentence) written in France about being in France.
I'm back at La Muse in beautiful Labastide Esparbairenque, France with photography professor Alex Emmons and our class of eight students enrolled in "Creative Writing and Digital Photography in Medieval France."
Today was our first chance to get out into the sunshine and explore the area. Suzanne Blons and Brandy Dohrman (right) relax on the overlook before our extraordinarily long hike.
I've come to the end of my nearly week-long visit with my friends Mark and James. They live in an 18th century farmhouse in the Hudson Valley with chickens, bees and cats. I was so relaxed I don't even remember what we did during my stay.
I finished my sock project for February, and I made James a weird little bird to go with Mark's.
Here are the two cats: Ursula (left) and Gretchen (right).
It takes a while to get somewhere else from Labastide Esparbairenque because first you have to get out of the forest and the mountains—the roads are steep and twisty-turny and about half a lane wide. I was able to take a road trip to the medieval city of Albi, about 2+ hours to the north. Albi is the heart of the Cathar resistance to the Pope. In the 15th century the Catholic Church built this enormous red stone fortress of a catehdral to impress the church's great power upon the resistors. The cathedral is a formidable Gothic pile—the 1400's version of shock and awe.
This hand-painted ceiling in the cathedral in Albi has never been retouched. Plus, I got to see saint's skulls in the cathedral—that was a new one for me.
I also went on a whirlwind road trip to Barcelona. I had never been to Spain before. It turned out, though, that we just got to have some lunch, walk around the beautiful Born district—full of cobbled streets, little shops and parks and do a forced march to Gaudi's Sograta Familia. To the right is my buddy Jaclyn, checking the map. The forced march was not her fault!
Here I am in the Born District with pistachio gelato--my favorite!
Today we drove up the mountain north of St. Julien to do LAND ART with the artist Christophe Eppe. Homer couldn't come with us. He would have been in the way.
Two of our sculptures began as spheres and then collapsed. It was a little discouraging. On the left, Christophe checks out our ultimately successful rock egg. On the right, Jaclyn, Christophe, and me after all of us completed the egg.
Homer the dog couldn't come with us up the mountain to build LAND ART with Christophe Eppe. We drove north of St. Julien to an open area Christophe had picked out.
Trail Running in Labastide Esparbairenque! I really didn't ever imagine that I would come to France and get a lot of practice running mountain trails. It turns out that this is the perfect area for high mountain, un-peopled, untrampled, awesome, endless trails.
The air is dry and clear, and the trails with southern exposure are very warm in September. Homer, the English water spaniel (I think), likes to come with me. Homer is like the wind. He runs twice as far as I do—always circling around and up into the woods, in front of me and behind me.
The views are astounding—big gorges and valleys extending through forests as far as you can see. Homer reminds me how light a body can be!
La Muse in Labastide Esparbairenque
Even the flight attendant on my Air France flight who was from the Languedoc had trouble pronouncing the name of the town which was my destination. But after missing my first flight to Toulouse, then barely making my train to Carcassonne, I was picked up at the train station by John Fanning, the director of La Muse. La Muse is a Writer's and Artist's Retreat in the Aude "department" in the Languedoc region of Southern France.
I was so pleased to be given a residency here. The above left is the hallway to my room, while the right shows the street side of La Muse. To the immediate left is the back, which faces the valley. When the weather is warm, the patio is a great place for dinner. The town is in the middle of the "Black Mountain" region, basically in the middle of a huge chestnut and pine forest—no one ever knows what part of France I am talking about when I try to describe it. Check it out on the map!