wayfaringwordhack: (kickin' it island style)
A scene-setting photo of the special spot, a panorama to try to capture some of its geologically-crazy glory:

(click to see larger photo)

All the stuff in between )

sun and moon

Sourdough, surf, sand, swimming, sunsets...a very satisfying Sunday all around.
wayfaringwordhack: (kickin' it island style)
First, sourdough pancakes for breakfast. We need a bellyful of fuel for the busy day to come. After licking (just kidding) the last drizzles of maple syrup from our plates, we head to the bay. Other surfers are leaving, making more room for J on the waves.  While he paddles out, the Sprout and I go a-bird tracking. 

surf and birds

The tractor that cleans the seaweed and small rocks from the tideline scared the ruddy turnstones before we could get close enough for pretty pictures. We decided to do some art on the beach instead.  Photo of finished project coming your way soon(ish). 

beach art

Art on the beach is fine...for a little while. Then you need to play with the sand. Building things is fun. Like a sand fish. The sprout added a mouth and turned it into a sharkfish, but then the waves came and ate it.

sand fish

Time to get revenge on the waves before heading home for lunch.

playing in the surf

That chapel-esque structure on Sainte Barbe is nothing of the kind. It is some sort of housing for a power or water unit...or something. I wanted to verify the last time we walking up there and forgot.

The rest of the Ss in post number 2...
wayfaringwordhack: (web)
Pretty much in our backyard...

On the Basque coastline, La Pile D'Assiettes (the stack of plates), which is just two-minute walk from where I like to go to write:

la pile d'assiette - st jean de Luz - close up

  For a billion years the patient earth amassed documents and inscribed them with signs and pictures which lay unnoticed and unused. Today, at last, they are waking up, because man has come to rouse them. Stones have begun to speak, because an ear is there to hear them. Layers become history and, released from the enchanted sleep of eternity, life's motley, never-ending dance rises out of the black depths of the past into the light of the present. — Hans Cloos Conversation with the Earth (1954)

And in context:
la pile d'assiettes - st jean de luz

Gradually the sunken land begins to rise again, and falls perhaps again, and rises again after that, more and more gently each time, till as it were the panting earth, worn out with the fierce passions of her fiery youth, has sobbed herself to sleep once more, and this new world of man is made. — Charles Kingsley; 'Thoughts in a Gravel Pit', a lecture delivered at the Mechanics' Institute, Odiham (1857). The Works of Charles Kingsley (1880), 282. 

Quotations from TodayinSci
wayfaringwordhack: (writing: food for thought)

If you want a lovely start to your day...nay, if you want a recipe for an entire day chockfull of loveliness--not just the morning--pack a tasty breakfast (in our case: chorizo, ewe & goat cheese and cow cheese from local farmer, homemade bread slathered in butter with a side of (also local) honey, some fruit, coffee and water), and head to a place with a nice view for an early-bird picnic.


When all are sated, in both tummy and vision, send the significant other off with your child so that...


with only skinks, sparrows, and petrified whales for company, you can work on your story before the pages calcify like those of the tome below:

The rest of the recipe for a wonderful day )

If your day goes anything like mine, you'll come back home feeling lighter and freer and more in touch with everyone and everything around you.
* Bay of Loya sounds a whole like Moya, in Mayotte, which is what the view from above reminded Julien I of (last photo in this post).
wayfaringwordhack: (web)
Pottok/pottock: a half-wild pony, emblematic of Basque country, that lives in the Pyrenees. Pottok literally means "little horse" in Basque and is linked to the word pottolo (chubby or tubby), which makes me think of the French word potelé, which also means chubby.

According to a legend*, the pottok inspired the creation of the txalaparta, a Basque instrument. The sound of the sticks hitting the planks is reminiscent of the sound of a horse's gallop. Here is a video so you can hear the sound (with a nifty Basque chant around 3:20. Subtitles in French explaining more about the instrument and its uses/history).

pottok on Jaizkibel

I hear in my heart,
I hear in its ominous pulses,
All day, on the road, the hoofs of invisible horses.

~ Louise Imogen Guiney, from "Wild Ride"

pottok foal

Since the dawn of civilization, the horse and the Muses have been boon
companions in all the heroics of mythology and history.
~ Robert Frothingham
* There is no consensus on the true origins and uses of the txalaparta. As for the name of the instrument, according to Wikipedia: In Basque, zalaparta (with [s]) means "racket", while in the nearby areas of Navarre "txalaparta" has been attested as meaning the trot of the horse, a sense closely related to the sound of the instrument. 

wayfaringwordhack: (footprint in the sand)
It has been ages since I did a glimpse post, and I was on my way to bed before I remembered that I had vowed to resume the custom here on my blog on Wednesdays.

This is a true glimpse of something bigger to come.

In the meantime, can anyone guess what is on the other side of this gate?


If you only knock long enough and loud enough at the gate, you are sure to wake up somebody.  ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
wayfaringwordhack: (web)

On our world trip, while in Santiago, Chili, J and I took great pleasure strolling around, photographing some awesome graffiti. I always meant to put up a wonderful quote that I found that day and the accompanying art, but I never got around to it. I took a photo at the ornithological reserve in Le Teich the other day that will do the trick now because the Santiago pic is on a hard drive, packed away.  Somewhere.

The whole flock trembles when the black sheep eats the wolf. ~~Unknown 

Speaking of sheep, Soëlie, Manou (or Madame la Maman, as I call her), and I went for a walk in the woods this afternoon, on the flank of the Black Mountains, and part of our path ran alongside the back of a sheep pasture.  I've been doing the obligatory animal sounds* with Soëlie, and she was maa-maaaa'ing her heart out, trying to get the sheep to come to us. Sadly not a one obliged her. :P

*It's been several months, at least three, that S meows, and in Le Teich, she learned to click her tongue to call horses. 
wayfaringwordhack: (new leaf)
We've had some amazingly beautiful days of late, but the mornings and evenings have that chill bite that lets you know autumn is preparing winter's way.

The maples are ablaze with color: yellow, orange, red, purple-black. Ferns taller than I form a separate, russet forest beneath the lofty boughs of maritime pine, plantations of which cover the Gascogny Coast.  Pine cones and acorns fallen from golden-leafed oaks litter the ground, and pumpkin-orange mushrooms as big as my hand sprout on logs and amidst still-green grass. 

Soëlie is getting acquainted with fall, old enough at last to explore on her own. I just wish for her sake (and for mine) the air smelled more consistently of autumn's goodness--mouldering leaves, mushrooms, woodsmoke--instead of the stench of the nearby Smurfit-Kappa's paper mill.

wayfaringwordhack: (sunflower - closed)
In every French town or village I've been in there is a monument aux morts, a war memorial. Often they cite the villagers who went off to defend their country and fell in battle, but just recently, I noticed two that are far more "personal" in that they commemorate a tragedy that happened where the monument is erected.

This first one is alongside a road I've taken many times over the years, but tucked, as it is, behind a hedge, I never noticed it until I took a wrong turn on my way to the butcher and had to back up.  
"Here fell Maurice Renne, victim of Nazi barbary, August 20, 1944."

This one I've seen several times--I drive past it at least once every week--but never really looked at, not until after reading the one above.

"Here, on August 26, 1944, the Germans shot down [list of names -- all members of the French Forces of the Interior
 ...Hommage to the F.F.I who died for the Liberation"

I was born to a different era, a different country, but it still moves me to see these cold, angular stones erected in place of men whose days of laughing and loving were cut short because of war.
wayfaringwordhack: (footprint in the sand)
Part 1 of this "glimpse" here.  Not that I'm going in any kind of logical order, but that's where the first photos are.

I should have begun with a bit of historical context perhaps, not the history of Guédelon, but the history of France where this "archaeological experiment" slots in. However, that means recalling things that the guide told us, and since I always seem to find myself trying to write these posts near midnight, my mental prowess is not at its peak. Alas. (FYI, I began this post three--four? make that at least five six with LJ's current problems--days ago; that's how hard it is for me to find the time to get it written up.)

So, begging pardon if I misremember something:

Guédelon is an example of the architectural style Philip II Augustus instated and imposed on his vassals, the principle characteristics being (from the Guédelon website):

1) a polygonal ground plan {Me:  If memory serves, of some 1000+ "philippien" castles, only 4 were/are perfect squares. I’m sure the number of overall castles was much higher, but I prefer to err on the modest side};

2) high stone curtain walls, often built on battered plinths;

3) a dry ditch {Me: According to our guide, a "moat" with water in it was not that common during this period, water actually being easier to cross than a dry ditch filled with traps or briars, not to mention that copious amounts of water were not available everywhere and rerouting rivers, etc. to fill the moats was costly.  Water-filled moats later came into fashion as a way for lords to flaunt their wealth};

4) round flanking towers pierced with arrow loops, the positions of which are staggered on each floor of the tower {Me: Each tower always had arrowslits--see photo below--that allowed archers to fire along the walls it flanked, or "flanking fire."  Woe to those who tried to scale said walls};

5) one corner tower, the great tower or tour maîtresse, higher and larger than the rest, acts as the donjon {Me: The donjon is the first tower to be built. That way the people have a place to take refuge in in case of attack};

6) a chatelet with twin drum towers protecting the gate.

The efficacity of Philip's design is most tellingly illustrated by this map showing France before and after his conquests:

Image via Wikipedia
Red = England's toe foot- and handhold / Green and blue = French, with blue denoting the crown's lands, specifically / Yellow = Church domains

Not only did the architectural style help regain land and defend against English attacks, it quelled the French nobles' desire to annex their neighbors' castles.  Knowing one's enemy's home has the same insurmountable traps and tricks as one's own is apparently a terrific deterrent.  

During our first visit to Guédelon in 2004, our tour was much different due to the state of progress, which has since evolved, so we spent more time learning about the defenses. Our guide took us through the postern and tointed out the traps and tricks employed to keep an attacker from success: a step forcing an attacker to lift his foot when going through a doorway while a low lintel made him duck his head; holes in the ceiling that things could be dropped through; holes in the sides where swords or spears could pierce or slow those trying to make it through the narrow passage; or staircases that "turn" the wrong way, meaning a man could not fight and climb at the same time because, the left hand being of the Devil, an attacker would only be using his right hand...

An arrowslit or arrow loop from inside the tower:

The walls are 3.5 meters thick, and the mortar is still drying inside; in fact, the mortar is still drying in castles built while Philip II Augustus was alive because it takes a centuries for air to reach the middle of such a thick wall. That allows the walls time to settle, contrary to concrete, which dries too fast, and that is a wonderful thing to prevent your walls from cracking and your stones from tumbling down.

No detail is neglected at Guédelon, not even the "toilet." When you lift the wooden slat there, you see that the hole drilled through the stone drops down along the castle wall. Yet another reason you don't want to be in that dry ditch, attacking the castle.

Hollywood and fiction are talking bullocks, said our guide, when they show enemies quickly conquering a castle.*

* From Wikipedia: Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but usually consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace, which is not fortified, from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility, and from a fortified town, which was a public defence – though there are many similarities between these types of construction. Usage of the term has varied over time and has been applied to structures as diverse as hill forts and country houses.
wayfaringwordhack: (footprint in the sand)
I'm woefully behind on posts I'd like to make; this one, for example, dates to Father's Day, but I have others that go even further back.  Nothing for it but to jump right in.

Julien gave me a wonderful first Mother's Day, stepping in skillfully for a daughter still too young to truly show how she appreciates me (as appreciate and love me she must, non?), and I wanted to do likewise for Father's Day. I was thwarted by the weather, however, and suggested we visit Guédelon. (I encourage you to click on the link, where a very brief video will pop up explaining the concept and giving some nifty images.  it should be in English; if not, there will be an English option on the page.)

Seeing as how this was our fourth visit to Guédelon since coming to the region the first time in 2003, I was sure I had commented on it before, and indeed I did, five years ago to the day.* I wasn't particularly eloquent last time, though, and shared no photos, so I thought to remedy, giving you a true glimpse of this lovely French endeavor.

Given the late hour, I'll mostly let the pictures do the talking, but if anyone is interested in learning more, let me know and I'll find the time to go into more detail.  

(click for an even larger image to see details)

Guédelon has all the necessary artisans: stonecutters, carpenters, basket makers, blacksmiths, the list goes on. All the door handles, ornaments, and nails above, the blacksmith** pictured made using the tools and methods that would have been available to his predecessors in the 13th century.

By researching illuminations and texts from the past, as well as stained glass windows in cathedrals (each guild usually paid to have their profession represented), the historians working with the project are able to make decent conjectures about tools, typical worker's garb, etc.

Ok, crying baby calls. Hope you find this glimpse interesting. :)


* Would have been to the day if I hadn't started writing the post so late. :P

** Or one like him.  Lots of artisans and volunteers pass through Guédelon each year, but many stick around. I know because we have a photo of a man from five years ago, and we saw him again this time around.
wayfaringwordhack: (footprint in the sand)
It seems these days are days for reminiscing; many are those on my flist who have had recent posts or fleeting mentions of the past just as I myself wished to wander a bit through my own lanes and byways of memory. As [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume  puts it at the beginning of her most recent post: I'm "Feeling lonesome for past times: past childhood,.."

That is not to say I'm malcontent with my present, but as I was walking and taking pictures the other day, seeking my touchstone with nature (to borrow from [livejournal.com profile] pjthompson ), I happened past a garden that transported me to my childhood New Mexico with its heady aroma of sun-warmed dill.  

(Garden by the Loire)
Smelling that pungent herb, I was eleven again, living on an isolated farm, surrounded by Black Angus cattle, wheat fields and rolling plains the color of sage. We were 12 miles from school, 30 from where we went to church, and 60 where we had to go for groceries. Rural, very remote, and I loved it. I loved having my horse grazing the pastures behind the farm, loved spotting a herd of pronghorn antelope, loved watching the epic transformations of cumulus clouds across the boundless blue sky.  

I loved that we had a garden and I never had to go hungry there. I loved the bounty and the work that came with it, shucking corn and shelling peas. I loved my guardian's homemade pickles and pantry full of preserves. I loved that she ground her own flour from wheat her husband grew and gathered eggs from her own hens. When I think of my little family's Someday, that moment when we decide to stop traipsing the world and settle down with a house of our own, I want to have a garden. I know the landscape around it won't be similar to what I knew for those brief years as a child, but I hope the feeling of plenty and contentment will be the same.

(Gentleman gardening by the Loire)

I know the New Mexico I miss is not necessarily a place--it's the time that I was rescued, when my life bloomed, when I found out the world had more in it than roach motels, food stamps, and fear.

I never have and I never will miss West Texas with its air that smells all too often of flatulence from the gas wells, its pumpjacks like skeletal birds, condemned to eternally peck the same bit of barren ground.

I've moved on to different pastures, not always greener, but better, infinitely better.

wayfaringwordhack: (coquelicot)
Julien's grandmother lives in Carcassonne, and as always we went to visit her during our trip south. This time, though, Julien and I took the time to vist the City, the original fortified town, one of, if not the, largest fortified medieval towns still in existence in France (Europe?...too tired to look it up). Soëlie must get to know the birthplace of her father, non?

A panorama and details from the cathedral:

Feast your eyes... )

wayfaringwordhack: (passionfruit)
Fiber arts:
The crochet project is not going to get done when I hoped it would.  I have set it aside for now because of Soëlie...

Not because of her dubious help with the tasting, er, counting, but because we have a family wedding coming up in July and I've decided to make her dress for it (more on this in another post).  And my outfit.  Have I mentioned before that I am a glutton for punishment?  No?  Well, consider it mentioned.


I have half of the scenes plotted for Witherwilds Bk 2. I've gotten some great feedback on the first book that has let me know what needs to be clearer, what needs to have more punch, more clarity. Hopefully I shall improve upon those things in the second installment; revisions for the first will have to wait.

My insomnia is back, despite being new-mommy exhausted from sleep deprivation--but my mind uses those long hours of staring at the dark ceiling to give me character insights and plot tidbits for the next book.  Thanks to that, all is not lost, only sleep (and a few brain cells, no doubt)...


Unlike most normal people, I was wishing for one last snow this year.  I didn't get it, but seeing the countryside in bloom, the wild onions already making an appearance, I can't say I regret the arrival of spring.  It is glorious to go for long strolls, not having to worry about having Soëlie out too long in the cold.  The air is alive with so many perfumes, so much birdsong and life...

wayfaringwordhack: (Default)
Early this morning, frost was thick on the ground and the sun red in the sky, but a lack of sleep drove me back to my bed even though I sorely wanted to go out with the camera.  When I woke up later, the frost was still there, so we decided to go for a walk.  Alas, we thought to go further afield and when we arrived, the glittering was gone and the sky overcast.

We decided to stop at Chateau de Nozet just outside Pouilly-sur-Loire for J to taste some wine.   Pouillly and Sancerre are basically wine rivals, with Sancerre being the better known wine but not necessarily the better wine depending on who you ask. And who the winegrower in question is. Everyone's wine is different. Mostly Sancerre has more press because it perches charmingly on a hill that dominates the vineyards and the Loire River. Pouilly is located right along the river, hardly on a rise at all.

The wine was good, said he, but too expensive. The asking price was to pay for the chateau's name basically, a chateau we could not visit because it is private property, warded by nature,

and by man

Nature's wards are much stronger, as you can see; the castle looks positively ghostly and insubstantial when you peer through them...

So we came away with a few moody photos and a jar of confit de vin (wine jelly), much cheaper than a bottle of wine. :) And tasty!  I just tried some on a slice of homemade bread with some lightly salted butter. Eat that, salesperson, who kept looking at me like I was a lizard when I suggested doing something besides cooking with it.  :P
wayfaringwordhack: (frangipani)

A winter version of Queen Anne's Lace.

Summer's version is here.

wayfaringwordhack: (footprint in the sand)

I used to think I had a mind like a steel trap.  Now I wonder if it is not more like a barbed wire fence: Loosely strung, rusted, full of spaces to let thoughts pass, but still capable of snagging and holding on to things and causing harm.


On my country walks, I like to indulge in woolgathering, but not like these fences, snatching wool from passersby, hoarding and disguising their barbs under pearls of fleece.

Or do I?  

Maybe I catch inspiration like that speared leaf, snagging it out of my surroundings, only to let it dry and crumple while I find the time and inclination to make something of it, until one day, the leaf is a dessicated skeleton, the inspiration no more than a faint memory.

If Don McLean's moss growing fat on a rolling stone was a negative thing, I wonder how lichen growing thick on a rusted line compares.  Maybe, if want to work my creative process into this comparison, it would be best to side with the Ancient school of thought who viewed the accumulation of moss as a good thing. Like seeded oysters, those clusters of lichen might be steadily absorbing rain rich with elements and dust just gritty enough to grow a story that will spark my enthusiasm. I'd like to hope so...

This post seems to have a melancholy bent. Strange, for I feel not melancholic at all...
wayfaringwordhack: (maki - my what orange eyes you have)
I have started assembling photos from around Menetreol to give you an idea of what a typical village in the area looks like, but I don't have enough that please me yet. I don't typically take such pictures.  Anyhow, in the meantime, something related.

Two very different looks at our little village by the canal:

I think my belief in the ferocity of the dogs would be helped if the sign was not bright fuscia and the lettering not quite so elegant. :P Sadly, I did not have room to fit in the photo of Christmas decorations. One of the things that drove me mad about France when I first arrived was seeing Christmas decorations well in to March, and I'm not talking about just on homes but in businesses. I don't need to see Santa hanging from a bakery roof in April, thank you very much.

On a creepier note:


I took these photos just after reading [livejournal.com profile] asakiyume 's post mentioning spells and hoodoo.  The top left photo shows bones embedded in the sides of a stone garage, presumably for hanging things on. The bottom left is, yes, a goat's foot next to rusted bolts and a Heineken bottle. The whole is sitting on the windowsill of an abandoned house.  And the last is a sheep or goat's skull on an attic window. I am not, of course, on a witch hunt. That would not be funny, because...

Coincidentally, last night in the news, there was a story about the alarming number of women who are killed in our day and age for being witches. The story concentrated on Assam,  India, but I'm sure it happens elsewhere, too.  My news was in French, but here is a link to a video about a woman fighting the persecution (The same woman was interviewed on the French news and gave land coveting as a reason widows are often branded witches after their husbands die; perfect excuse for for a greedy someone to get their paws on the widow's land). But women are not the only victims, as this article shows.

wayfaringwordhack: (frangipani)
 Another patchwork from my environs, deep summer in the heart of France.

wayfaringwordhack: (coquelicot)

 This one is for [livejournal.com profile] clarentine , who seems fond of Queen Anne's Lace. Taken at sunset, along the canal.

The lore behind the name: The plant is named after Queen Anne of England, renowned as an expert lace maker. But one day, she pricked her finger with a needle and a drop of blood fell into the lace, whence comes the deep purple-red bud in the center of the flower, which you can see in the top right photo.

And a bonus close-up:


wayfaringwordhack: (Default)

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