THE NEW YEAR RAINS
So, it's the time of the year that I had dreaded. The cold, short days without the excitment of Christmas to lift spirits.
We arrived back in the south of France after Christmas in Normandy to a storm that seemed to last for three days. Thunder and lightening and never ending rain. The streams swelled to rivers and roared through the village, climbing up the walls of the houses built along the banks. The rain is very welcome. The land is thirsty for a winter of rain. Every morning that I wake to the sound of the rain on the roof and the rush of the small stream on the road outside I remember to be grateful for this water that will be reaching deep into the earth, lying dormant and then exploding green in the spring. It also means a lot of time indoors which is sometimes harder to find the gratitude for... The sea of toys that floods the floor, the endless requests to either bake or paint or create a boat out of the four chairs... At times it is no longer possible to get to the toilet without upsetting the hundreds of wooden blocks which are possibly a city for imaginary foxes or possibly just abandoned from an earlier game. At every opportunity, every break in the rain, we have headed outside and breathed in deep the fresh air, splashed through endless puddles and then returned to add another pair of soaked shoes to the line under the radiator.
Some days have been brilliant bright ones. The sun has shone and it feels like spring has arrived early. These days, after dropping Little L at school, Little I and I walk. We take the path along the river or the track to the lake. Wintertime has opened up new views. We can see through lines of bare trees to the streams usually shaded from view. Little I is able to spot the red squirrels running smoothly along the bare branches then leaping to the next one. We hear the song of birds and can spy them perched high above our heads. Earlier this week, Little I and I cycled to a bend in the river, downstream from the village. I had wondered some time back whether it might be a good summer swimming hole. With the trees now bare I looked down the bank to see the rapids and below them the pool and the pebble beaches on each side. There, sat on a pile of small branches recently deposited to the side of the river during floods were a pair of herons and a pair of great cormorants*. They sat, sharing the same island, before taking off into the air, long wings beating the air and slowly climbing higher and then out of sight.
Yesterday the girls and I visited the river where we searched for any treasures left behind from the recent high water. Little I stripped off her clothes and walked naked into the river. Water reaches up her thighs, rushing past, down from higher up, fed with mountain streams and snow, cascading down towards the lower lands. The men playing boules look up from their pitch above the river bank. 'Oh la, la, elle aura froide' they call across to me. I'm not sure if they are disapproving or approving. In any case, I am much more used to everyone offering their opinion to me about the children and so I smile back, 'oui'. Little I enjoys a few seconds of exhiliration and then calls to me 'maman froid, maman froid'.
We travelled up to the mountains for a day in the snow. We discovered the smallest of ski resorts, spread out across a plateau surrounded by high peaks. It was breathtakingly beautiful. A fresh snowfall from the day before had covered every branch of every tree and deep, deep drifts rose up and down like a sea over the open spaces. Skiing is far beyond our budget at the moment but we sledged, explored snow caves and igloos, watched sleds pulled by dogs and the horse drawn sleigh rides and drank hot chocolates. It was the first time Little I enjoyed snow. The sun shone warm and there was no trace of wind. Both girls waded through powder, rolled and screamed in delight. Only at the very end of the day did their feet and hands begin to feel the cold. We returned to the van and stripped off their layers, strapped them into their seats and wrapped them anew in blankets and jumpers. They both fell into deep sleeps on our way home, childish mouth open sleeps with faces pink and hair tangled.
So, at it turns out, this first month of 2018 has been surprisingly gentle. I have not descended into winter blues and instead it has felt like a month of hard work tempered with good restful times.
The children's attic bedroom is nearly finished ! After over eighteen months of all living in one space (the tent, then the studio flat, now the living/bedroom) we will have the opportunity to not all be in the same room all of the time... (See below for pictures of the room). This will feel like true wealth and comfort although perhaps we'll all feel a little lonely too!
The new year has brought new motivation to make the outside of the house look a little more loved. It is the last thing on the long list of renovation tasks. We have always felt that the necessities of a watertight roof, a bathroom, kitchen and everything else had to come first. However, I came to feel that putting some love and attention into the exterior might feel motivating. When I have time I am now restoring and repainting the shutters and window frames. By spring we would love our window boxes to be full of colourful flowers and scented herbs even if behind the pretty windows lies a room still much in need of repair...