Thursday, June 30, 2016


I am quite sure that when you travel,  unless you have endured some terribly dramatic event (and it better be dramatic), you may as well spare your audience a recounting of your travel woes. Hey, you signed onto this travel thing. You could have stayed home and watched the fireflies spark in your yard, but no, you insisted on turning your back on all that beauty. So don't grumble now when things aren't going according to plan.

But how about your travel successes? Should we write about those? I don't think so. It's boastful to tell of all that went right. He he, I got upgraded, the champagne flowed freely and the chair reclined, the plane came in early... Go ahead and enjoy it, but keep it to yourself. No one learns anything about the wider world from such braggings.

And so I tend not to write too much about the travel itself. Even though of course, travel took up the better part of the day and all of the night for me. I'll say this much -- I had such a pathetically easy arrival in Paris and that was a pleasant surprise, because France is embroiled in terrible labor disputes, causing numerous strikes and work stoppages, so that you cannot count on anything moving smoothly here right now.

But I'm not staying in Paris. Not until the very end of my ten days away and then only for a night. I'm heading first north, then south and so just getting to Paris did not place me yet in my final destination.

My home for the first two nights is the home of Michel and Francine Henri in Giverny. I told them back at the very beginning of November during my last visit to Giverny, that I would return when Monet's garden was nearing its peak and even though I spoke only wistfully then, it turned out that a visit here fit just perfectly into this current trip through France.

The short little train ride from Paris to Vernon/Giverny is where the delays and tardys and unexplained travel issues arose. But who cares. By early evening I am in Giverny, at the wonderful bed and breakfast called Les Arceaux.

But I'm not abandoning the story of my getting here too quickly. Because things went so smoothly, I have a few hours to spare in Paris before my train is scheduled to depart (oh, the benefits of traveling light!). I detour to the Luxembourg Gardens and walk along some of those lovely streets where Snowdrop and I frittered away the hours not so long ago.

In general, Paris feels cool (in the low seventies F) and just a little quiet.

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I dont think the summer exodus has happened yet, though perhaps everyone's getting ready for it. At any rate, I enjoy a very peaceful stroll through the park.

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And I go to the same old bakery to pick up a sandwich for the train ride and again I cast a nostalgic eye on the strawberry tart that I had purchased here for Snowdrop...

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I was trying to decide if I had time for a cup of coffee, when I come across an exhibition of ceramic art out on the square just before the Saint Sulpice church. It must have been the grand opening of this, because there are a lot of artsy people milling around...

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... and there seems to be a small bar set up where young servers are pouring beverages that look like fruit juice and I accept my glassful readily enough, as travel tends to make you thirsty, realizing only after a few gulps that it is a spiked punch and so the rest of my minutes in Paris are pleasantly fuzzy.

(Most of the designs were rather free form and abstract, but these more traditional plates certainly caught my interest. I mean -- did the artist visit our brood at the farmette???)

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At the Vernon/Giverny train station, poor Michel has to endure the wait for my very late train.But all that's in the past. It surely is good to finally walk the main street of the lovely village of Giverny again.

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The yard of the bed and breakfast certainly looks green and vibrant now.

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Michel tells me it's been a brutally wet spring. At one point the decision was made to close Monet's garden out of a fear that flooding would ruin the walkways through it. Things are calm now, but the weather here is far from settled and indeed, as I head out to find something to eat, the rains come down again.

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I pause at the Hotel Baudy, which isn't a hotel anymore but a place where you can get reliably okay if not especially memorable meal. (You don't come to Giverny if you insist on eating the best of the best in France.)

I walk home when it should be dark, but of course, in June in northern Europe, darkness is elusive. That's just fine with me -- the longer the day, the more I feel I am given a chance to savor the arrival of summer.

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Tomorrow I'll take a peak at what a carefully designed garden looks like on July 1st. You learn a lot by studying carefully  the work of gardening giants.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016


If you want to rest, I'll get the chickens...
No, you'll be getting them all those days, I'll go.

Such a pretty sunrise! The promise of a gorgeous day! A gorgeous week, in fact.
Why are you going? It's the usual question, asked not entirely seriously and with no expectation of an answer.

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Yes, the day lilies are now showing off, but if you count the buds, surely you'll count enough for them to bloom for me when I return?

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They're just starting, really they are.

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The farmhouse at sunrise. To me, it's so very beautiful now, when the sun just hits the tips of trees. Too, in the afternoon, in its joyous brightness. And especially in the evening -- you know, with the fireflies... Oh, it's splendid for us all the time! Venerable indeed!

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Breakfast on the porch.
I'll put on my new shorts for you...

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I had organized my packing last night and so I have a little spare time before I need to get to the airport for my afternoon flight. I split it almost evenly between watering this year's new plantings and taking Snowdrop for a walk. Her parents are insanely busy and besides, I love the idea of having one more conversation with her up and down the streets of the familiar to her neighborhood.

But first, I give her a dish of freshly picked raspberries. She's thrilled!

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And then we set out.

We do eventually make it to the playground and there are children there, bouncing off of the equipment and as always, she loves to watch them and she even tries a slide, but honestly, this isn't her high point. She is the one who will find a field of clover and pick a bud and study it carefully.

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She'll look around, run a little...

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And then she'll be ready to move on. We go to the nearby coffee shop where we sit outside and she enjoys her raisins from the cookie and of course, she takes in the world from her seat.

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She never stays in the stroller on the walk home. Happiness is walking next to me and listening to the explanations, adding her own words to the conversation...

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And now I have to say good bye. This is always the tough part: the leaving.

Ed drives me to the airport. The weather here is so perfect -- there should be no delays. My next post will most likely be from France.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


A beautiful day. A busy day. A short post day.

A day where I think a lot about travel. The importance of it. The difficulty of leaving. The excitement of planning. All of it.

I stare hard at my flowers and warn them that if they pop more than one bud open in the ten days I am away I'll be terribly upset. Being dramatic with one's garden isn't necessarily helpful but it makes you feel good.

Breakfast. Lovely as always. No matter how great the croissant over there, this porch breakfast will always be at the top of my heap.

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A look out at the big flower field.

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A look west toward the echinacea plant. Moved here just last year.

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And then I hurry over to Snowdrop's home. It's a cooler day today and she's dressed appropriately for it. And she is raring to go.

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So we go for a walk. A lovely walk -- mommy, Snowdrop and gaga.

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Quiet time afterwards. With a book...

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In my lap, tapping the rhythm of a song on the tiny player keyboard.

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And then finally I head home. Oh, I should spend the rest of the day readying the garden for my absence, but one glance tells me that it's faring well. I'll do touch ups early tomorrow morning, but it looks steady on its feet (only please let it rain at least once while I'm away!).

I attend, instead, to more pressing matters, like, for example, dragging Ed out to the nearest store so that he can pick up a pair of shorts. He has only two pairs and one has more tears than even the hippest torn up pair you'll see on a young kid. Lucky break: the shorts are only $13.92 each and so he agrees to putting two into our cart.

A quiet supper, a wistful stroll to the coop in the evening. Yeah, it's hard to leave it all and (especially) the people on this side of the ocean. But I know this about life: you can't run from new experiences just because the old ones are so comfortable and fine.

Still, it is a beautiful evening here in the Midwest, at the farmette, at home.

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Monday, June 27, 2016


It's yet another unusual week. June is full of them this year! Oh, it conforms to a pattern today: it's Monday and Snowdrop spends the day at the farmhouse, which surely must feel like an extension of her home right now -- you know, the playroom in a very large mansion. But that's today. On Wednesday, I'm taking off and so I must at least half focus my attentions on that part of the week. Even though truthfully, were I to be planning my travels right now, I would not have picked late June of this year for going away. (When I made my plans, I thought my Warsaw apartment would be fully renovated by now. But, things got delayed when the current residents couldn't quite move out in March. And so yes, I'll be going to Poland, but only because I have a ticket that puts me there. The rest of the trip has been hastily adjusted to put me somewhere else.)

Alright, but today is Monday and after breakfast (such a beautiful day today!)...

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... and a quick look and a fix up of my garden...  -- in which the daylilies are adding color...

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... though perhaps overshadowed right now by the pink hydrangeas...

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... in great competition with the little guys (geranium, evening primrose, daisy, dianthus)...

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... to say nothing of the ever sleek and sophisticated japanese iris...

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... I have this wonderful and easy day with Snowdrop. I say easy because honestly, I have had such a hand on her pulse recently that it takes no talent to fill her hours here. (You'll recognize the activities -- you've seen them in the last week.)

She hunts down ripe raspberries.

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The cheepers follow.

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She sweeps the chips in front of the house.

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I suggest the pool -- she's all for it! The pool came with a shade umbrella -- a silly thing for us because there is so much shade at the farmette. But I put it up, for the hell of it. Useless, but cute.

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Four pool play photos for you. She is entirely happy making up stories as she splashes about. She can occupy herself in this way for a long, long time.

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I tell her we should go inside now. She runs away.

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Are you chasing me, grandma?

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Lunchtime on the porch. Oh, she loves that! Dessert:

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And a view toward the great outdoors.

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A few minutes of play indoors -- she is no longer content just to sit quietly at her table.

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Snowdrop, watch what you're doing!
Grandma, I have it under control.

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She naps, I have a quiet moment on the porch. With coffee and a special cookie.

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I take her home. We go for a walk with her mommy, we pause at the coffee shop. Snowdrop has said "mommy" more times today than in the entire last week. She acknowledges the pleasure of having those you love around you.

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Evening at the farmhouse. Just Ed and I. And our flowers (and cheepers and tomatoes and trees and odds and ends...). This year, I favored putting in the so called spider day lilies. This newly blooming one surely demonstrates the appropriateness of the name.

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One last look at the garden. At the bed I planted from scratch last year. Doing well! And we are too! How good is that...

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