There is a simplicity to life in my part of France that appeals to me, that I greatly admire….it is not a way of life that I am accustomed to and nor is it a life that I think I could live on a full time basis. My life is compartmentalised…I have one way of living in France and I have another in London not to mention being Australian born and feeling very much an Australian…When this existence becomes too complicated, too confusing, too frenetic I reflect on the straightforwardness of some of the French lives that surround me in Provence….Could I forgo the material luxuries that make a split life possible? Would I be content to live for the rest of my days in one place, with the same routines day after day, season upon season? Could I live in a world where the internet doesn’t reign supreme? I fear I know the answers to these questions already….It is too late for me… I am already lost to the modern world where stimulation, instantaneity and choice have spoilt me… but I do know a French couple who aren’t.
The manager of our farm and his wife met at 14, married at 18 and have been together some 40 years..they have never dated another and I suspect they are as in love now as they were in their teens. They are inseparable and apart from their respective jobs they never, ever spend time apart. In all of their married lives there have only been a handful of nights that they have not slept in the same bed…this was due to illness…and those nights were unsettling and sleepless for them both. They were born in Provence and have lived in a ten mile radius from their birthplace ever since. Their holidays are spent for the most part in France…they have ventured ‘overseas’ twice in their lives, when their children encouraged them to spread their wings and try something ‘new’. They came home disenchanted and happy to be once again in la Belle France. Even a day trip to Marseille, one hour away, is an unwelcome event for them. Their comfort zone is the familiar and they are, unlike most of us, not interested to challenge that. It is not because they are frightened or scared but rather that they are utterly content within their world. They truly believe that France is best and while they are well informed with matters of not only national but also global importance, their curiosity for adventure is not piqued for one moment.
Life for this couple revolves around their work and their family. That is who they are and what they do. They are liberal minded, welcoming people who adore their children, their children’s partners and their grandchildren; their friends are from childhood and their social life revolves around one or the other. They appreciate the contrasts between us and while I believe that they find my different way of living to be somewhat peculiar, there is no judgement and never any attempt to convert me. They will never, ever understand how I could have left my country of birth to live in a foreign land. That is inconceivable to them; to leave les racines, the roots of one’s life is unimaginable to them. As much as I might explain that I don’t feel as if I have abandoned my homeland but rather expanded it, we must agree to disagree.
When I return to Provence after an extended absence I am always astounded by the raw beauty of the region and in particular the Alpilles where our farm is located. Without fail I ask if they realise how fortunate and blessed they are to have lived their lives in this idyllic countryside…The answer is always the same….bien sur….. as if to say… is there any where else? It is as if I am the foolish one, the one who is missing out. To be surrounded by such magnificence all of your days is an exceptional state, to be aware and appreciative of your good fortune at the same time is rare. When I read this quotation from William Henry Channing, I couldn’t help but think of this Provencal couple….
“To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion, to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully, to all bravely await occasions, hurry never. In a word, to let the spiritual unbidden and unconscious grow up through the common. This is to be my symphony.”
They are living simply by our sophisticated standards, luxury and fashion are not words that would enter into their vocabulary. Always cheerful, they do ‘think quietly’ and so often ‘listen to birds and babes with open heart’. They most certainly ‘await occasions’ as their lives revolve around the traditions of the past and their diaries are ruled by the seasons. This couple are the definition of patience for there is no such act or word as ‘hurry’ in the Provencal world. Their symphony is rich…a life lived in harmony. A life that is content…xv
The idea for today’s post came from Marsha at Splenderosa… for more brilliant interpretations of William Henry Channing’s words please continue to some of my favourite bloggers…