7 Sep 2011

the simple life…french style…

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


image – carla coulson

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…

MARSHA HARRIS


TISH JETT

YVONNE PRATT

CHARLOTTA WARD

GREET LEFEVRE

CATHERINE ROBINSON

ANNIE BOUTERSE

COTY FARQUHAR

DEBORAH PETERSON

DUSTJACKET ATTIC

SHARI MILLER

TINA

MONA THOMPSON

FIFI FLOWERS

JACQUELINE MUMFORD

KARIN JANSKY

CECILIA GONZALEZ

RENEE GRANIER & ANGELA FOSTER

JANELL

LISA

CHRISTINA FLUEGGE

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52 Comments

Lost in Provence

Such a beautiful post. I do love that quote and it is always a good reminder when I read it again. I have slowed down so much since moving to Arles, now that I am not working as much as I used to and it does take a conscious mental shift and a willingness to just be. For those that have spent their entire lives doing so is something else entirely.

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loulou

Hello vicki

well with all the quotations in the world that try to make us all better people – here is a couple that's personal love and energy for one another is the real life quotation. They are living the dream aren't they?

lovely post

x

Loulou
(australia)

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Jojo

A very beautiful post and romantic too. The story of your farm manager and his simple but rich life is truly beautiful. The quote is powerful reminding us to hurry never though this is how I spend my days. My work requires that I run from deadline to deadline, day after day.

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quintessence

What a lovely post in response to the quote. I feel sorry that I just didn't have time to participate in this first project! I love that you agree to disagree – this is of course what makes the world go 'round – so many different yet equally valid approaches to life. A quiet mind is something that I often long for – but as you say, it is too late for me as well.

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Mona Thompson Providence Ltd.

Vicki, Such a wonderful post. This couple reminds me of some of my own relatives. They have never moved from our small hometown and as you have so eloquently described here are some of the happiest most satisfied people that I know. Thanks so much for sharing your lovely gift of storytelling with us today. So beautifully written. Mona

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Veronica

I have so enjoyed reading your post. It is inclusive of the poem and having visited that region before I can only concur with your sentiments about the beauty. What a wonderful story and like you I too am not able to stay put. You are so very fortunate to be able to live in so many different worlds and as a South African who does not transplant well, I still have desighns on living in Provence/ France. It is the only other place where i can imagine feeling right at home. Loved your story…sigh.

Veronica

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Grammy Goodwill

This post is thought-provoking in its body, and then the quotation that you finished with – that inspired the post initially – is so powerful. That would make a fine obituary for me.

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Yvonne @ StoneGable

What a gorgeous post! Filled with inspiration and a tale of a couple loving and living life in their own way! Beautiful… simple and thought provoking!
You are blessed to be able to slip out of your world and immerse yourself in this beauty once and awhile!
Yvonne

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Anonymous

Lovely post, much enjoyed reading, I am also lost to the modern world, even sat here in St Remy! Nicola

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LaPouyette

Very lovely post, Vicki. Yes, the French countryside people still remain a good human being.

Merci beaucoup for your comment,
amicalement and greetings from the Périgord,
karin

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Alcira Molina-Ali

What a heartfelt and philosophical post, Vicki.

For those of us who live, much like you, between compartmentalized worlds and often question whether we could do otherwise at this stage, it's these sorts of ruminations that serve as food for thought.
What a truly fortunate couple this pair is.
What a wonderful world they inhabit — each others'.
And lastly, what magnificent flowering trees.

Warm regards, Alcira

nerochronicles.com

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LPC

I do believe the time I have lived most closely in accordance with this quotation was 2 months in the Dordogne, working as a camp counselor. Just a simple bowl of cafe au lait, and bread and butter for breakfast, and a sunrise. Beautiful.

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hopflower

Actually, there are many people in many countries who are happy with their lives. And that is the secret: being happy with what you have and not lusting after everything else. Americans rarely understand this; but there are some of them even here. You must have a real solid set of values to live this way and be happy; but it is not impossible. Thanks for reminding us that it is not necessarily a restless world for everyone after all.

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Karena

So heartfelt Vicki. Your life is like a dream come true for me of course. I too have family and friends very content to stay in their familiar surrounding. I guess I have more of the adventurer and wanderlust in me.

Thanks for sharing the links of so many of my favorite blog friends.

xoxo
Karena

Art by Karena

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Amy

I've never met your farm manager and his wife, but I feel like I know them. And that they're beautiful.

I often wonder…if I moved to France, would I ever feel the need to travel again?

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French Heart

Wonderful post. Esp love the William Henry Channing quote. The world is too materialistic, and too superficially busy. My desire is to find balance. Am always evaluating if what I am doing is worth the investment of my one precious life.

I live in a garden, set in a forest, on the Northern California coast 30 minutes from Big Sur and referred to as been called 'the greatest meeting of land and sea' steps from the beach and the Carmel Mission built in 1770–both very important to me. If I never wore anything but simple black, and never left the area–my life wouldn't be less rich.

One of my favorite things to do is sit in the 'magic tree' behind poet Robinson Jeffers 'Tor House' and over a rocky, wild part of the sea. Total contentment & peace. But, had my brother and parents not died recently & tragically…I'd probably be tearing around more as used to do. Priorities definitely shifted.

Thanks for the thoughtful post. I love your caretaker couple! Bless them!

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Charlotta Ward

How beautiful. I loved the story and the time & heart you put in to this post. Live in Provence seem wonderful and you have conveyed it with such skill.

Thank you!

x Charlotta
Space for Inspiration

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Ingrid Mida

Vicki, you have such a gift with words. Your description of this couple is so beautifully written. You have captured them with tenderness and respect. Our choices are our own and each path worthy because no one else can judge what is right for another.

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The enchanted home

What a beautiful post and such an inspirational tender love story! You do live a life many can only fantasize about…..what is everyday to you is but a dream to many. As I get older I truly see the beauty and worth in the things that money cannot buy, quality time with family and friends, natures gifts that keep on giving and the art of giving to not get back but to really give with all your heart. Those are the things that really mean something to me, this was beautiful!

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Cathy Louise

Oh Vicki to be totally honest that is one of the most beautiful posts you have ever written and that quote really says it all….They sound so like my parents (now in heaven)small farm, 5 kids in a 3 bedroom house, never holidayed, spent every moment with their children…and each other…When my dad passed away mum could no longer roll over in bed because he wasn't there anymore….Thank you so much for sharing…Love C xoxo

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under spanish moss

Vicki, this story is so beautiful and a perfect example of living content. At the end their lives, they will not have any regrets. How wonderful! A lovely couple who have figured it out!
Angela and Renee

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Ann

Vicki,
I wish I had your way with words!

What a privilege you have to know this couple who can teach us all a lesson. It makes my heart happy to see couples truly in love.

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Parisian Street Society

Hi Vicki, love this post as I do every post. I posted your one about French Girls and their make-up, which I find fascinating, having sat at many cafes in Paris watching and wishing for that style to rub off. did it hum. thank you for allowing me to re-post it. xx Shannyn

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Styling by Coty Farquhar

Lovely Vicki,
I love what you have written, it's very beautiful, but I'm starting to get a little worried as I read it, it's sounding very much like me and my life now. Hmmmm I really should get away from the Highlands a bit more and do some travelling. But I love being here.

Thanks for the beautiful note you left for me yesterday. It's always a pleasure to hear from you. I always think of you as an Aussie gal living a wonderful life in another country. Your book sits on our glass table in our living room, it was a present from my daughter Bec, she knows me well!!

I don't get much of a chance to ever leave many comments these days as I'm so short of time with work. But, I do drop in on you often.

Wishing you a wonderful week, well, what's left of it.

Hugs and warm wishes from down under,
xxxxx Coty

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Millie

Lovely piece Vicki, I so enjoyed it. My beloved Grannie was just like the couple in your post, but unlike them, she longed for the chance to travel out of her everyday world in South Australia, but sadly didn't get the opportunity. Through my work I've been fortunate to experience all the destinations she wished for in her life. I wear her beautiful engagement ring & always find myself touching it as I'm sitting in a plane going somewhere distant. It's like in some lovely way she is actually getting to travel to all the places she so wanted to visit all these years later.
Millie x

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Georgie

On the verge of tears here, Vicki. Your post is just what I needed to read to push me towards a decision I have been agonising over for… well… months. Your blog really is wonderful… gxo

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Looking Glass

How beautiful! My husband & I have been together since we were 14 & 15. Although we still have along way to go to reach 40 years – we're only at 16 years together, married for 4.

We are like you though, explorers at heart. We would love to live in France & expand our horizons…

~ Clare x

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Melinda

Vicki, what a lovely, well written, post – thankyou for sharing that story and wonderfully apt quote – I know I'll be thinking about it all as I go about my day. xx

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Ruth

Love this post! Made my day. I feel similar…never lived in the same place for longer than 5 years. It resonates because I often wonder when and where will I have a kind of home as the provencal couple does.

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Linda Carswell

I loved reading this post Vicki…..it is pleasing to hear that there are still people that are 'happy with their lot in life'……sadly in the world in which we now all live this doesn't seem to be the norm!

But of course, saying that…..who wouldn't / couldn't be happy living in Provence….lol!!??

Linda x

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Splenderosa

The reason for my tardiness, precious Vicki, is the spottiness of the shipboard internet off the wild Alaskan coast. I knew I would be astounded with whatever you posted today, and I am. Your simply beautiful way of explaining a life content is perfection. I could reread this daily. I am indeed content to know I have such a lovely friend, who sees beauty in simplicity and honor. I am so lucky to know each one of the girls who have participated with us today. Sending love…..

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EDWARD HE

love the post. Ironically, I read it in a hurry as I'm using office time. Will be back in leisure and savour it to let the message sink in.

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frenchkitty

I love this piece, first time back for awhile, having just had my fifth baby , life has been a little busy:) It brought a smile to my face because it was as if you were describing me parents – except for the spreading of the wings bit.

My parents had been together for almost 50 years – they were born and bred in Paris, met and fell in love there, had two children there but did get adventurous and headed to Sydney, Australia in 1967 – have been here ever since but never did there love for their homeland wane – now that my mother is by herself – only time without her husband since they set eyes on each other, other than her children's births and my fathers sickness, she's homesick so we are taking her back in december so that she could show my little family her love of the land and her stories can have so much more meaning actually being there.

Hope to take her to London too – just to stretch her wings a little more. Got to find accommodation to fit us all first. Any tips anyone? (family of 8)

Anyway, so glad to be able to read your blog again – have been getting my fill reading through your story in your book and loving the pictures and your strength to go from Australia to France /London (wow) i would love to have that courage, same courage my parents had so many years ago. Don't know how my kids would go with school and things.

Chicken I guess
catherine

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Lady Jennie

Everything about this post is lovely – the picture, the story, the quote (that is still resonating in my heart).

Perhaps you are more expansive and less compartmentalized than you think. If not, you would never have been able to capture all this beauty.

(smile)

Reply

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