Bonjour and Happy St. Anthelme's Day, June 26,
As our time here draws rapidly to an end, we had the pleasure of welcoming the last of our visitors. (I don't mean, of course, that it's a pleasure because they were the last, but that they, like all our guests, bring pleasure.) Donna and Dennis, and Les and Betsy, stopped here for a few days at the midpoint of their transcontinental odyssey, which began in Bruges and will end in Rome, after stops in Paris, Nice, Genoa and Florence, among others. I'm sorry to report that, although when they arrived they were all in the very bloom of health (except for Les' old basketball knee), they looked more like that painting of the American Revolutionary soldiers swathed in bandages by the time they limped away over the horizon toward Nice. Or at least half of them did, maybe the drummer and the fife player (fifist?). The last time I saw them, we were in the pharmacy buying a crutch for Donna, who had slipped down a rocky hill while hiking on the plateau behind our house with Mike and Dennis. We had feared that her ankle might be broken, but the most recent word is that it was only (!) a severe sprain. And Les, in addition to everything else, had been stricken by Napoleon's revenge and was looking a pale shadow of his normally robust self. We did manage to do some of our favorite things, though, without serious mishap, like a walk through the country. This is the "before" picture. See, everybody looks pretty good.
It's spring, when young beetles' minds turn to thoughts of love.
And young spiders', like this one lurking seemingly in ambush on the underside of the flower above, to thoughts of lunch. What a dirty trick! In flagrante delicto, no less. It's like he's hiding under the bed.
Mike constructed a makeshift net with a stick and a plastic raspberry container and wrought havoc among the butterflies of the veldt, or whatever they call it here. Champs (pronounced "shomp"), I think.
Here's a wild orchid. It's the only one of its kind we've seen.
On one of the days, Les and I stayed home and everybody else went to Cassis. They enjoyed the usual activities: swimming, sunbathing, the boat tour of the calanques; but they did something entirely new and exciting which we've never tried before...
...Jellyfish Wrestling! That's right! Shown below are the nasty welts on Mike's arm after his first, and only, bout, which I guess you could say he lost. Thank goodness he was with Uncle Dennis, a veteran scubaist who's dived in exotic locations worldwide, and who had the experience and presence of mind to act calmly in such a stressful situation by marching him over to the lifeguard, where he (Mike) was slathered with some kind of soothing antiseptic balm.
And here's the whole crew, bruised, battered, bloody but unbowed, as they prepare for their departure. We went from here directly to the pharmacy where Donna bought a fancy adjustable crutch. A souvenir, so to speak, of Eguilles. We'll be seeing them all again in just a few (very few) weeks, by which time I hope everybody's fully recovered from their visit.
There are three horses who are usually in a field at the turnaround point of one of my jogging routes, and sometimes I take them apples. I'm such a city boy that this is a big "wild kingdom" adventure for me. The horse pictured below is the most vigorous of the three, probably the youngest, and has a disconcerting habit of chasing me after I've distributed the apple wedges. I assume his intentions are honorable, that he just wants to play, but when you feel the earth shaking behind you with the hoofbeats of something that outweighs you tenfold or so, it gives one furiously to think, as Hercule Poirot says. Mike, who has taken "Equitation", whatever that is, for one term and therefore thinks he's some kind of cowboy, makes fun of me mercilessly, but he also studied Greek mythology this year and I could swear there are some carnivorous horses featured in one of those stories. Anyway, from now on I'll make sure there's a fence between us when I feed them.
I mentioned our last visit to the Sorgue, when I forgot our fishing licenses. Well, we returned twice last week and it was as beautiful as we had anticipated, and although we know for a fact there are trout in there (we've seen them), we got nary a nibble on either occasion...
Hilary, who I know through the Powell's network of acquaintance, came for a few days and we took her to the Sorgue on Sunday, which is when the famous market is held in Isle-sur-la-Sorgue. After strolling the market, Lois and Hilary joined Mike and me at riverside, where we had been fishing, for a picnic with all the wonderful things they had bought. The only even mildly exciting thing that had happened to us up to this point was my falling into the river and filling my waders with ice-cold spring water. But then, Hilary amazed us with her hitherto unguessed dramatic talent in her performance piece, "Venus Rising - the Scream!", an artistic fusion of Botticelli and Munch. (The water, as I have mentioned, is Cold with a capital, and italicized, C.)
The next day we all went to Cassis, but I forgot the camera. Summer has fallen with the abruptness of the guillotine. It's been in the 90's for the last few days, the papers are filled with ozone alerts and the electronic signs along the highways remind you that speed limits are significantly lowered to reduce emissions. I think I remember seeing one other driver during the drive to Cassis who actually decreased his speed. Must have been a foreigner. The French speed up.
It was a pleasure getting to know Hilary better, and we look forward to seeing her and her husband when we return. Her husband, Chad, is a pilot and she offered to ask him to take us flying sometime. Lois and I were a little, uh, hesitant but you-know-who is all agog.
Speaking of Mike, we received his report card in the mail and he did great! It was a challenging year, with a lot of new situations to deal with, and we're so proud of the way he handled everything. On top of which, he passed all his courses and has been promoted to the next grade, which is good news if he should choose to remain in France. And I'm sure that Sellwood Middle School will be impressed. Especially if they don't look at his Math grade!
This week of the Euro 2008 soccer tournament has been wild, wacky and wonderful, provided, that is, that you're not a fan of Portugal, Holland or Croatia (my deepest condolences, Milan, to you and all the Zupcic clan.) Turkey had appeared to be the team of destiny, winning improbably or taking the match into penalty shootout at the very last second, leaving their opposition psychologically shattered and incapable of making penalty kicks. But they, too, lost last night, fittingly at the last second, in the semi-final to Germany, who were pre-tournament favorites but had started out disappointingly. And tonight Spain meets Russia in the other semi-final.
I'm happy to say that we're enormously relieved this morning because we've received word from Lois' family that her mom, Lillian, who is 92, is doing well after surgery to repair her leg, which was broken in a fall. I always knew she had an inner toughness. And I'm not just saying that because she's my mother-in-law! When she woke after the anesthetic had worn off she said to the attending nurse, "Where's my ice cream?"
Hey, that's a good idea! I think I'll go rummage through the freezer and look for some butter pecan. And I think May Sarton, when asked at the age of 85 if she had any regrets, replied that she wished she had eaten more ice cream.
Until next time, Au revoir with a cherry on top!