Friday, November 2, 2012

Rey of Sunshine

One of the huge benefits of living in England is that fact that we now have all of Europe at our doorstep. Add to that the fact that good friends of ours have an amazing house in the south of France, and the answer to where we spent our kids' half term school break will be a no brainer. The house, called Domaine de Rey, is near Carcassonne, and is situated on a little hill with amazing views all around of vineyards and mountains, including the Pyrynees, which you can see in the distance in the second photo below.  (It's available to rent if you want to plan a really special holiday; the website for it is here.)

Our friends Dave and Rachel were gracious and generous hosts, and the kids got to free range it a lot of the time. We took lots of walks (often with Maggie and Rosie, pictured two photos down, who I want to kidnap), the kids climbed trees and hung out in their friend Joe's treehouse. We ate amazing food, and the kids and I collected a lot of pretty little nature bits.

Below you can see a selection of some of the things Charlie and Michael and I found outside. (Jake was mostly too busy learning to play rugby from Joe to do much collecting.) When I was a kid, I was a bit of a hoarder. Assortments of rocks, cotton (yes, cotton-as in cotton balls, cotton pads, cotton squares from cardboard jewelry boxes), and soap were among my most prized collections. The instinct to forage and collect is still strong in me, but these days I try to make stuff with the stuff I find rather than shove it all under my bed.
Last year at school Charlie learned about the artist Andy Goldsworthy, and his class made several field trips to Storm King Art Center, where you can see a beautiful stone wall that he designed. With his use of natural materials in mind, the boys and I spent some time making little sculptures of our own with our acorns and snail shells, both of which were in abundance.

We also foraged very carefully in the gravel around the gardens for stones that had white lines in them, with which we created this little beauty:
Michael added the little stone in the center that had a perfect little circle on it, as a finishing touch. Like many of Goldsworthy's sculptures, ours were impermanent, and dismantled as part of the clean up we did before heading home to England. 

The hurricane that hit the east coast while we were here rattled me, and I spent a somewhat sleepless night on Tuesday, six hours ahead of my family and in bed when the worst of the winds came, worrying for everyone's safety. The feeling of how fragile things are under nature's powerful forces hit me hard.

Fortunately my friends and family are all safe and sound, but I know that many others were not so lucky. To those families who are still picking up the pieces, we send our thoughts and prayers that life as you knew it before Sandy came will soon return to the way it was. 

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