jeudi 27 août 2015

Childhood Island

Um… I began to sort out my pictures when I came back from France last month, hoping to post them here “soon”: instead, I struggled with another translation – and then Pierre was in Montréal for three weeks, so my computer time was reduced to the bare minimum. We biked around Montréal, we had picnics with friends and racoons, but more about this in the next post!

The rooms up there would be lovely to live in, except for the constant traffic noise (and stressful vibes).

Adapting to the busy streets of Paris usually takes a week, at least for me, but barely three days after landing from Montréal, I found myself on a one-day road-trip to Brest (which is located at the very tip of Brittany), in the company of my brother Matthieu – who bravely drove for 8 1/2 hours non-stop – and his family.

We talked and talked, we listened to inspiring music, and I took about twenty photos of the changing skies.

We were headed to a big family reunion where we joined my parents, my brother Benoît, his own family, and a merry crowd of aunts, uncles and cousins, some of whom I had not seen for ten years… It was very moving in many ways.

Two days later, I boarded a train to Nantes, where my friend Anne has happily settled recently. I stayed with her for two days, and we shared a lot of things on a deep level, which was truly gratifying  :o)

From her balcony, you can see the entrance to this Japanese garden across the river Erdre,
perfect for dreamy walks and picnics. (Hi, water bird.)
Of course, there was a boat nearby named Lola  :o)

Finally, after more mind-numbing journeying on land 
and sea, I reached my childhood island.

L’Île d’Yeu is indeed my “childhood island” on several levels.

From birth to my student years, I never lived in a place long enough to settle, or to belong. Because of my dad’s job (coucou Papa !) my family had to pack and move every three years to a (completely) different area of France.

Almost every summer, however, we would spend a month on l’Île d’Yeu, a beautiful island off the West coast of France. Our island was at once wild and welcoming, mysterious and familiar. For my brothers and me, this was truly home base.

This lovely view is right across the street from the house my parents have rented for many years there.

It was also the one place where my child self could be free and grounded at the same time.

While my parents managed to build genuine, lasting friendships in each new place, and my brothers were rather social kids, as a dreamy girl I would feel more at home in books. Laura Ingalls and the Borrowers were my faithful companions, along with many characters that were more real to me than the unfamiliar city where I lived.

But here, my contemplative, dancing soul could expand to the size of the island...

and sometimes I felt wild and brave enough to contain the Ocean.

I would dream of Ireland and Scotland, where you could see Puffins nesting on the cliffs.

At the time, I was mostly attracted to mineral landscapes – rock, sand and sea...

Crithmum maritimum, or sea fennel.

This summer, however, as I was walking around with my camera, I noticed various details evoking a southern atmosphere.

The lovely rain tree (Albizia Saman) actually reminds me of Panama, where we lived for three years.

For some reason, this is how is see Gibraltar.

While my short stay did not allow me to feel grounded again in my childhood island – though it was quite lovely to share it with my family – I began to perceive different aspects of its reality.

I stayed there a few days with my parents this year, in a smaller, lovely house that was new to us.

Even as I was composing (with an eye for lines and atmosphere) an emblematic scene like this,

Lagurus ovatus is the latin name of the oval-headed Queues de lièvre (Hare tails).

I would be mysteriously drawn to its secret life.

Ephedra distachya, known in French as Raisin de mer (sea grapes).

It was really as if I could, today, perceive the voices of the plants themselves...

 I was moved by each fragile but resilient flower or stem, crooked and perfect.

Malva Sylvestris, the sweet Mallow.

Everywhere I went, small beings were silently calling me, right there in the streets, or along the sandy roads.

Ferns and daisies have established a home on a wall in Port-Joinville, unbeknownst to the numerous passer-bys.
The slender limbs and flowers of Tamarix.
Stars on land: purple-blue Asters.

They would wrap me in their embrace, and I would be rescued (at least for a little while) from the confused state induced, as always, by motored traveling – and packing my suitcase every three days.

Bruce Chatwin wrote (particularly in his Songlines) about the way nomads tend to maintain a more respectful, sensitive relation to the land than settlers, who tend to have a proprietary, utilitarian relation to the territory.

This notion is dear to my heart and I have been meaning to write a post about its various, complex aspects, but one thing is clear: these nomads were traveling on foot, at the slow pace of a horse, mule or camel. 

Most importantly, these wanderers would inhabit the whole territory of their meanderings (not just the spot where they happened to be that week). The energy of rock, sand, forest, running or still waters, the secret life of animals and plants, were present in their hearts and minds, stories and dreams, all along the way. 

For me, feeling grounded in the present moment implies being in tune with the spirit of a place; and this takes some time, in quiet solitude. 

Like all music, it is best heard in silence.

My last evening on the island was celebrated by another long talk with Matthieu at the sailing harbour, a place we had visited numerous times since our childhood, together or separately, any time from dawn to dusk.

We would wander there aimlessly, inhaling its particular light and peace  camera in hand. 

Catching the moving magic of reflections is a passion we have inherited from our Dad :o) 

Also, seeing art in the textures of the world.

And then it was time to leave…

Farewell, childhood island.

And hello to my beloved hill…

I am grounded again  :o)


I would love to hear about your own childhood haven... Was it a garden, an island, a cabin? 

Do you still go back to it sometimes?

4 commentaires:

  1. Dear Emmanuelle, what a magical place to spend your childhood holidays. It makes me smile to know you were among friends and family & then with your dear Pierre for a time. What a wonderful way to celebrate the closing season. Such beautiful images of your island landscape & its vegetation.

    I have been thinking about my childhood haven. The first place that came to mind was our family camping trips by the Wollondilly River. We would canoe, swim, pick blackberries, BBQ and sleep in a camper trailer with family friends. The other place that comes to mind is my childhood neighbourhood. We had a bush block behind our place which my sister & I could explore. All the neighbourhood kids were friendly & we'd spend a lot of our time riding bikes, playing tennis in the street, floating boats in the creek, climbing trees & general adventuring around the neighbourhood. I realise now that Mum gave us a lot of freedom to just be out & about, as long as we were home for tea! We moved when I was 12 & it was never the same. Thankyou for taking me back there.

    Happy to see your feet back on your hill. xxC

    1. Oh… than *you* dear Chontelle for sharing these memories, both stories are quite eloquent. It makes me marvel at your own childhood environment.

      My parents would often take us for a walk in the forest or in the countryside, but I could not really enjoy it because we had to drive there and back in the same afternoon, and (even at the time) cars always deprived me from the experience of whichever place we arrived at!

      On the island, however, we would bike everywhere and we stayed for a whole month, so it was Real Life as its best, with a flexible schedule to boot, so that every day was just slightly different from the rest, and they began to dissolve in one blissful, eternal day. Ah, childhood :o)

      I often wonder about the way people saw the world when they were kids, children everywhere are probably closer to each other in that perspective that to the adults they will respectively become one day. Or so I thought when I was 8 or 10 - adults were a completely different thing. I, for one, did not want to become a grown-up… and in some regards I haven't. In fact I still smile at the fact that I am counting money every day at the yoga centre, just as I did as a kid, but less seriously ;o)

      Forgive me for the rambling, I could just go on and on on this topic!

      À bientôt, and happy 10 years anniversary to Zahra (growing up is actually fun!)

  2. Wow. Again I have so much to say, and so little eloquence. I will try to return with more, because, oh this is the loveliest of pieces, smelling of salt air, and childhood mystery and joy <3

    1. Oh! Yes Milla I would be delighted to hear more from you on these themes :o) and thank you for this gratifying comment, my dear island dweller. Sending big hugs across the continent xo