Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Walking To The Church

I walked down to the local church the other day, the Eglise de St Barthélémy de Séchilienne, because the day was sunny and I didn't have any work to do with the goats or the cheese, and was tired of sitting at the computer. It was such a sunny day that the photos of the church that I took didn't come out, much too overexposed and not really from a good angle either. You can see the church from the road below, because it's built on an outcropping of rock, but this also means that there's no good place to stand and take a picture of the building. Especially not on an August afternoon. But the walk down was nice, and it felt good to stretch my legs.

I hope to come back here next year, after Laetitia has the new cheeseroom finished, with her small shop in front, and the temperature- and humidity-controlled rooms that will allow her to really get into the pressed-curd cheeses that need more aging. She plans on getting more chickens, and some pigs that she can fatten on the whey that's currently draining into the septic tank and then later butcher and use for homemade charcuterie. And perhaps there will be a garden as well, which she'd like to set up soon to grow her own vegetables and make use of the manure and old hay that is in constant supply.

I'd also like to come back here in the winter, and do another trip up into the higher mountains. I'm not a skier, especially with my ACL-free right knee, but I wouldn't mind sitting by a nice fire looking out over the snow and nursing another glass of gentian liqueur. Or in the spring, when it's not too hot to hike, because Lac Luitel and its nature reserve is just a few kilometers - admittedly incredibly steep ones - to the north, and the wildflowers in the high alpine meadows must be just amazing at that time of year. And then I could always come back in the fall, and pick some of the wild mushrooms that are springing up right now (plate-sized boletes, we heard yesterday from a neighbor, and Laetitia knows where to find lots of trompettes de la mort) and enjoy the wild boar that the hunters bring back from the forested slopes on either side of the valley.

Even though I know they're often horribly inconvenient to live in (without spending buckets of money on renovations and remodeling and upkeep) I do love the stone-built farmhouses here in France. Especially ones filled with heavy solid wood furniture handed down for generations. Now, if you ask me if I want to be responsible for said farmhouses and furniture, I'd have to say "no, not at all" - but when it comes time for me to retire, I would certainly consider it. Speaking of retirement, I got a message from AARP today. I am going to pretend that it was spam and not related to any sort of upcoming birthday. Not that I regret getting older, because I am thoroughly enjoying what each year brings, but the fact that I'm almost ten years older than the woman I'm currently working for does seem odd, now and then. And yet I do not feel nearly-fifty at all. Maybe that's why I like being in Europe - surrounded by all of these old buildings, I'm merely a fleeting second in history.

Of course, everyone's history comes to an end some time. I watched a bootlegged YouTube copy of "All of Me" the other day, and found that it's even more poignant than I remembered. I started crying when Lily Tomlin's character says, "Oh, please, make me not dead." I am so grateful to be alive, with the freedom to do what I love, and to explore the world to find more things to love. So many things to discover out there.

I would have liked to discover more about the church and its history, but it's only open for mass on the third Saturday of the month or something like that (unless the church is undergoing renovation or there is a visiting dignitary, of course). The river-stone foundation dates back to the 6th century and the tower to the 12th century, with the rest of the church rebuilt in the 17th century and then again, into its currently not very interesting architectural shape (which is why I don't particularly regret that the photos didn't turn out) in the 19th century. However, I do regret that the church wasn't open, because there are supposed to be some quite nice 16th-century gilded wood statues in there. Perhaps I'll go to mass when I come back to hike or pick mushrooms.

I do not think that Madame Petithuguenin will be here when I get back, however. Hers and several dozen other grave markers and grave sites are up for destruction and removal, due to the lack of family members to pay for ongoing upkeep. There was a war memorial in the graveyard as well, and I noticed that many families appeared to have lost six or ten men at once, though that could also be due to shared patronyms. And also that there are a lot of Italian-sounding family names around here, which Laetitia told me later is not surprising, because many Italian workers came over here in the 19th and early 20th century. We were only about 20km from the Italian border yesterday, and if I had a car I could drive into Italy from here in less than two hours.

And in another hour I would be in Turin, where I was at this time of year half a century ago, spending the night in a hotel with a chance-met Frenchman after a day-long trip via motorcycle through the Mont Blanc tunnel, a lunch of gnocchi in a roadside tavern surrounded by grapevines planted on 80-degree slopes, and a dinner of thin-crusted pizza with mozzarella and basil in a cobblestoned courtyard (this was well before the gluten and dairy issue realization).

I hope Madame Petithuguenin, born Louise Vallotton, enjoyed her life as much as I am enjoying mine.

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