In the Land of Joie de Vivre —
During the summery season in the French Pays Basque, daylight lingers until 10pm. So just last month when we were still there on holiday, it was always easy to find time for a postprandial ramble even after a leisurely dinner. Time to stretch our legs, go feed carrots to the donkeys, take in the rolling green countryside spread out all around us, breath deeply and continue digesting it all with satisfied sighs. Then we still got back to our gîte in time to see the lights flicker on along the old Roman road leading up into our plus beaux village the next hill over. And to watch the church tower illuminate and ring out the hour. Yes, that was the view out both our ground floor kitchen and upstairs bedroom windows. And, yes, that means we’d already had plenty of exercise in our day, either walking all around ancient towns or hiking the timeless trails, where so many feet have trod before us.
“Once Upon a Time”, continued:
We actually spent that month living along an extension of the Roman road with spectacular vistas in all directions and immediate access to a vast selection of both wide and hidden trails, which included the smugglers’ route from more desperate times. We retraced their steps following well-marked trees, rocks and fence posts to help guide our way, no matter how remote the location, and were constantly greeted by the intent stares of dogs, cats, cows, horses, donkeys, sheep, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese. These both attentive and contented looking animals weren’t segregated by age or gender, but gathered in family clusters, even with all different species harmoniously grazing together. They were also often peacefully sharing the open road, rather than needing to be confined in a fenced pasture, and sometimes they even decided to follow and companionably walk along the path with us for a while.
No matter how much we couldn’t help overdoing it on these forays, there was always both the promise and fulfillment of a leisurely lunch, tea time break, and much later dinner to help us restore and absorb all we’d just seen and done. Never rushing, just enjoying. Free to just be. I couldn’t get over how lush and green it all was — rivulets flowing, breezes gently rustling the leaves, and birds in constant background chorus from on high. The eagles soaring, the clouds puffing up and passing by, and the earth below fragrant with flowers, cut grass, and healthy animal scents. I kept thinking and saying how I felt like we were living inside a storybook. One where dreams still come true, and they actually did live happily ever after. Because we were given the time and space to just live the joy in each moment to begin with.
And now that we’ve come back home, this is not The End to such a life-affirming tale, but the chance for yet another new beginning. Every day — and for us all to keep realizing and choosing. Especially when my husband and I have also just been lucky enough to become grandparents for the first time. So thank you, thank you, thank you all around. It doesn’t get better than this.
Bon Appétit et Bonne Vie! Kay