Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Far Off Thoughts that are also Near

Hi everybody, hope you're well. This post is about people other than Matt and I (though an entry of hitch-hiking Easter adventures is coming soon). First of all, my grandmother is in the hospital, and although she is doing alright she is away from home and and any good thoughts going her way might make her heart a little warmer.

Also, I just received this email from WWOOF Italia. It served me by humanizing the effects of the recent earthquake, and thought that it may do the same for you. (Matt and I are going to Italy on Saturday, but the farm that we arranged to work at a few months ago is near Bra, which is in the north of the country and quite far from Abruzzo.)


The following farm needs help urgently after the terrible earthquake that hit Abruzzo at the beginning of the month:*La Canestra, Contrada Aglioni, via San Rocco, 40, Capitignano, 67014, L'Aquila....

Our farm is situated in a small village 30 kms from L'Aquila the area devastated by the earthquake this month. Luckily we are all fine but the farm and buildings, although still standing, are unsafe and damaged and we are having to live in tents until the extent of the damage has been assessed. The earthquake was followed by bad weather and this has also severely impaired being able to work and has caused floods and other problems with planting crops and looking after our livestock.We are having great trouble carrying out the work on the farm and are very behind and badly need help constructing fences and shelters for the animals, in the hope that the weather will improve and the emergency passes soon.Obviously anyone who wants to come will be sharing our primitive (temporary!) lifestyle with us, as said before we are living in tents and have constructed an outside kitchen, we are able to use a bathroom in a safe area in one of the houses. However we will do our very best to accommodate people in the best possible way as part of our little community, preparing and eating good meals together in spite of the difficult conditions.

For more information visit: & the blog


Love y'all. Keeping you as safe and sound as I can in my thoughts,

Friday, April 24, 2009

Easter Weekend Hitch hiking et cetera stories

We had a very beautiful, if stormy, French Easter Weekend. It began with the sprawling, bustling, amazing market of Millau. The markets in France, as covered in this blog previously, are something to make you you drool with food-lust, scratch your head in wonderment, and generally fascinate you by the culture on exhibit. The market in Millau, on a blustery Friday morning before Easter was no exception of course; in fact the impending inclement weather and holiday perhaps made it all the more bustling with much more hustling than usual. There we bought our rations of whole wheat bread, the strongest goat cheese we have ever tasted (packaged in perfectly suitable black disc form), and various other vegetables that would help propel us through the labrinthe of Montpelier, and the strange sprawl of Nimes.

But first we had to actually get to Montpelier; a good 120 KM away from where we stood looking at the ominous rain cloud drifting slowly over the mountain behind us. Sometimes when you hitchhike you feel like your thumb is an amazingly minute detail compared to the power of an atmosphere created by inclement weather or, adversely, the immense beauty of an area. When it rains, you want to think people will be more inclined, due to pity, to pick you up but it is not so. Instead people seem ever the more quick to careen past you, either just to get home or to not have soaking wet, somewhat odorous travelers in their car. We were lucky on this day though (for not the first or last time) as we managed one ride all the way to Montpelier from a kind young man named Francoise. He was traveling to Montpelier where he lived and went to school for an apparent job interview, having been visiting his family for the religious weekend. After 2 hours of stunted conversation, and traffic jams we reached the Millionaire Club Park where he had his job interview. What followed was simply two former city kids trying to escape from the urban but not quite urbane clutches of a strange, bloated Mediterranean city. Montpelier was to us dirty, overextended, and generally not interesting. We reached the train station and took the first train as far as we could affordably, to Nimes. Nimes seemed pleasant at first but outside the historic city center, in which the likes of Hemingway had lived, was an all to mundane and un-pedestrian-friendly suburban area. After our first attempt to find a camping spot resulted in the crunch of broken beer bottles under our feet we decided to stay at a cheap corporate hotel just off the highway and out of the rain. The next day we set to walking and hitch-hiking in the pouring rain until we were picked up by...

...our lovely, beautiful new friends, Zsuzsa and Peter, who pulled over to shake our hands while we were very wet with our thumbs up on the side of a very busy and seemingly unforgiving Holy Saturday road. Zsuzsa works in Brussels for the UN and Peter is apprenticing with a horsehoe maker and fitter. They plan to return to their native Hungary to farm. Zsuzsa reminded me of my dear friend Laura Geraci so much that I nearly had to pinch myself. Peter fed us chocolate and apples and bread and said he wanted to drive us all the way to Geneva.

They took us to see the Pont du Gard, a HUUUUUUUGE ruin of the aquaduct that the Romans built sometime in the first century AD (or thereabouts). We discussed our similar aims and dreams while walking around and atop the ruin.

There are many Roman ruins all over Europe, which is handy since Rome isn't on our itinerary. We were especially lucky to be taken under the wing of Zsuzsa and Peter on their trip, as we didn't even know the aquaduct, which is featured on the back of the 5 euro note, was so close to our route.

After they dropped us off, leaving us with pockets full of apples and hearts that were completely warm and rosey despite the wet and cold weater, we were immediately picked up by a very sweet couple returning from a Spanish holiday. It was the wife's birthday and she played the best Joan Baez album that I've ever heard, Gracias a la Vida. As we listened to her gorgeous voice accompanied by the ethereal and dreamy and perfect Veracruz harp we drove for hours through orchards and vineyards and cover cropped fields, windmills a nuclear power plant and lots of Easter traffic.
When they dropped us off we found an apiary (in this case, a small clearing populated with many, many bee boxes, where the bees make their hives and honey), set up tent, and slept a good long sleep until waking up to an Easter morning full of marzapan and jambon (cured ham). We received two last rides, one that took us a mile to a rotary, and another from a nurse and a geologist, who drove us into the ALPS, the real live Alps with snow on them. (They also took us on a small sidetrip through a very tiny 13th century village that many Easter-celebrating-relaxing folks were also touring, full of gorgeous old stone buildings, a big waterfall, more tulips than you could imagine, et cetera. Our drivers left us at the mouth of a favorite hike and we scaled some mountain before settling down beside a trout river, eating more marzapan, getting friendly with a grandmother who was also hiking through the wood, and dreaming for many, many hours.
Gracias a las personas who pick up hitch hikers!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Mont Blanc

Mont Blanc was first made known to me by Percey Shelley, whose poem by the same name was the sunshine of an otherwise dull class in my freshman year of university. We saw the mountain for the first time ourselves this morning, while tending to peppermint, and I can attest to the hugeness of feeling that such a grand sight offers. The beginning of Shelley's poem follows...

The everlasting universe of things
Flows through the mind, and rolls its rapid waves,
Now dark - now glittering - now reflecting gloom -
Now lending splendor, where from secret springs
The source of human thought its tribute brings
Of waters, - with a sound but half its own,
Such as a feeble brook will oft assume
In the wild woods, amon the mountains lone,
Where waterfalls around it leap for ever,
Where woods and winds contend, and a vast river
Over its rocks ceaselessly bursts and raves.

Bonjour from the mighty, minty, magnolia blooming Alps

I am in the room with this view.

We hope that you all are well, having had a good celebration of the arrival of spring and the whimsicalities of eggs. We are here, in the most charming house of Francoise, a grower of herbs, and Bernard, an engineer who works in Geneva designing watches. It is very quiet and exceedingly pretty, with imperial views, hundreds of birds, massive amounts of fromage, or cheese, and of course the damp earth and many medicinal and cullinary herbs.

We had a rather intense journey here that turned one and a half weeks into what felt like three, but being in a place where I can see Mont Blanc when the day is clear, and a feast of other formidable peaks even when the clouds are out, makes it all worth it. Our travels were good, but hard, full of lessons learned and sore feet.
In the days leading up to Easter we took slept in a limestone cave, traversed a slice of Middle Earth [as Ed and Kira wandered over another part of it in New Zealand], read four books, ate canard (duck), and walked among people with olive branches, rather than palm leaves, in their hands on Palm Sunday. We also made friends with two tres gentil Hungarians who insisted upon our joining them to see the Pont du Gard, which is a fantastic Roman Aquaduct that is huge and hardly believable but somehow actual. On Holy Saturday we slept in an apiary and woke up to eat an Easter breakfast of bread with honey, butter and ham, and ate marzipan shaped like cherries. After a long wait we got a ride from a geologist and nurse that took us, most unexpectedly, up from the comparatively flat area of Crest to the suddenly Swiss Sassenage. We were still in France, still in the proximity of houses with Terra Cotta roofs, but suddenly in sight of snow, with popping ears and a very steep climb to our sleeping place, a lovely swath beside a river where men in shiny waders patiently and artfully hunted trout.
In the days following we took trains and walked through the mountains and valleys and cow pastures and horse paddocks to here. We are exhausted and satisfied and about to eat dinner, which by the smell of it promises to be perfect.

Following are pictures of the Limestone Plateau in the Cevennes National Park, where we had the priviledge sleep in one of the cliffs on a very rainy evening. The land is magic, completely and truly so.

More pictures and words to come soon. With love, Jenny

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Goodbye, hello, inbetween


I just forgot how to spell that.

Last night here. Tomorrow a train from Argeles Sur Mer to Perpignan to Millau, by the beautiful national park of the Cevennes. Don't know much about it other than it is Drop Dead Crazy Gorgeous.

Love everybody. I want to sing out specifically to my friend Ginny who has just left the wilderness and Jessica and Adam in Guatemala. Hoping you all are in good spirits.

I want to make some specialized posts on Catalan gardens and This Farm Here and other things but for now a list of what I leave behind:

Four of possibly the sweetest, leanest, loyalest dogs in the world. A countless array of cats, such as Mrs Cheese and the white shaggy one who looks like he'd be a snob but isn't, who always sits by the fire. The fire. Water in showers that's sunboiled for me. Vegan dinners that are delightful if not as filling as I'm used to. Fresh fruit. So much fresh fruit. The lemon trees orange trees nectarine trees. The baby olives. George, the rooster, whom I believed respected me until today when he spurred me twice. The hens, especially the brown one who is the goofiest.

The way that Freya moves like a deer, and how when I look at her I feel I'm seeing a white deer in a winter forest. The way that Ben is like the clock in London. The way that Obe puts his head in my lap, how I nicknamed him Thumper.
Namua's mother-in-law, knitting and discussing thriller novels.

The feeling of death all around this place, and the light, of a candle everlit, of the half moon, of the sun after three days of rain.

Cat in the lap,