Welcome to Carolyn Cowan Online; Designer, photographer, teacher, mother, counsellor and bodypainter.
Archive for August, 2008
I have recently finished a Georgette Heyer novel. I have read it before, but I found it lying by my bed, left over from the holiday last year. In the same day I also finished The Elephanta Suite by Paul Theroux. I confess to trying Germaine again the other day but I have no patience with that much rage, so it has been relegated to another dark corner until I need someone on my side.
By keeping my books in different rooms I can read several at the same time. Each one requiring an altered space and energy. Georgette is witty and light, good for sleep. Paul Theroux has a keen eye for detail and brings an uncomfortable feeling making it easy to endlessly shift position and get an all over tan. Germaine is stuck in a corner with the spiders and for now she can stay there.
Psychic locks were put, several times, on the doors of the offending rooms in this place but they must have worn off as the last two nights have been very busy. I have got out my sage stick again and under cover of bright and fearless sunlight I will re-enter the rooms and dialogue with various phamtoms, asking them to please leave us alone. I have decided I want to learn how to do exorcisms but can only do so as a consecrated priest. As that is not on my list of things to achieve right now I will have to look elsewhere…. Suggestions welcome.
Otherwise we have less than a week here now. That reality does alter the daily experience. It is drawing to a close. Am I brown enough? What do we have to eat/use/finish/see/do before pushing Jezebel back up France?
We have found a place to spend the night on the way up. Finding it was very funny. We stayed there once, several years ago: a tiny Priory somewhere in North France. It must be a male thing, because I have no truck with that much research, but Baptiste found the place again after hours of searching websites. It is on a lay line. So much mistletoe all over the trees, a haunted church and wonderful dogs. I took a photograph in the church, on film, before the digital days, and have an image with a great leaping whorl of colour all across the altar.
So apart from finishing the photographs of the new collection for the website, and working on my tan I am starting to think about packing up. I am ready to go back to work. Please, do not for a moment think that I really relaxed 100% here. I think I am incapable of it. I did work, but not that much.
Such fun, endlessly away with two children and little distraction. I am in dire need of therapy, I think. I think, is really the problem. I wish it were that I think rarely, but it is not so. I think constantly. There are no gaps, no time to be still, shunia, to meditate and settle into stillness. Where is my pool of serenity and calm? Did I ever have one? Somehow when I get here, in this spiralling state, I forget that I have tools and can think otherwise. I remembered in the Supermarket that I could focus on positive thoughts like a well behaved grown up should, but the soaring pop music and insane man selling tripe kept on being more important than my thought processes, good and bad. I did have an epiphany when I remembered that what I resist, persists. I stopped listening to the offal seller and let go of the music and just drowned in my fears and projections.
Otherwise the sun is shining, the crickets are all madly rubbing their legs together, and it is just never enough.
The hard part about long term sobriety and lots of therapy is the endless awareness. Beyond the odd coffee or drama that floats past me I am permanently aware of all my feelings and thoughts. That awareness is quite new. It has been there for about a year. I used to find it exhausting but I have settled into being used to it now. I rarely find that I look back and think “how did I get to feel like this?”, I know exactly what is going on as it unfurls and opens. So here in France, away from all my comfort, friends, safety and known things, I roll from one emotion to another with endless clarity and sometimes I wish I could just turn to the side and let it all out.
Life is not like that.
I am feeling husk-like. I am tired and want to spend the day in bed.
Sadly, life is not like that and I am stuck to the house awaiting a parcel from India which should have been delivered yesterday, which was asked for 2 months ago, and is now stopping me from lying by the pool and improving my tan.
Actually I am lying, what is really stopping me is the book I am reading. I have started on Germaine Greer. I cannot remember the name of the book; I have relegated it to the shadows of the kitchen for the moment.
An earlier moment of relaxation in the hammock led me to start reading the weighty tome. During the first introduction my 6 year old came and asked me to do her nail varnish. Argh! I have failed, I have reared a babe. Later, she came back having done her own lipstick and I gave up on Germaine wondering where one does stand as a woman and where the hell she is coming from? Is it all an excuse not to orgasm and never shave? Depressing stuff, wanting to pluck extraneous hair from one’s bikini line or wear red lipstick. But I made myself a heady coffee, adjusted the lift on my bra, took a deep breath, slid my feet into my gold sandals, shook the pine needles out of my voluminous and very feminine skirt, inhaled deeply, sucked in my belly, smiled and threw the book into a corner. Seems the best way forward. I will go back and question my every thought, orgasm and smile, but for now, my attention is diverted.
Life here is busy. They have ever such late nights. We were at a party last night in the local cool place to be. Interesting to see what cool is when you are hovering around 50. Not quite what it was at 30, but fun. Outside, manouche jazz, good food and lots of drinking, smoking, very brown people all heavily wrinkled. It was a trip and gloriously, I was a brown wrinklie, too. Ah, the joy of approaching 50. I realized the other day, at another of these cool events that I am 18 months away from the big one. Ah well. I have taken to corsetry and as long as you don’t sit down it is fine. If I sit down, there is a necklace of bosom meeting my descending chin.
But on the other hand, I read on the BBC, (and it must be true because it was there,) that runners live longer. On one hand, mad relief that I have found something else to keep me paying my taxes and cooking three meals a day but on another level, why do I want to live linger? It can be such torture, being me. Actively prolonging the experience seems somewhat masochistic.
Not drinking, not taking drugs, not smoking and not eating anything with a face is health by omission, it is not particularly pro-active. Running, by contrast, is highly proactive and really challenging. It takes a great girding of the loins and sports bra to head off into the hinterlands of Camberwell and the south of France. But then the rewards are palpable and there are not many experiences one can drape with the word palpable.
Yesterday I achieved an ambition: I ran to the Pont Romain. I have been building up to it since getting here. It was harder than I expected, but fantastic once I got there. A beautiful Roman bridge over a river. It was not until I ran back that I saw it was uphill all the way there. I had to walk through the last vineyard as I ran out of puff, but this morning I woke feeling sore all over and knew it was worth it. So much for no masochism.
The very lovely Jezebel was tired and needed a break last night.
We were returning from Nimes when she just needed to stop; no power, no drive, just flat and tired. We pulled over and sat for a moment, thinking how to proceed. We were stopped in a very industrial area filled with car dealers and swimming pool retailers, right outside a Citroen dealer.
Jezebel is our beloved Landrover. She had a service before we left, but this was more serious. I rang the insurance and was very sweet and smiley. We sat in the car and waited with lots of ice cream. One hour later, no news. I rang the insurance again and they said “one hour, with in one hour”. My sister had furnished me with running magazines and all the kids had their itouch and ipod equipment so peace reigned.
Finally, two hours in, a pick up car thing arrived……. From the Citroen garage outside of which we were sat.
A tall, damp, (still stormy here), skinny, redhead young man unravelled himself from the very high drivers side and proceeded to examine the car. He was highly dismissive of my French which I found very cheeky in one so young. I was even less impressed when the car had to be pushed backwards into the Citroen garage.
At this point it started pouring with rain.
Finally, and with great triumph, the long ginger man pulled out a piece of Jezebel with a huge smile. He asked me start the car. (I like him now), and the car started! Smiles all around. Kids jumping and clapping.
The tall carrot started talking to Baptiste so I thought I would be ecological and turn off the car. I did, pulled out the keys, and the engine kept going. I was standing outside with the keys in my hand and Jezebel was still humming away. She now has to be stalled to stop.
It was a great and positive adventure. We all behaved as adults, even the adults, and went on to eat fabulous pizza.
My meanderings through the French countryside are making for interesting research.
I have discovered that when the weather is stormy, which it is since last night, the ants little tiny clock do not go ping until they are safely tucked up in their beds.
Louis and I ran this morning. I ran, he cycled, along the canal and there were no little ribbons of dreaming ants. I missed them, the uneven tread as I leap over their lines whilst running.
It was a beautiful morning, dark and stormy. Strong winds blowing the huge fennel plants all over the place. We ran as far as we could until it became too high and entangling. It really is such a great way to get self esteem.
When I first got clean there was an awful expression going round the rooms: if you want self esteem, do estimable things.
It never really made sense at the time. It does now. Running and bread making both bring a great feeling of achievement. And today, Louis made the bread. It was wonderful watching him kneading it without any interruptions, no boredom, just real concentration. As I cut the dough into two I could feel all that lovely energy in the warm dough.
Meanwhile Isadora has found a trunk of wigs from the 40’s. They are fabulous. She is currently wearing one dressed in a Georgian style with a tiara and pearls would around a high bun. It is amazing how much it changes her. Last night she had one on that must have been for a pageboy. It had a really high fringe and she looked like Betty Boop! Wild, seeing one’s child so transformed.
We are in for a stormy day, yards of sheets pretending to dry under the fig trees, pine needles flying around and peacock lying in the dust waiting for their tails to grow again. There is only one female at the moment. She is going to have a great spring.
I do not often feel like a Jain monk, but this morning I have been graced with momentary sensations of glory.
I woke early because I have not slept well here, yet, and there was a dog barking for an hour. It was cool, semi light and I decided that I would try running earlier rather than at sunset. The evening runs have been awful. I feel like an old asmatic, heaving my way through the French countryside. But this morning it was wonderful. The sun was just emerging as I ran along the canal and after my brisk trot through the vines, my lungs were feeling more normal. (Maybe I need the London pollution to feel normal?) Anyway, ants sleep where ever they find themselves when bed time comes. They must have some kind of sleep button inside that goes ping and where ever they are, they stop and go to sleep. I never find ants endearing unless I trip over them lying in wriggly lines, asleep. Even if they are a breath away from home, they sleep as soon as it is sleep time. So this morning, running on the sandy path, in the areas where the sun had not yet glanced there were little ribbons of ants all dreaming away whilst I skipped over them in my fleeting moments as a devout Jain.
It was wonderful, and along with making good bread, running does bring self esteem. Will I ever make it around a marathon? I am not sure, but 30 minutes along the canal is just such a treat. I will lie beside the pool today and read my first issue of Runners World, in the hope that it will inspire me to greater distances. I will push ever onwards.
I remember meeting a Jain Saint, once, in India. When they reach great heights they no longer wear clothes. Those still scaling the lower slopes of Sainthood wear unstitched clothes whist beautiful girls hover in the nether reaches of their world hoping to persuade them into the depths of depravity and sin. I know sin does not exist in the East, but still.
I took Darshan with the Jain Saint. He was interesting. Well read, spoke English. I think he went to Oxford University, and gave a talk about how it was to be a Saint. It was not appealing, but then I have never aspired to Sainthood. Too many black spots, I think. I digress. He was talking away but there was a disturbance in the far reaches of my skirt. Several men in white unstitched clothing were ripping lengths of cloth from their dhotis and throwing the ends into my hem. They were trying to rescue an ant. Jains are profoundly Ahimsa. They will not harm anything and were rescuing the ant from the perils of my huge feet. He was saved to nap again. Everyone breathed a huge sigh of relief and the lecture continued.
I am trying to catch up, but really am getting no where.
I did a marvellous job of getting very sunburned a couple of days ago and had to take a break from the beach which did, in fact, prove to be very relaxing. Odd, that.
The ghost laying has been gong well. Friends came and we did wonderful clearing ceremonies whilst having very wonderful etheric moments. More of that later. I am not entirely on top of it all yet and loathe speaking too soon.
Otherwise life without my wonderful au pair is full on Mummy all the time. Daddy plays his part, too. Don’t think for a moment that the Universe graced me with being a perfect Mother. It did not. I want to lie around reading fab books and be left alone for a month. But life is not like that and I am working like a dog, gracefully. Three meals a day, washing up, and looking forward to Monday when the home help returns for a two hour stint on Monday. Oh, how I miss the dishwasher.
I have long hours awake at night here. I dno’t know why, but it is a perfect time to meditate. I do lying down mantra. Hours of it. It is strangely refreshing. So my lack of yoga is balanced by the hours of night time mantra listening to the strange sounds of darkness in the South of France.
I have been for a couple of runs. OMG! The breath is so painful. It must be the dry heat. I start the first few minutes feeling like my lungs are on fire. It has taken all my positive energy to keep going. But I do, despite the football team roaring past in all their sweaty glory leaving me looking slow and graceless. Frankly, I don’t care. I do it for me and I love it.
The drive verged on infernal. It was on the worst day of the year in France, the day that all the French move for their holidays. The queues at the payages were 30 minutes, the gas stations were filthy and smelly, the rest places ran out of rest places.
We left at 11pm, driving to the Channel Tunnel. Straight onto a train and 45 minutes later, French soil. It was decided that I would drive the first few hours so I duly took 2 double espressos, a lion bar, two guarana pills and some very expensive guarana elixir from the health food store in London. 20 minutes later I pulled into a rest place and slept for two hours. Cheers to the effectiveness of large doses of caffeine!
As we drove deeper and deeper it got hotter and hotter. By 8pm it was Hell. There was a 13Km queue into Montpellier so we did an hour of shortcuts. That part was great. The sound of cicadas and the smell of the pines really making it all worthwhile.
In the house here is a swarm of bees in the upper staircase here and they had swarmed. 400 dead bees, loads of beetles on their backs all over the place and spiders the size of plates looking rather miffed at their habitat being disturbed. Luckily I knew they would be there and had asked someone to shovel them out. Isadora and I went around the house with the sage wand, warding off all the spirits and then we slept for 11 hours.
Today I am a husk of my usual self. But we have had croissants, the hammock is being installed as we speak, the internet will take another week to switch on (why is that?) and lunch was fabulous: great cheese, beautiful tomatoes, peacocks strolling by and the endless rubbing of the cicadas who apparently all stop in unison when the temperature reaches 35 degrees.
We opened the kitchen door this morning to find loads of crickets all hopping about and a small scorpion. A passing pea hen came and chomped them all up. It is great to be on holiday, but sadly the au pair opted to look after the dogs at home and the dishwasher here does not work….