Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Roi ne puis, duc ne daigne, Rohan suis!"

I don't know if that's the official motto of the House of Rohan, but it was a swell enough subtitle that I picked up the book I found it on at the library today. It (roughly) translates to "Can't be king, don't deign to be duke, a Rohan I'll be" - I say roughly because I'm not sure I've got the meaning right, since the Rohans were, in fact, dukes. ??? Well, I look forward to discovering the subtleties of the meaning as I read through the book. It starts with the first Rohans of the 12th century (it seems as though feudal Brittany woke up in the 12th century - you could say the same of France, I suppose, but it's really consistently the 12th century here that family lines get started - and castles get built). I also came back with a book that's a gorgeous reprint of an 1887 guide to the Morbihan (the region that Josselin is in). Because of Mac's work with the radical shift into modernity that WWI wrenched upon regions of France, the photographs in it are especially poignant - and of course drive home the point of how much closer the Middle Ages were to the 19th century than the 19th century is to the 20th.

Why all of this Rohan-Morbihan reading? The love affair with Brittany continues to grow, and time seems to be flying. I've had two ridiculous but really, really intense anxiety dreams (the kind where you have to wake yourself up in your dream by saying "That is just not true - wake up!") in which we've come back to the States crazy early - once to visit my parents in their old apartment (i.e. where they don't even live anymore!) and the other to drop the kids off for Spring Break in Greencastle (that one was especially sickening since Mac and I got back on the plane to France not having made any provisions for them in Greencastle - argh!). All this to say, I already don't want this to end, so I'm burrowing deeper into here. Neurotic, I know, but I might learn a thing or two.

The library was absolute bliss today. It was incredibly windy and there was a funeral going on in town, so we didn't really spend much time outside. Just haircuts in the morning (which you see the kids sporting here at the library) then the library in the afternoon. About the funeral: it was for a 95-year old woman who lived just down the street from us. I'd never met her, but everywhere we went today, at the coiffeur, at the library, people talked about the funeral, about her. Our across-the-street neighbor, who is now house-bound and herself 90 years old, called - she wanted to know if there had been a lot of people there. And indeed there had been. The whole area around the church was shut down from 2-5 p.m. - that's a long time! You think of someone born in 1905 and all that she'd seen - she could remember WWI (vividly, I bet), and WWII. So rather than walk through or otherwise disturb the proceedings, we walked around the church and went to the library. The kids were completely relaxed there: settled into their favorite spot with books they picked out and just explored. It was kind of amazing, actually and made me realize that there are some places, some aspects of life here where we are totally comfortable. I suppose that it should be no surprise that the library is one of them. :-)

Eleanor gave a command performance of "Un Grand Morse" and then proceeded to demonstrate other friendly animals: cat, elephant, crocodile (ok, not all friendly). If you can get a good look at this picture, check out Iris's eyebrows - could they be knit any more tightly? Wow! They're studying countries in Africa in Eleanor's class, her teacher was telling me the other day, and apparently Eleanor is super interested. Oooo, but I wish that I could be a fly on the wall in their classes - they're learning about Eskimo cultures in Iris's class, and Oliver tells me that his class is building a 3-D model of a village (every kid has made a house for the village; when I asked him how I would recognize his, he said "You'll know my style" - !!!). There's a great little piece in Time magazine about French school lunches (the very ones I've been raving about in many a post here!) - at least I get to drool over their fabulous lunch menus, eh?

Oliver's been on an Egypt kick for a couple of days (that explains the scarab attached to his chest with masking tape and the wrist cuffs (the dear guy at the coiffeur thought that Oliver had been in the hospital at first!), as well as the head gear, I think a crown. Here is Iris trying to undo Oliver's pharaonic dignity. (It worked)

These next two images emerge from Oliver's and my walk home together from the boulangerie to get our baguette for dinner.

I've always loved this house - classic 16th century half -timbered house, at a corner across from the street that breaks into the open area in front of the church. So it was irresistible to me to take this picture of my little guy with a baguette that is more than half his height. Tonight, perusing the reprint of the awesome 1887 guide book to the Morihan, I came across this picture:

Same house! Not much has changed for the house. (It was built after the event for which it was named: "la Rue des Trente" - as in, the Combat of the Thirty, that 14th-century English-French fight between 60 men during the War of Breton Succession, whose commemorative column we went to see for our own re-enactment of events) - but I bet that there were no cars barreling through the narrow street in 1887. And of course to see that women really did wear coiffes - before everything became standardized. 1887 is the same year that Gauguin was in Pont-Aven (in the Finistère, the next department over) where he was probably reveling in the "old country" feel of Brittany and snubbing Paris's late-19th century modernity. I admire how the city of Josselin does that medieval/modern divide so well - will have to articulate why at some point.

In the meantime, a shot of the church steeple as Oliver and I walked home. Bonne nuit, everyone!

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