Monday, June 14, 2010

Home Again en Bretagne

The last three weeks have been delicious: sharing Brittany with dear friends, discovering and rediscovering sites and places, feeling the landscape change with the seasons... The next three weeks, I have resolutely decided in the face of any melancholy at leaving, will be delicious, too. I breathed deeply of Broceliande, Merlin and Vivian and Morgan and Lancelot and Yvain's forest, yesterday. And noticed how the languid roots rested within a gentler ground than during our New Year's Day walk amongst these trees. I would dearly love to see these trees don their autumn foliage, and I suppose that the romance of Brittany, my imagined Breton landscape, will always be in fall. What I can say thus far, after almost 6 months here (6 months which stretched out in a leisurely forever at first, and have become all too brief of a sudden), is that Brittany constantly renews itself. Whether in day camps at neolithic megalith sites (Monteneuf), or slavery memorials along extinct shipyards (Nantes), or summer's embrace of winter's barren forest, Brittany's renewals (rebirths?) seem propelled by greater forces than just human will. Perhaps it's the intensity of the weather and the seasons, or the rugged endurance of windswept coasts and still virgin forests - something makes me think this spring has intention and a dynamic all its own, as it compels me to recognize that time has passed, that we have changed, and that our lives are forever transformed.

But I'm not ready to say good-bye yet! So let me do a whirlwind tour of the past week or so, and catch you up on the goings-on of the kids especially. Here goes, hoping that each of these images is indeed worth a thousand words. :-)

June 4 - Broceliande Forest
Oliver and Jakie were wizards all day, as they visited the Tomb of the Giant and Vivian's House (smaller megaliths, but made grand with legend and this astounding setting.

And nothing is more wonderful for satisfying wizard hunger than a hearty meal at the Guethennoc - made even yummier by Eleanor's endorsement!

June 5 - Carnac and Locmariaquer
While Pedar walked with the thousands of stilled Roman soldiers of Carnac, Mac watched the kids at Carnac plage - a whole other world. Eleanor made wet sand an art form, and Iris apparently collected seaweed most of the time (my little "récolteuse de goémon" - seaweed gatherer).

The two pals off adventuring again. Pirates? Corsaires? Beach archaeologists? Only they know!

Here are the kids inside the incredibly cool Locmariaquer cairn (cool pictures at the website) - it's carved like Gavrinis, and indeed, the two sites seem to share a stone (the Table des Marchands at Locmariaquer has an interrupted design found on one of the roof stones at Gavrinis - huge possibilities of interpretation!). I haven't seen this site, and probably won't see it on this go-around, but my dear mom says that you always have to leave something for the next time - this is definitely one of the somethings to return for.

True fact: the neolithic never gets old. This is the enormous (enormous!) fallen standing stone of Locmariaquer known as the Grand Menhir. It is the largest standing stone in the world, at 20.60 meters (that's 67'59" folks) and was part of the very first wave of megaliths ever built. Mac wondered out loud if, once this monster was up, Neolithic Man just said "Never again, dude - that was insane!" Beautiful to think that this megalith used to overlook the sea, yes? There's wonderful debate about why it fell - earthquake? was is pushed? the majority of scholars think it was pushed, which makes you think about will and forces all over again.

June 6 - Boating on the Oust
What happens when two men from the Midwest have a bunch of tired yet energetic kids in their care? Boat Ride!!! This genius move made Iris's fervent dream of a boat ride along the Oust come true. According to Mac and Pedar, those locks are trickier than you'd think - but only at first. They soon mastered the teamwork it took and ended up boating for two hours!

Dream. Come. True.

June 11 - Ploermel Plage

The missing days here were captured by Pedar's camera whose images are still in Mac's computer - no worries, I will extract them and catch you up on the boys' forays. Here is the first day of Jakie being gone, but dear Eleanor Paul came with her fantastic mom, Laura! Oliver wanted to go to school that day (yes, savoring that) just so that Eleanor Paul could pick her up form school. This left just us girls to go discover the Lac des Ducs in Ploermel - one those "How did this take us so long?" because Ploermel is 10 minutes away and because the Lac des Ducs is just gorgeous and because there's a playground (note wee Eleanor Mackenzie's glee and Iris's valiant and steady efforts at keeping her little sister airborne) and a beach and everything. We'll be back there the next sunny day I tell you!

June 12 - Monteneuf forever and always
I had been to Monteneuf with Pedar to meet up with Elsa Bellamy who had led the megalith raising efforts back in April. He and I were both curious to understand the workings (academic, cultural, environmental) of this site and there was much to consider. The short version was presented to us by the director whom we met who said "Funding for our pedagogical efforts is hard enough let alone funding for archaeology." The longer version acknowledges that the site has had its academic exploration (in 1989) and that has been written up - but that is all. No money for further digging or even charting. They're putting in for a GPS grant now and I do think of the possibilities of plotting the remaining 90% of the megaliths there. For now, we have 42 standing stones and the knowledge of 420 total stones "out there" in the forests and farmlands surrounding the main site. I took dozens of pictures there of Oliver, Iris, and Eleanor Paul climbing trees and running around and generally having a swell time. but this one, of Iris lying pensive in the tall grass, with the stones in the background - this one is my "worth a thousand words" shot.

Now we do need a food update, don't we? With monsieur le Fromagier still on vacation, I am slipping from "resigned" to "bereft." He must be returning soon, oui? Hasn't it been three weeks/an eternity already? :-) I bet the line upon his return will be a mile long. In the meantime, we did not suffer: the roasted chickens were especially delectable, and Laura had the brilliant idea for the artichokes, and made a phenomenal lemon butter - we ate our five enormous orbs of mystery with great gusto.

And here is Eleanor Paul, with great dignity and pluck, trying escargots for the first time. Brava! Please do note the leaning in coupled with the hungry look that Oliver is casting upon the scene.

June 13 - Broceliande
And so Sunday was a picnic in the park, and then the dramatic landscapes of Broceliande Forest. Oliver is here by the famed Golden Tree, taking notes and making drawings. From what I overheard of a guided group walking by, apparently Broceliande Forest burned for five days. The tree was made in the early 1990s to commemorate all of the good will that had been show the forest after this tragedy. I had many thoughts of sparseness and survival, of renewal and insistent lushness. See what I mean about these forces greater than human will?

Iris looked down upon the Valley of No Return from the Rock of Unfaithful Lovers, contemplating matters others than those of the heart. Knowing her heart as I'm learning to, she'll have no reason to be there except as a tourist - she is so fiercely loyal. The scene is incredibly akin to Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea Fog from 1818 - wish I'd had a fog machine!

It was tadpole season or some such, because those little guys were wriggling in every body of water (lake, river) we saw. Oliver persevered and actually caught one - as did Iris! Here he is showing his wet, inscrutable, eager (but for what?) tadpole.

This may be my favorite shot of the day: Iris running with such joy from one tadpole discovery to us to another tadpole discovery. She was amazing all day - trekked and trekked. (Switzerland, here we come!)

After the 5km walk, we were richly rewarded with scrumptious crêpes on a terrace kept cool by the beautiful stone house nearby. Total bliss was pretty rapidly achieved here...

...and augmented here, with Mac's Sunday night dessert choices. Strawberry and lemon tarts on either end of the full diagonal, and luscious ways to eat apples for everything else. And thus ended our wonderful visits and explorations avec les amis. May we see each other soon around tables of French food with memories of megaliths and other marvels.

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