Happy 2012 - May your year be filled with Joy!
Here in France, one thing that stands in marked contrast to our experience in Southern California is the intense difference between the seasons and the speed at which they pass. There is not a huge difference between summer and fall in California, the two begin to blend into each other, and it is nearly impossible to say when one ends and the other begins. It could not be more different here. “Boom” down comes the curtain and the total scene changes. One day we are out in the pool listening to the cicadas, taking in the intense heat of the sun. The next day we are bundling up against the wind and biting cold coming from the North. Gone are the sun filled afternoons that seem to last till midnight. The trees, as if responding to a stage cue, promptly start shedding their leaves, and, in unison, the whole landscape starts to pull back its outward vibrancy.
Mild Fall and Winter this year - great for riding!
I didn’t really like the fall and winter here last year. It was a rude awakening of sorts after living in the eternal summer of Newport Beach. This year, however, the intense differences are starting to grow on me. Instead of looking at the cold as an inconvenience, I am starting to appreciate the changes that the season brings. (I must admit that this winter has been very mild compared to last year). The whole French culture adapts in response to the changes in the weather. Take the clothing for example - the bright pastels are replaced by browns, blacks, dark reds, and greens. The food changes from the lighter summer fare to more hearty meals like roasts and winter soups. The rosé is put away until the spring and it is replaced by the darker red wines of Bordeaux, Burgundy, and the Rhone valley. We are invited to parties to celebrate the wine harvest, the olive harvest, the release of theBeaujolais nouveau and, of course, Noël and le Jour de l’An. It is impossible to separate the food and wine from the culture of France. Just as the food and wine change with the seasons, so do the meals and social events that revolve around them. This is a concept that I (kind of) got the first year we were here, but now I am starting to get these things in a deeper more profound way. For the second year in a row we brought in the New Year eating and drinking with our French friends here in Auriol.
Winter vines on the mountain bike
It could be said that our time in France is kind of circular as we go round and round with the seasons, but it is really more of a spiral. With each turn we get a deeper, clearer understanding and insight into French culture. This spiraling journey also gives us a clearer and deeper bond as a family. Suddenly things that seemed very bizarre start to perfectly make sense. For example, take the incredibly time consuming tradition of French greetings. At first, I thought it was crazy to come into a room and be obligated to go up to each individual and give him or her either a biz (a kiss on both cheeks) or a handshake depending on the level of the familiarity. Each time a new person enters the room; you would have to start the whole process over again. It takes 10 minutes of kissing and hand shaking just to get our monthly vélo club meeting going. Now, this tradition is so second natured, that the old way of coming into a room and simply sitting down to start a meeting seems very impersonal and out of touch. It seems that the obligation has now turned into a joy.
Vivre les fêtes
All the boys are going through their own cycles with school, friendships, and their athletic accomplishments. So as we head into another year of our French adventure on and off the bike I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you a very happy New Year – may it be filled with much love and joy and may your dreams come true.
Live Strong, Train Safe, and Live Well!!!
This is Bill and Liam signing out.