Slices of Time, Fiber & Celebrations
First snow in the Pyrénées is always an exciting event.
The mountains follow the seasons with a life that waxes and wanes. In Spring they’re covered in bright green, turning slowly to brown over summer, then they burst one last time in fall before snow covers their majestic flanks in a brilliant blanket of white. Somehow I always find them most beautiful at this time, at least from afar. There’s something quite special about waking up and seeing them in white, watching the first light glow pink on their tips and then move slowly down their face, illuminating them like the center of an elaborate stage scene.
We are now there, and then is now.
As autumn enters its most intense weeks and the last of the leaves disrobe their green completely and fall to the ground, the Pyrénées take over and we turn our minds to the beginnings of winter. And thus passes another season, and another slice of life.
Admittedly, I am feeling time rather intensely today.
In the midst of all this, tangible things have happened. Our house received a major upgrade, one we’ve been waiting on for a looooong time. Polly celebrated her adoption birthday, and France honored the dead. All parts of the cycle we call life today.
Optic Fiber Comes To The Boonies
This past week the internet upgrade we’ve been waiting for finally arrived! And it’s been a long time coming.
I still remember when my parents moved from dial-up to ADSL…mind-blowing. But that was many, many years ago and after that….nothing. We’ve had ADSL since we arrived here, our data stream progressively slowing as websites and the rest of the world continued to speed-up. At last check we were managing a dribbling 2 Mbps which wasn’t always reliable, even at that sloth-level pace. Thankfully we had two other backups that relied on 4G (which we do get here, most of the time) and managed to get by. But the dream of fiber continued to tantalize us.
Thanks in part to COVID it actually happened!
Sometime during the first lockdown the government announced a massive internet strategy, throwing out the goal of fiber for everyone within 2 years. No one believed them of course, but incredibly the plan actually started taking shape. Crews of fiber-optic layers were suddenly everywhere, digging up pavements (in the towns) and running cable over the poles in the boonies. I may have squealed a little when I saw them in our neighborhood several months ago (and that despite the fact that the idiots cut our ADSL line in the process….but that’s another story).
Fast forward to last week, and the day finally arrived.
I’d signed-up to fiber the millisecond I got the text on my phone that it was available, and then waited anxiously for the next two weeks until the installers could arrive. Of course I fretted about running the line to the house, how (or if) they would drill through our ~0.8m thick walls, where they would put the new box etc. In the end the two young men who showed up did an excellent job. They ran over 350m of optic cable from the connection point at the bottom of our road, attached it to the rear of the house and drilled through the bottom of a window to get the router where we needed it. In return, I gave them coffee and cake (always, in France).
And the result??
Blazing, crazy, fast, mind-blowing internet. We may not have the fastest connection in the world, but it’s pretty darn snappy and around 200x what we had before. I think this new speed should last us, at least until the next-next upgrade….quantum entanglement, perhaps (it’s gonna happen folks).
A slice of life yet to be…?
We Respect The Dead
The first week November in France is always for chrysanthemums, and honoring the departed.
November 1st is Toussiant, literally translated “All Saints” day and it can be traced to the beginnings of Christianity. It’s a day to honor the saints, both known and unknown, although back then it mostly occurred around Pentecost in the Spring. The move to Nov 1st happened over time, and was apparently mandated by Pope Gregory IV (827-844), perhaps not-completely-randomly to align with the celebration of Samhain, the pagan date marking the lord of the dead and the beginning of the Celtic winter. So thus Saints became intertwined with the souls of the departed and “All Hallows Day” became a thing. More or less anyway…
The link with chrysanthemums, at least in France is a little more modern.
The flowers were originally a post-war thing, encouraged by President Raymond Poincaré who declared that the tombs of fallen soldiers be decorated every year by chrysanthemums as a way to honor their sacrifices (Nov 11th, Armistice Day is the official day for this in France, by the way). Over time chrysanthemums became a way to honor ALL those departed, and thus became intertwined with the saints, and the day of the dead too.
The pots of flowers show up throughout the country in the last week of October, and although it’s tempting to decorate your garden with them (or pick one up for a house warming party, say) that’s a solid no-no in French etiquette. The flowers find their way to the graves and then just like the leaves of autumn, they eventually wilt and disappear.
A slice of life gone by….
What About Halloween? Some of you, especially my Halloween-loving American friends, may be wondering if it’s a “thing” in France. I don’t think any country does it like the USA, and France certainly never used to either, but it’s slooooowly becoming more common. Our local supermarket always seems to overflow with ghosts & cobwebs in the last few weeks of October, and although we’ve never seen any trick-or-treaters in our area I’ve heard the tradition has started to happen in the bigger cities. Maybe one day, just like optic fiber, it’ll make it out here to the boonies too? Oh, and the French kids say “des bonbons ou un sort” (“candies or a spell”), just so you know.
And We Celebrate Polly
12 years ago on Nov 5th, Polly officially became part our little family.
Those of you who know her story, know that she’s a rescue who wasn’t at all planned. In fact, despite our love of animals and the fact that we had two (unplanned) cats in our lives, we had valiantly been resisting adopting a dog for years. Everyone knows it’s more work to have a dog, and back then we weren’t sure we had the time and dedication required. So I volunteered instead, for years on end. First at a dog rescue in Hong Kong, then at the Rancho Coastal Humane Society just north of San Diego, getting my fill of doggie love and giving back, but firm in my resolve to never take one home.
Until that e-mail.
“Two puppies dumped at the rescue last night. They’re very weak and need immediate fostering. Can anyone take them?”
The message came in early in the morning, and I knew immediately I was a gonner. So I turned to Paul (who happened to be on a conference call) and asked him what he thought about taking them in. He must certainly have said some form of “yes” because mere seconds later I was out the door to get them. On my way back home, Paul called me up.
“Where did you go?” he asked “I finished my call and you were gone”
“To get the puppies of course” I replied, stating the bleeding obvious
And thus started our love story with Polly. We fostered the puppies, tended and bathed their battered skin, cleaned up seemingly endless piles of poop and random pee, barely slept for weeks, adopted one out (to a very, very good family) and ended up with the bestest girl in the world. We finally, formally adopted her on Nov 5th and the rest of the story you’ve enjoyed with us over the many years on the blog.
A slice of life that we continue to celebrate everyday….
We Are All But A Slice of Time
Time has moved fast today, or so it seems.
Clouds are gathering on the horizon, and the mountains that shone so white and clear this morning are now covered in a haze of grey. Polly is snoozing under Paul’s work table, but will soon wake up for dinner and her 4th walk of the day. No matter the weather, it’s a firm schedule that she’ll insist upon. And if I happen to forget by a few moments I’ll have a doggie standing and staring at me with her head tilting from side to side, until I catch on. Yeah, dogs are work but they’re such fun work.
Then in an hour I’m off to the neighbors place to pet their cats, getting my regular kitty fix so that I can stay firm in my resolve to never take one home again. As we all know, that always works….
Finally sunset will be here, and another day will flow into the past. We are all part of that cycle, all just leaves in the wind that age and fall with time. The interesting part is everything that happens in-between.
So my dear friends, do you have someone you would like to honor this first week of November? Perhaps a loving pet? Someone who passed? Someone who is still here? Perhaps you’d like to share? If so I’d absolutely love to hear about it. Do feel free to comment below.
Quick Van Update: For those wondering the Van Build is chugging along. We’ve started insulation and hope to have the floor done fairly soon. It’s an interesting process and I’ve got loads to share about it, so I promise to talk about all that in the next blog post.