It is very dark here and silent. Very early morning. I am up and at my desk before dawn. The quietude here seems a long way away from the frenzy of Christmas and holidays and shopping. I love these silent hours when all I hear is the heartbeat of life, which is the dogs (and husband, too) snoring and the first of the birds singing. We have roses in blossom, creamy-white and delicate as soft, runny goat’s cheese. This rose bush which runs rampant and straddles the arches that descend our Italian staircase, was given to me by a friend who has long since died. Every time the flowers come out, I see him in my mind’s eye winking at me: ‘Merry Christmas, Duckie,’ he is saying.
A few days ago, I was emptying all the drawers in the kitchen as we begin some redecoration works. In the drawer that contained all the table napkins I found a washed and neatly-pressed handkerchief. It was my father’s. After he died, more than twenty-five years ago now, my mother carried it always in her handbag. At some point, I laundered it for her. When she died, I put it away and forgot about it. And here it is, found again and now in my handbag. A message from my parents at this special time of year. ‘Dry your tears,’ says my father. ‘Live your life for today. Inhale the rose’s perfume.’
It has been a challenging year, hasn’t it? I know I am not alone. There has been so much international and political strife, such acrimony and unkind fake news. Before I met and married Michel, I often spent the holidays alone, travelling, feeding my soul with new experiences and encounters, remarkable landscapes. This year, we have decided to have a quiet time – visits from family and loved ones – but no parties and lively social activities. Sometimes, it feels necessary to reconnect with the shoots of life, the basics. Fortunately, Michel feels the same need this year so we are in synch.
In any case, I am writing. And what a privilege it is to be able to get up each morning and pad through the dining room to my desk in the library, and surround myself with books, with the words of those who have gone before or who are my colleagues and peers. What better way to spend my days.
And it keeps me out of the shops!
I am very honoured to say that the Irish Literary Festival in Listowel, Writers Week, have invited me back for its 50th festival in May 2020. They have kindly asked me again to judge their award for best novel. So, I will also be busy over Christmas reading the fifty or so novels that have been entered into the competition.
So, my news is modest.
May I wish you, dear friend and reader, a blessed Christmas and New Year. La Santé, surtout, we say in France. Health above everything else. I wish you Love. Love, we all need it. It is the sap that keeps us flexible and joyous. I hope that you have food and warmth. So many don’t. We have a new decade. I hope that we can contribute to the wellbeing of the planet. In the last three years here at the Olive Farm, we have lost more than thirty trees to wild weather and pathogens brought in on cargo ships from elsewhere. It breaks my heart to see the destruction on the land. I cannot keep up with it and that leaves me feeling impotent.
Plant a tree, give trees as Christmas presents. Buy honey, help a beekeeper. Plant bee-friendly plants. Buy books. When you write to Father Christmas, Pere Noel, ask him to scatter seeds as he flies across the sky on his diesel-free sleigh! Let’s get the world blossoming again.
Love to you and, as always, thank you for reading this and for all the emails.
Carol, Michel, Samson, Homer et Cardea
PS: If you wrote to me about buying olive oil, please write again. I sincerely apologise for this inefficiency. I have got rather behind with my orders!