April 1, 2022
Dear Frenchly Readers,
The last day we were in Texas, I got up early to go for a run. It had rained the night before, and what had been impossibly dry and parched, now smelled like wet dirt, green leaves and hope. As I ran away from the ranch and down the gravel road, turning to traverse a wide-open field, I came upon a herd of mule deer, that, for a moment, were curious enough that they didn’t run immediately. Then, as I got close, and it seemed I could almost reach out to touch a nose or a young one’s spotted hide, they swerved into the trees, and then stopped at a safe distance to watch me go by. There was a male with a rack of antlers as wide as he was tall and he had to run with his neck outstretched and his nose tipped up, like the brim of a cowboy hat, balancing his heady load with such extreme caution so as not to knock into trees or lose his footing.
With none of that stag’s grace, the night before, I had tried to follow along in a lesson for the Texas two-step with Emmanuel, my boss, as my dance partner. Though Emmanuel politely protested that he was a terrible dancer, I am quite sure he was trying to make me feel better. As our teacher, clad in black stretch pants, black boots and a black cowboy hat called out the steps over the music (DJ-ed by a man, also in a cowboy hat–as that is the local costume, bien sûr–who had fetchingly named himself, “Ricochet”) I had the distinct impression of being a both a part of my own culture and yet as distant from being a Texan and one could be; a part of the group of French people with whom I traveled, and yet, also not, as I am not French. I strangely belonged to everything and nothing, which afforded me a kind of freedom that is rare. (“Freedom’s just another word,” as she wrote, “for nothing left to lose…”)
As I told you last Friday, the entire French Morning and Frenchly team was on our way to the Mayan Ranch in Bandera, Texas last Sunday for 4 days together. My French fellow voyagers and I spent the days laughing, dancing, playing and planning, the two long years of the pandemic receding into the dusty edges of the ranch.
This made me think of these lines in Sonnet 171 by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay, who, like me, was just a girl from Maine with something to say:
“But what a shining animal is man,
Who knows, when pain subsides, that is not that,
For worse than that must follow — yet can write
Music; can laugh; play tennis; even plan”
On my way back from that last run by the river, I found a dropped antler to take home to my sons, passed over an old slab of cretaceous rock where I matched my feet to fossilized brontosaurus tracks in the Medina River basin, accelerated up a grassy bank and finally came to stop back on the gravel road just as a scarlet tanager alighted in front of me. Sweaty, hot and dusty, I felt almost giddy with joy. Thank you, Texas.
Cook, watch & read ce weekend (Cuisinier, Regarder et Lire):
This weekend, I am folding back into family life. Tonight we will make pizza, as we often do on Fridays, but to go with it this week, instead of the regular green salad, I’ve asked Dan to slice some celery root as thinly as he can because Philip Ruskin’s piece on céleri rémoulade has got me craving some sharp, lemony, Dijon-ey crunch. I cannot wait.
Out in theatres today are two new French films: Gagarine, a movie about a housing project in the banlieue of Paris, for which Andrea Meyer interviewed the two co-directors, here—if you don’t read anything else, this is journalism at its best. This wonderful sentence of hers says it all: “I spoke with [directors] Liatard and Trouilh this week about their hopeful and heartbreaking film, a narrative feature with documentary in its bones.”
And the second movie out this weekend is The Rosemaker, which I watched in my small cabin while in Texas and found so heartwarmingly sweet. It is about a woman who is in danger of losing her rose farm until a convicted felon (played with nuance by the French rapper, Melan Omerta, whom I hope we see a lot more of) comes to work for her. If you need something beautiful to look at and want a petal-soft-landing at the end of your day, this is your movie.
For more, come to our homepage where we published another terrific piece by Andrea Meyer on the French-produced film, CODA, which won the Oscar Sunday night ( it’s a remake of the 2014 French Film, La Famille Bélier, which was a mega hit in France) ; a recipe for a cocktail made with a mysterious green liqueur, called chartreuse, which is crafted by monks in the French Alps, and a piece about the political significance of the French designed game, Kapital.
To read: Our next book club pick is decided! We are going to read The Anomaly by Hervé Le Tellier. Here’s a review Frenchly did last winter about the book. I’ve started it, and it’s already a page turner. You might need to sleep with the lights on for a couple of weeks….
Ok, I’ve got pizza dough to make, rémoulade dressing to whip up, and my older son is home sick and hoping we can watch some Downton Abbey before it gets too late.
But, before I go, here’s Wade, the ranch hand/singer songwriter who saddled up horses and sang songs in the Saloon at night, as real a “cute cowboy” as my French travelers might ever get to meet (though many of them thought his name was Wayne for the first few days…)
I’ll have more for y’all next week.