The solo adventure in France, part 1…moments matter

19 August 2020

Well Rod,

I took a spa and rest day in the vacation and commune with You, God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit…all through my writing. I know when I get home to Clermont, my focus will quickly turn back to work…some things never change! The first long French vacation. Of course, I missed seeing our family in the US in person, and with Covid19 restrictions (which I’m sure you would not have liked!) it seemed like the best plan. As it turns out, I think I did the right thing by staying here. I discovered some of the beautiful French countryside by going to places and doing things we never did. I took the time to read/listen to 4 books…something I never have done on “vacation”. I took some adventures (normal!) and I also pampered myself…physically and mentally. I think I was able to really disconnect from the work life and recharge my batteries. I’m afraid I may have blown up people’s Facebook feed with all the pictures..and some may have unfollowed me…that’s just the way it is, I guess! You were with me all the time Rod, just behind my eyes. Always. I’ll recount my thoughts and memories and a few photos before I forget.

My friend Axelle helped me plan this trip Rod, and what a blessing that was. We always used an agency…this time Axelle helped me be my own agency! I wanted to discover parts of France we never saw, create new memories and cherish old ones. I focused on the south west part of France. I used the Michelin green guide to see the 3 star attractions, the “Les plus beaux villages de France” map and Axelle’s recommendations, and we made a 3 week plan. First step was to get the hotels booked and create a base of operations so that I wouldn’t have to pack repack all the time! Sounds obvious now, but just that bit of guidance was so helpful! So grateful for Axelle! I believe God had a plan when he brought her and Kyra back from China due to Covid19, just long enough to reconnect and get her help…she’s on her way back to China now. There are no coïncidences in life!

First base of operations was Sarlat-la-Canéda, in the heart of the Dordogne region about a 3.5 hour drive from Clermont. Lots of 3 star attractions and Plus beaux villages de France around this area! I stayed there for 10 days I think. It all runs together!

This is the lantern of the dead…perhaps a fitting way to start this vacation…reminding me that you are with me, you were and still are my tower of light. This medieval tower in the cemetery at Sarlat-la-Canéda. It is unique in France.
The tree-lined entrance to the hotel at Sarlat-la-Canéda…reminded me of our days in Montceau walking and running along the canals.
As usual, I said a prayer for you, for us, at the cathedral in Sarlat-la-Canéda. I love this hand reaching out, holding a light, the light of stained glass windows on the stone floor of the cathedral. It was just the right time for the sun to catch the stained glass, for me to walk in at that moment. It reminds me that life here on earth is full of moments in time…some fleeting, some lasting…all moments that matter. I wonder what are your moments now Rodney? God knows. And that will have to do for me for now.

I explored many castles, churches, and gardens in the area Rod..probably more than you would have wanted to see! You always told me that you wanted to just relax on vacation..and I was wanting to see it all! I know it used to drive you nuts! I haven’t changed much in that front Rod, still trying to pack it all in!

Beynac castle is quite a fortress on top of the hill above the town Beynac-et-Cazenac (another plus beaux villages de France!)
An Roman church at St Léon-sur-Vézère (another plus beau villages de France)
And the gardens at Marqueysac we’re just amazingly splendid! Lots of inspiration there for me for a future garden!
The gardens at Eyrignac were also Devine..really just spectacular!
Ok, Eyrignac deserves another look! So difficult to choose the representative photos for this garden!
The castle of Puy Martin was also very nice with some beautiful tapestries…but, no garden 😦
The gardens around the castle of Milandes were just spectacular too.. this castle was where Josephine Baker lived for many years.
The medieval village of Domme was also very interesting..this wall has been standing since the 13th century..and the markings of the Templar’s in the crusades are on the walls. I wish I would have snapped a photo, but didn’t..oh well..
The pilgrimage site of Rocamadour was also on the agenda. I climbed the route of the stations of the cross and prayed for you all along the way Rod. God has your spirit and is using it, this I know.
The cloisters around the 13th century church at Cadouin are just amazing works of sculpture/architecture in limestone. So glad it didn’t get destroyed during the wars!
And speaking of architectural interesting things, check out the confluence of the Vereze and Dordogne river and the bridges at almost 90 DEG. the garden at Limouil was in a nice position, but not so interesting. (I’m getting picky in my gardens now!)

While in the area, my friend Axelle and her daughter came to visit me! What a treat! We went canoeing on the Dordogne, I went on a hot air balloon and we just had fun. She’s finally been cleared to go back to China, so this was the last time we’ll see each other for awhile. I’m so grateful to her! I would not have done the canoe trip alone. Remember our white water days Rod? No fear!

Axelle and me on the canoe! Kyra is up front! Rod, this reminds me of our days canoeing on Herrington Lake in KY…except that now, I’m the one in the back!
Axelle and Kyra at Milandes garden was hot, but so beautiful!
We went to visit an operational mill,,grinding up walnuts to get oil and eventually making flour. You would have liked this too Rod, (Yes, I bought some oil and flour..for what I do not know!). This old shop reminds me of what my grandfather’s machine shop looked like in Germantown, KY except that he had an electric motor to run his pulleys instead of a waterwheel.
Another old mill is still running using these centuries old stones to make wheat flour..bought some of that too Rod!

While looking at the tourist book for the region, I saw an ad for hot air balloon rides. I know this type of thing is usually booked in advance, but decided to give it a a try. Sure enough they had 1 spot available for an early morning flight the next day..there are no coïncidences! ..sign me up, I’m in! Bucket list item, check!

Up, up and away in my beautiful balloon! I wish we could have done this one together Rodney. I think you would have liked this!
High flight…I remember you loved the poem High Flight by John G. had a copy framed in your office, and you quoted it several times…now I believe your spirit and soul my dear husband have experienced this…I believe you have been able to reach out and touch the face of God. I can only imagine. As I said at your burial ceremony eulogy at Camp Nelson: Earth could not hold Rodney Miller…still so true.

High Flight

By John G. McGee

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds, – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there,
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air…

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –
And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Hard to come back down to earth after that! But come down and in fact went underground too (cooler there!) I visited several pre-historic and very traditional farm sites. I had heard of the paintings on the cave walls, but I really didn’t realize how much evidence of prehistoric life there was here in France! Cliff dwellers is not something I imagined, but it does exist..still does!

At Lascaux, I could not see the real’s been closed to the public since the early 1960’s. I did however get to see “real” paintings on the wall of the caves at Pech Merle (another 3 star Michelin site!) .
The cliff dwellers or troglodytes lived here along the Dordogne river 20k years ago. 5 stories the city built right into the rock at le Moustier.
You know my love for dry stacked stone fences Rod..well, there is an operational farm of dry stacked homes and buildings in this region! I just couldn’t get enough. You know, learning how to build and maintain a dry stacked fence is still “on my list”!
The abbey at Saint Amand de Coly (another plus beau village de France) is also a 13th century building, still in operation. The abbey towers over the village..and the village was and empty! I think everyone left to go on their own vacation!

All the words and pictures just don’t seem to capture the beauty here Rod. It is said there are 1001 castles in Dordogne..I am not going to prove or disprove that statement! I can attest that there were more than I could keep track of!

I mentioned I read /listened to some books..another first! It could be considered a strange combination I guess. I’m sure they all brought me a message that I needed to hear and one of them evoked another type of spiritual awakening. As you always said Rod, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear…truth.

The books I read were all interesting and gave me messages..Get Happy is the story of Judy Garland’s tragic..beautiful voice and stardom couldn’t save her from herself..she searched the whole world looking to love and to be loved, I don’t she she ever found it. Hiking through, loaned to me by my hiking buddy and friend Karen, is the autobiography by widower Paul Stutzman who after his wife died, decided to quit his job and hike the Appalachian Trail all the way through from Georgia to Maine..14 states of mountains! He is a very good story teller of this part of his grief journey and he delivered very special message to me (no, the AT is not calling my name! Now the Chemin de St Jacques is still calling as you and I
Discussed..I will do that one one day after I retire (not quitting my job just ye! Seeking the Triune Image of God in You is a special book written by my cousin Jeff Hill. This book opened my heart and mind and made me think. I’m not sure to have understood everything in this book, but I know my mind, spirit and soul all received a message from this book as well..Thank you Jeff. I’ll probably have to read it again! Can’t hurt me is an autobiography by David Goggins, a man who has overcome some incredible adversities to reach his goals and he tells his story in a way where he is not the hero, the reader is. Very inspiring message delivered.

So that about does it for part one of this adventure Rod. I’m doing it, and now I know I can. Its all part of the moments in this new chapter of my life. All Moments matter.

You remain just behind my eyes Rod. Always. I sure do miss you here with me physically, so until that time when there is no dawning or setting of the sun, I will continually to commune with you spiritually my love. Until next time!

Love you, eternally, still.