In a staring contest, the goat will always win.
It’s cold here. High-humidity cold. It seeps into your skin like a nicotine patch. It’s as persistent as a senate filibuster and as welcome as a letter from the IRS.
Today we were supposed to be under our favorite palapa in Puerto Vallarta, slurping margaritas and wiggling our toes in warm sand. You know the story. Instead, with hardly two weeks to adjust, we trundled off to live for three months in an eighty-year-old French farmhouse, constructed of solid masonry that retains cold like a numismatist collects stamps. Outside, a grousing heat pump tries to salvage heat from air that has none. Inside, eighty-year-old radiators, once bristling with steam from an oil-fired boiler, now circulate lukewarm water from the heat pump, warming the air with a whisper rather than the shout of ancient fire.
Thus, today we meet the second of five words that I’m using to describe our French experience: cold.
After eight months of high society in Portland’s haute Pearl District, Louise and I now inhabit la France profonde, which is pretty much the Pearl’s opposite. We feel like pages ripped from a Fitzgerald novel, come to rest in deep France, where it’s quiet as a monastery and urban influences are as scarce as feathers on a frog.
We have arrived in the tiny town of Martizay, France. It’s a whirlwind of activity here, both for our hosts Jackie and John—who are preparing to depart tomorrow morning for the UK where they will stay until late March—and for us, as we unpack our bags, shed clothes we have been wearing for four days, and learn all there is to keep up the farm while it’s under our stewardship.