Bonne Nouvelle Année d’Essoyes
“The earth has grown old with its burden of care, but at Christmas it always is young. The heart of the jewel burns lustrous and fair, and its soul full of music breaks the air, when the song of angels is sung…” Phillips Brooks
The first thing I should probably tell you in this year-end post is that, in Essoyes–and in fact, in all of l’Aube, the département in which Essoyes is located–2017 is going to be officially the Year of Renoir. You’ll hear much more about this later, but for now, suffice it to say that this will be a particularly good year to visit l’Aube.
The second thing I’d like to say is that we’ve announced the dates for our spring “Writing from the Heart” workshops at The Essoyes School. We’re excited about working with our new partners at the hotel/restaurant Au Coeur des Bulles in nearby Loches to welcome our visiting writers here, where they will “find the time, the courage, and the inspiration to write about whatever is most important” to them. You can learn more about the workshops here.
It’s been an eventful month: both of my sons were here for Christmas, which made it wonderfully complete. We have enjoyed seeing the Christmas decorations together and smiling at the difference in the way Santa (well, he’s known as Père Noel here) enters French homes as opposed to the way he does in the U.S.
With dear friends, we attended a Christmas Eve mass in nearby Bar-sur-Seine, where the 16th-century church was, though packed, cold enough to make at least some of us feel sympathy for the faithful of past generations, who must have suffered many shivering hours apologizing for their sins and praising God. Afterward, we were offered comforting, warming vin chaud as we left the church. We went from there to a wonderful réveillon de Noel in Autricourt, with champagne and escargot, crab salad, fromage (of course!), and a delicious buche de Noel prepared by our friend Rosanna.
There were sad moments this month too, most of all the need to bid adieu to our beloved doyen (“oldest citizen”), Maurice Godard, who passed away on December 11 at the age of 95. The church was full, an eloquent testimony to how beloved this sweet man was in our community. A simple but very moving funeral service in the church was followed by a procession on foot to the village cemetery, where he was laid to rest, and where each of the mourners were invited to pass by the coffin, and find their own way of whispering a brief blessing, a tender or a sad goodbye.
Maurice loved music, and one of our family’s favorite memories is the time a couple of years ago when Steve and Sam went to play guitar for him. You can see it in this clip.
And so: as we close this really quite somber year, I ask myself: can we hope for better in the next? Well, um: there’s no point in trying to do anything less, now is there….
And so: let’s do it. Let’s all do everything we can to make the next year a happier one, for everyone.
Nothing less is demanded of us.
Janet Hulstrand is a writer, editor, writing coach, and teacher of writing and of literature who divides her time between the U.S. and France. She leads book groups at the American Library in Paris, writing workshops in Essoyes, a village in the Champagne region, and teaches “Paris: A Literary Adventure” each summer in Paris for Queens College, CUNY.