Falaises d'Étretat - the white cliffs of Etretat by the blue sea, France.
It is beautiful here [in Etretat, Normandy], my friend; every day I discover more and more beautiful things. It is intoxicating me, and I want to paint it all - my head is bursting.. ..I want to fight, scratch it off, start again, because I start to see and understand. I seems to me as if I can see nature and I can catch it all.. ..it is by observation and reflection that I discover how. That is what we are working on, continuously..
— MONET - 1864 letter to his friend Frédéric Bazille


Each moment is new because of the way light moves through our atmosphere, framing the objects it falls upon, and also because we shall look upon it with new eyes, as we continue to learn and grow.

We may never step into the same river twice, but just as tellingly, that river may never flow against the same legs twice.


When we reached Etretat, on the very shores of France, I felt pensive - a reflective mood had come over me. Perhaps it was the sea, and those cliffs: an emblem for all endings.

I began to think over the shifting lights, the changing angles of my worldly view. So much had happened, by this point, both Oliver and I felt we had lived several lifetimes, all in the one journey. We had lived without running water or electricity (or toilets) in the depths of a Finnish winter, and we had lived through difficult times in Bosnia, and through splendid times in Vienna, and through crazy times in Norway. We had slept in our car all over Europe... We had experienced flashy riches in Venice, and earthly riches in Iceland. There were so many moments that came before me, one by one, to be remembered.

I thought, too, of the last time I had been in France - many years before, as a young academic, there to study History and Art and Anthropology. It was amazing to think of how much had changed, since I had left and returned. I had gained a husband and travel companion. I had completely changed my goals in life. I had let go of so much of the pressure I used to feel, and the anxiety. I had worked, and saved, and struggled and grown, and... so much more.

But through it all, I felt one rising motion, one surging movement of experience and thought and feeling, every bad decision and good decision, and every little moment was tumbling towards this greater realisation...

... That the world is just so beautiful!!!!

Beauty is not something constant that we can fix to a board, or a set of points, or a list. It is ever-changing, like the sky, and mysterious as the depths of that sea. Beauty, were it simple and only based on aesthetics, would be boring. But it is not, and the fact that I came to this conclusion after so many dubious and stirring events is evidence that even those things that seem to go against the grain, even these things eventually add to the beautiful, dark, crazy mystery nature of life!



We spent that night on the beach, where the rocks breath and sigh everytime the ocean moves through them. We drank cider, and slept in our car on the cliffs in a fierce wind, to awake to a misty, white sunrise.

Sunset over the cliffs of Etretat, France - like a painting by Monet.
The church looking over the cliffs of Etretat at dusk.
Blue sea waters and yellow grass by the Falaises d'Etretat.
The beautiful white cliffs and natural arches of Falaises d'Etretat.
Lamp light by Etretat beach at dusk.
The cliffs of Etretat are lit up at night - shown here with a calm seashore and one bright star.
A natural arch in the cliffs by the sea, Etretat, France.
A bottle of real apple cider from Normandy, and a round of Camembert cheese.
The small stone church on the cliffs of Etretat.
A small hidden beach with blue sea waters and white sand.
Seat on the sea cliffs.