Tineke Bot sent me a photo of land at Châtelus, taken from their house in Choranche.
[photo by Tineke Bot]
Click the photo to enlarge it slightly.
A base jumper had taken off from the cliff above Rochemuse : Tineke's property, located behind the photographer. He was blown onto the top of a tree in Châtelus. A rescue helicopter arrived on the spot. It was a complicated and risky affair, and it took many people several hours. The fellow's life was at stake, as he could have slipped to his death at any instant. Happily, the base-jumper finally managed to get down safely out of the tree by his own means. All's well that ends well.
One of the most interesting individuals I encountered when I came to live in Choranche in 1994 was the Dutch painter Bob ten Hoope, who had decided to set up his home in Pont-en-Royans back in 1954. In the beginning, I was impressed by his sketches of men playing cards in a local café.
But I soon learned that this was a small domain of his work, which encompassed large oil paintings of nudes and many local landscapes.
It was through her friendship with Bob ten Hoope that the sculptor Tineke Bot discovered this region, and decided to settle down in Choranche.
— photo by Roger Latton 
The last time I saw Bob, maybe a decade ago, he had set up his easel and painting material on the Rouillard Bridge, just down the road from my place. He was already afflicted with arthritis in his hands, making it extremely difficult for him to carry on painting. Finally, he decided to move back up to his native land.
And that is where he died, last Saturday, 18 January 2014.
At the rare times of the year when it contains water, Gamone Creek flows down past my place and through a corner of the park of André Repellin and Madeleine. There, in a rocky corner, Tineke Bot and Serge Bellier have placed their steel montage that evokes the memory of the Repellin's unique daughter: our friend Françoise.
She was indeed a transparent young woman, whose purity and willpower had a mineral but steely luster. Today, I find it perfectly appropriate to remember my neighbor as an angular friend who—in spite of her relative youth—maintained a rigorous old-fashioned style of relationship with me (as with most people, I would imagine). Every January, she would walk up here with her dog to offer me New Year gifts of biscuits and jam. It was unthinkable that Françoise might address me otherwise than by a quiet and polite vous, never by my first name or by the pronoun tu. Then she would wander across to the slopes on the other side of the creek, and scramble excitedly and noisily through the grass, for half an hour or so, with her beloved dog Briska.
Shortly before her death (if I understand correctly), Françoise had indicated explicitly that she wished to be remembered in this splendid nook of Gamone Creek. That is the case.
POST SCRIPTUM: The cocker spaniel Briska has always been a most excitable dog. Whenever Madeleine strolls up here to Gamone, my Fitzroy is delighted to receive a visit from Briska, whose hysterical barking antics are so much more fun than the staid behavior of Fitzroy's usual companions—Sophia, Moshé and Fanette—who must be seriously provoked before they'll join in a joust. Fitzroy hardly needs to raise a paw to get Briska started. Then he gallops gaily alongside his female visitor, admiring her noisy and spectacular lunacy.
Here at Gamone, certain leaves confirm by their color that it's well and truly autumn.
But the recent weather has been splendid. I'm too far away from the sea to go bathing, but I don't suffer unduly from that privation. I've always remained a little wary of the sun, sand and surf ever since my childhood experiences of getting severely sunburned at Yamba. If ever I were to go bathing today at a sunny beach resort, I would be obliged to wear constantly some kind of hat. So I guess my surfing days are over. Meanwhile, the dogs and I are perfectly happy here in the mountains.
As usual, Sophia spends her nights inside the house, in her vast wicker basket (lined with a new hessian mat purchased recently at Ikea), while Fitzroy sleeps outside, in his self-made bed beneath a wisteria and a wild rose bush. In a July blog post [display], I included a photo of Sophia occupying Fitzroy's splendid abode. Meanwhile, during the warm season, Fitzroy uses his luxurious kennel solely as a dining hall, where he can eat calmly, with no danger of having his food stolen.
Of a morning, when I open the kitchen door, Fitzroy leaps with joy to find Sophia and me emerging from the house. For months, he used to jump up at me, in his typical manner (which I've never tried to discourage). These days, I'm thrilled to discover that Fitzroy's morning bounds are aimed exclusively at Sophia. It's the presence of his great-aunt Sophia that provides Fitzroy with the enthusiasm to start off a new day, just as his prancing and gentle biting seem to wake up aging Sophia, who growls with mock anger, while snarling sufficiently to let the young male know that she's still the chief of their two-dog pack.
In this beautiful season, I learned this morning that my great friend Tineke Bot slid on a rocky ledge in her magnificent botanic park just up the road, and broke a bone in her left shoulder. So, I've spent part of the day lending her a hand.
From time to time (but not often), I've met up with gifted artists capable of creating portraits. On such occasions, I've always wondered naively: How do they do it? This skill has intrigued me greatly in the case of my Choranche neighbor Tineke Bot, with whom I've had countless fascinating conversations about the ways in which she perceives the world around her. I've had opportunities of noticing, often in trivial contexts, that Tineke's awareness of the physical environment of forms and colors in which she exists is surely many times more subtle and sensitive than my own vision of these same things. At times, she reminds me of the proverbial Eskimo with his dozens of words for all the many kinds of snow. The other day, on the telephone, I was deploring the fact that the current abundance of wetness and scarcity of sunshine at Choranche have given rise to a uniformly green environment in which there are not yet any colorful flowers (apart from yellow buttercups in the fields). In this context, Tineke exclaimed her enchantment upon the discovery of such a vast array of subtly different kinds of greenness, forming a magical mosaic all around her.
As an accomplished artist (sculpture, painting, drawing, etc), Tineke demonstrates constantly that, not only does she see the world with fine sensitivity, but she can transmit her special visions through the works she creates… even in the case of a hastily-sketched portrait of my dog Sophia.
This morning, I took this photo of Sophia's head in about the same position as for Tineke's portrait:
Tineke obliged Sophia to participate in a sitting, as it were, as she needed to have the dog directly in front of her, staring up at her while she was executing her drawing. I was amused to find that Tineke's husband Serge has apparently become an essential collaborator in this kind of animal portrait project. He crouched alongside Tineke and distributed little bits of bread to Sophia throughout the sitting, in order to keep the dog more-or-less fixed in the necessary spot. If I understand correctly, Serge became patient and proficient in this technique with sheep, back at the time that Tineke was creating little masterpieces such as this one:
In the animal domain, Tineke has also done fine sketches of horses.
The brown horse, momentarily endowed with Tineke's colorful vision of the landscape, seems to be saying to itself, in amazement: "Wow, the Vercors is truly extraordinary today!"