This is an open-ended blog ranging from news about my latest gigs and publications
to ruminations about politics, world affairs, culture and whatever piques my interest—or ire.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013


Saint Germain-en-Laye lies 12 miles west of Paris. This is where I spend my summers in a house we bought when I worked in the Paris bureau of TIME Magazine. We lived here full time from 2000 until our move to New Orleans in 2007. Now it is our vacation house, where we come each year to escape the New Orleans heat, get back in touch with our French friends, and soak up the food and culture for which France is famous. But the most significant thing about Saint Germain is not that we have a house there. It is the fact that Louis XIV was born here in 1638, in a chateau built by his ancestor François I. The chateau still stands majestically in the middle of Saint Germain, surrounded by manicured gardens and parks laid out by Le Nôtre.
       Another vestige of the former royal presence here is the nearby Forêt de Marly, part of the royal domain surrounding the former Chateau de Marly. For years
I have jogged in this forest. Apart from the narrow roads and trails, it has been left in its original unspoiled state, with dense stands of oak, beech, birch and plane trees. I always take the same path: Route de la Dauphine. I know every tree, every clearing, every bend in the road by heart. But every time is different. The light changes, the weather, the wild flowers come and go, marking the seasons. The smell changes, too—pungent and sappy in the spring and summer, dank and musty in the fall and winter. 

      In the old days, the forest was teeming with deer and wild boar, and foxes, and the king and his courtiers would hunt them and serve them up in sumptuous spreads of wild game back at the chateau. Today the king and the hunters are gone. The chateau is gone. But the deer, the boar and the foxes are still here. Along with the trees, some of them hundreds of years old. Some of them were here when Louis roamed the forest; maybe a few still bear the scars of his stray bullets or arrows.
      The other day, as I was about a third of the way into my five-mile run, I saw something moving out of the corner of my eye. Then I heard the rapid clump of little hooves. It was a fawn, come to drink in the little ditch that runs along the path. It retreated into the forest, then turned around for a moment and studied me. Seeing that I was not a predator, she continued calmly along her way and soon disappeared behind the thick trees.
        I witnessed another interesting thing as I was doing my cool-down stretches. In the distance, on the same path I had taken, I heard the chatter of children’s voices, and saw a group of little kids on bicycles. A man was walking with them, wielding two walking sticks. When they drew closer, I saw that the man, apparently in his late 40’s, was blind. He advanced at a good clip and, judging from his well-developed calf muscles, was a serious walker. The kids surrounded him on their bikes, two in front, two in back. They laughed and chatted and rang their bells and did what kids do when they are riding their bikes and having fun. In the middle of them, the father (for I assume it was their father) strode along with no hesitation, guided by the little voices around him. His children were protecting him, showing him the way.
       They passed by me and continued down the path toward the busy two-lane highway. When they reached it, the kids looked left and right, then proceeded across. The father advanced with them, unable to see if any speeding cars were approaching, but trusting his children to make sure the way was clear. When they reached the other side, I kept watching this marvelous display of mutual aid, until the forms of father and kids finally disappeared into the woods.


  1. a joy to read. Gracias, señor.

  2. Thanks, Max. Your comment warms my heart.

  3. Tom, I love this beautiful scene you describe. Once in the Foret de Fontainebleau, I saw a wild boar! It was in 1971, though! - Karen