I first came to the Massat valley in the summer of 1985. It was by accident as I was traveling through Europe. I arrived in Biert and found lodging above the Mairie in an apartment. For three weeks, I walked and drew, delighted by the town and its inhabitants, the tolling bells of the church and the slow pace of life. I often strolled thru the streets at noontime with my sketchbook, empty but for the animals who seemed to own the village, chickens and cats, dogs stretched out asleep… listening to lunchtime sounds, forks chiming against china, families gathered around table, laughter.
Every morning and late afternoon I watched the daily procession of brown cows past my window followed by the Mayor handsome and most dignified in his beret. I fell in love with the village life. When the time came to leave the apartment I was delighted to discover an old barn for rent up in the mountains above Biert. The Autumn months that I spent there were some of my happiest. I explored the mountains, washed my clothes in the icy water of the lavoir, a great pleasure having never experienced such simplicity. I collected chestnuts and roasted them in the fire. I have always remembered the friendliness, kindness and hospitality I felt during that time. Four months later, as the winter approached, I returned to my home in New York.
Decades passed, I had children and traveled the world. I completed my education as a midwife I lived and worked first in Indonesia,later settling in New Zealand where I worked with refugee and migrant women. In 2005, I moved to London. Ifound my thoughts drifting back to Ariège.
In 2006, I returned to Biert with my family with much emotion and a trepidation, fearing the village would be not as I remembered. What a joy to find little had changed! I felt a sense of coming home. It was during that short visit that we began to consider finding a house, making a life in France. With the help of our friend Djalla we discovered a derelict house in Massat, empty for decades, inhabited by bats, a garden overgrown with weeds and forgotten.