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Reflections upon Seasons Past and Present

It’s been a little over a month since we left the north coast of Cornwall.

We drove off in the afternoon, stopped for a spell in Lyme Regis, and continued on throughout the remainder of the evening beneath the full moon of August to our friend Kate’s house, a short drive from our former hometown of Lewes, the county town of East Sussex.

When I started this post, it was, likewise, beneath the full moon, the harvest moon of September. But this time the moon shone upon us in South West France, in the Midi-Pyrénées. We’re house- and pet-sitting at a place scarcely to be imagined, so tucked away are we in our own hundred-acre world surrounded by rolling Tuscan-like hills replete with grape-laden vineyards and fields full of sunflowers, their gleaming yellow heads just recently bowed to the inevitability of autumn.

But, still, it’s beautifully warm here, even in the evening as we walk the dips and crests of the land, or down the long, curving drive with our two charges alongside us, the lusciously languid warmth of the waning day mixing in a moment with the relative cool of the dells, while hundreds of frogs hover about the pond chorusing a prelude to their nightly jaunt to higher ground.

It’s mid-afternoon as I write, and a murder of crows squawk on about whatever it is crows talk about when the sun’s beaming, the soil’s exhaling that pungent smell of summer, and countless sunflower seeds are free for the picking, along with an endless supply of grapes dangling temptingly such that you can often see scores of the black-winged birds bobbing up and down like children in a bouncy castle as they grab one more drop of sun-sweetened fruit and fall like Icarus back to earth.

Throughout the past month, Mufidah and I have felt this place almost too good to write about, or to share in pictures. There’s something deep-set within us both which whispers a soft word of wisdom, or the faintest of suggestions, to remain somewhat mum about the whole affair, not to be secretive, but respectful of the quiet, unassuming dignity of the place which is our autumnal home this year.

I felt this way, too, when I was the guardian of another gorgeous home atop Mt. Atalaya in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Despite the homeowners encouraging me to have my fellow graduate students come up for parties and what-not, I only ever invited a few friends over, and almost always just one person at a time. There was something sacred about the place, much as with this place located outside of Gaillac. It feels a treasure to hold close to one’s heart, and to appreciate mostly from within.

This has also been a time of reflection for us both, a bit of respite from the slow travels of this past spring and summer, between leaving Spain in April, driving north through France in a week, and then moving from one beautiful part of Britain to another, before finally ferrying back across the Channel in late August, and then through France again to where we are now.

A time of slowing down, of stilling ourselves, and considering various directions towards which we could move, both literally and metaphorically. Throughout, we’ve also been helping clients to fire up their online presence and prowess, and doing loads of research into this and that, including learning how to code. Not just websites, per se, but back-end applications as well as a way to perhaps develop a high-tech startup somewhere along the way.

This was a world in which I once swam, going to monthly gatherings with venture capitalists, and working with the various clients of the management consulting firm I founded in 1995. And, so, I’ve likewise been boning up on the latest sage wisdom concerning best practices for high-growth, high-tech startups. A world which I had deliberately left behind thirteen years ago, after saying no to a particularly attractive offer to CEO a startup founded by a British entrepreneur who was at the time developing bleeding-edge Palm technologies, an obvious precursor to developing phone apps. This came fresh on the heels of my having just worked for nine months as the interim CIO for a large, geographically dispersed division of a Fortune 100 company. My charge, then, was helping the division to explore and exploit, again, bleeding-edge, IP technologies, the stuff which we, thirteen years later, take pretty much for granted, including VoIP technologies like Skype.

Now, in the hills above Gaillac — during that traditional time of year which invites a turning within as we shift from the heady days of summer to a somewhat slower time when the leaves begin to twirl in the wind before tumbling and gathering on the ground — I can feel the tell-tale early stirrings of something new which might one day lead to places presently unimaginable. Until then, we’ll be here, Mufidah and I, savoring these final days of September and the rest of the autumn to come.

Photo: Sean M. Madden Sean M. Madden is a writer-educator, photographer and slow traveler. A digital nomad, he’s also co-founder of Creative Thunder, helping creative individuals and small businesses to fire up their online presence and prowess. To get a free copy of the inspiring Creative Thunder Manifesto, click here.

  1. Lawrence Ballou #


    A quick note to say it is nice to hear, once again, where your slow travels have taken you and Mufidah.

    I will attempt, hopefully sooner rather than later, to send an update on what’s up with me these days.

    Until then, take care.


    September 26, 2013
    • Thank you, Lawrence. I really appreciate your stopping by and leaving your above note, and look forward, as always, to hearing from you, hopefully as you say, sooner than later. Until then, dear sir, wishing you the very best …

      September 26, 2013
  2. Beverley O'Connor #

    Hi both,

    We lived in the midi-Pyrenees for a couple of years at a place near Beaumont de Lomagne.

    We drank a lot of Gaillac wine but ended up buying the cubies direct from the producers and the lovely muscat. If you get the chance to explore try Moissac, St. Nicholas de la Grave, Castelsarrasin. Moissac is a stop on the Pilgrims way and has a beautiful abbey with a lovely cake shop in front of it!! The Pilgrims add colour and smell (!)

    September 26, 2013
    • Hello Beverley,

      Wonderful to hear from you. I’ve just looked up Beaumont-de-Lomagne. It’s due west, about an hour-and-twenty-minute drive from Gaillac. Any place known for its cultivation of garlic ranks highly in my book! Looks like a lovely place.

      Thanks, too, for your recommendations. It’s funny, we keep finding ourselves at various places along the Camino — which, of course, Burgos is on as well — whether in Spain or France. We’ll do our best to check out Moissac as well.

      I’d love to hear how your book goes if you’d like to drop me an email.

      All for now, Beverley, and thanks, again, for writing your above note.

      September 26, 2013
  3. Hi Sean – Glad to see your latest post. I had been wondering where you were. Lovely photos to enjoy visiting from my desk chair. We humans seem to always be planning, looking forward, seeking. We are a restless and curious lot but also needing a place to radiate from. I look forward to settling into one place for the winter with ambitions to do more writing, more reading, more art. We have done a little roving this summer and I am always curious about the places where people stay for a long time, without leaving. I would think they get to know a place much more than I ever could. I will look for your next post and next adventure.

    September 27, 2013
    • Hello, dear Judy. When I saw you’d stopped by and liked the post, a secret thought arose (with my fingers well-crossed) that you might, perhaps, leave one of your lovely notes for my consideration. And, lo and behold, I later saw that you had, indeed, done so. So thank you so much for that. Here’s to our settling into that special place from which to radiate this autumn and winter. I can feel the warmth and inspiration arising already. With regard to your looking forward to my next blog post, it is very likely to make its appearance on Mufidah’s and my Creative Thunder blog (see the link in my author’s bio beneath the above post). In fact, I’m off now to begin writing it. Wishing you all the best in the interim. And Happy Friday!

      September 27, 2013
  4. Hi Sean and Mufidah,

    Have just reread your post for a second time, having read it first when you posted it a while back. The location sounded like a wonderful place to be for the end of summer/beginning of Autumn. Of course here in Lewes we are now well into autumn and the recent savage storm in the UK seems to herald the winter to come not far behind. Still having said that, today was a beautiful one and I headed down to Rottingdean, wondered around the village before taking a hike along the sea shore. What beauty abounded on the beach and the waves beyond, a peaceful sea compared to yesterday and the day before. Sadly a young man lost his life off the coast at Newhaven, swept away by a wave on Sunday afternoon.

    Would be good to hear how your thoughts are shaping up about your working life and future travels. I am taking off to Seville for three weeks in February, renting a studio there and planning to revisit some lovely towns I have not been to since my late twenties. A friend is living and working in Seville so I will be seeing her and other friends are planning to visit me when I am there. Also planning a short trip to Rome with some girlfriends in April. My eldest niece is planning to marry her American boyfriend probably in late summer so i am hoping to be heading out to California for the American side of the wedding to be followed by a party back in the UK. My writing group, Rottingdean writers is having a writing week near Valencia in September and I will go to that too if it does not clash with the wedding dates. I am really looking foward to a very different year in 2014 with more travel and exploration.

    My lovely son Sam has been living with us in Lewes for the past three months. He is seeking work in Brighton and hopes to live there for a while which warms my heart greatly. His presence nearer to me is a great comfort and joy. My stepson and partner are also soon to move to Lewes and it is a fine thing to be drawing my family close to me in this beautiful part of the country.

    Best wishes to you both,

    Ruth Oliver

    October 29, 2013
    • Hello Ruth,

      Thank you so much for taking the time to reread this post, and for writing. It sounds like you have a lot going on right now, and are basking in the warmth of family folk. That’s wonderful.

      We’re here in South West France through the end of December, and are just beginning to consider where to head next as part of our continuing slow travels. We’re just shy of having been on the road for 18 months now.

      But on a day-to-day basis, Mufidah and I are investing most of our energies into our Creative Thunder work, helping our clients to fire up their online presence and prowess. More here:

      Thanks again for writing, Ruth, and I wish you all the best with your exciting plans for the months ahead — Seville, Rome, etc.

      All for now, and best wishes to you and Gavin …

      With warm regards,

      Sean (& Mufidah)

      November 3, 2013

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