Writing letters on our Juliet balcony

Sean and I often slide my sewing machine table onto the tiny balcony nook so I can write letters to loved ones while watching life go by on the little rue below. I push the treadle below the sewing machine table and a large iron wheel affixed to the side of the table spins. I love the lulling sound, and watching the wheel spin. My thoughts wheel past also.

An adorable drawing from Sean’s
visual diary of our home renovation

Other times, we stand against the balcony railing together with a blanket around us when we first wake up – when the air is still chilly and the village is silent, just feeling the breeze on our faces and talking about our day.

This is my favorite perch overlooking the road, watching my neighbors talking and laughing down below and the historical tour guide leading tourists down the street. It’s such good fortune that our house just happens to be in the oldest part of the city, on the road to the castle (Chateau de Lion) which is 350 meters from our front door.

Château de Lion

Sometimes people look up and wave at me and say “Bonjour !” One time the historical tour poked their heads into our living room to view the medieval moat tower – so fun ! I’ll miss this easy camaraderie in the winter.

One guy came through on a bike with a baguette in the basket, looked up at me writing a letter and exclaimed “What a pretty sight!” He didn’t mean me, but rather the fact that our house has finally come to life.

Our neighbors have been used to this house being derelict, shuttered, and cobwebbed for decades. I don’t think anyone has lived here since the 1920s. It brings us such joy to breathe life back into it, to open the shutters, say hello to our neighbors, grow flowers in the windowboxes…

These pretty flowers are our neighbor’s. I can’t get enough of them. Every time I open the door to the Juliet balcony by my bed I see them. Sometimes I think it’s more important to live *next to* a pretty home than to live in one…although of course we want to bring this old house up to par with its neighbors, to help gentrify this incredible old village. At the moment our 300 year-old townhouse is pretty rough around the edges (it’s even missing a window – the window was removed to evade the window tax back in the day!)

The village ought to tax my joy as I sit here with the breeze on my face, listening to the conversations below in French, watching tourists taking pictures of the old houses on our street…

It’s truly the stuff of dreams. Maybe our house is dreaming all of this, and that’s why it always has one eye closed.

When we moved to France from Florence, Italy last year many of my friends and I promised to keep in touch through the post, old-school style, but I didn’t really believe we would.

How wrong I was – I’ve sent and received so many letters and packages already! Receiving mail from loved ones makes a place feel like home so quickly. The lady who works at the post office here knows us by name.

This is the wonderful view from where I stood in line at the post office right around the corner from our house. This building is the Hotel de Ville. On the right of the photo, out of the frame, is a town notice board with all kinds of announcements – who bought what from whom, who was born, who died, and there was even a memo that Monsieur such-and-such needs to find a new doctor because his doctor would be closing his practice soon!

With a population of just over 1,000, this little village has a family atmosphere – everyone knows everyone – but surprisingly it doesn’t feel cloying or suffocating like I thought it might , seeing as I’m accustomed to living in cities like Oxford and Florence. But everyone here gives us privacy in a friendly, hands-off way.

Another shot from the post office – here you can see the steeple of the church on the main road. I have such affection for this village!

I love to collect vintage French stamps that catch my eye when we’re at antiques or flea markets – the “brocante” I’m so crazy about. I decorate my letters with them. I also love to make little collages on the envelopes.

When I press the sewing machine pedal or “treadle,” a giant iron wheel spins on the right side of the table – the wheel that usually powers the sewing machine. I disconnect the wheel while I’m using the table as a writing space, but the wheel still spins.

It manually powers my thoughts – the little breeze it creates on my heel, and the slight whirring sound ! is so soothing…it helps me daydream and lose myself in whatever letter I’m writing. So if I write to you, you know that your letter was actually powered by a 19th century sewing machine wheel.

Click on the tiny video below and my wheel will whisper to you!

I often collage envelopes in my spare time. It’s a meditative ritual. The top collage of the legs (above) was made from a Hermes scarf ad, and the devil was made from one of Frida Khalo and Diego Rivera’s day of the dead figurines.

I love love love my family of letter writers and my online community. You all keep me feeling connected, inspired and loved.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. oueeza says:

    oh my heaven this is so beautiful, and so exactly fitting for both of you and the pair you are xxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jalina Mhyana says:

      Thank you so very much dear friend! *You* are one of my special mail fairies…and just a wonderful fairy in general…”oh my heavens” I miss you & the way you speak & think – wonderful that your mom’s poetry collection has been given another print run. Hoorah. Big love xxxx


  2. Emma Iiriti says:

    Your envelopes are serious works of art. That devil envelope is the bees knees!! And those stamps. And the sewing machine wheel powering your thoughts… I need one of them! Loving your blog Jalina X

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jalina Mhyana says:

      Thank you!! 🙌 I’m so happy you’re on this journey with us! You’re the BEST. Truly.


      1. Jalina Mhyana says:

        Ooh speaking of old-school mail, I can’t wait to receive the embroidered pillows! Sean can’t believe I hadn’t heard of the designer. So sweet of you, hee hee haha hoho, happy me 😘


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