Do you know any houses that have a noticeable sense of place, a spirit that the Romans knew and spoke of as the ‘genius loci?’ One house that carries this quality for me is the home in southwest France of my business partner, Nancy, and her family. I have just returned from my annual summer visit to the house, and each time I go there I have the same sensation: whenever I open the front door, I feel as if I am being met and welcomed by someone or ones who have lived here before.I don’t know who they are or what they were like but I am convinced that part of what makes this lovely house so special for me and for others is the way in which its previous inhabitants seem to linger here. I am sure that they were around this weekend, happily invisible, watching and smiling on us as we swapped stories, diced onions for dinner, filled our glasses with mountain-cold  Sancerre, danced like maenads around the kitchen table. Behind us and around us was the deep silence of the hills, far, far away from the hustle of commerce and the clock-time of the modern world. Does time wear a watch? No – and I don’t believe the original occupants of this house did either. Instead, I like to entertain the notion that they lived in tune with the rhythms of the agricultural year, marking the hours and days by the patterns of the stars in the night sky. I have stepped out of time for a little while and a part of me wishes I did not have to step back in.

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