The end of this month marks my first year in Laurens; I came here after spending four months back in the States. It’s been another terrific year in France, hard to believe how at home I feel–the apartment, the friends I’ve made, the work. Soon after I arrived in Laurens, I mapped out a walk, about three miles, which I do most days. Because it’s the same walk (through one road that winds through the vineyards, around the chateau and back to the village) it makes me very aware of the different seasons.
Above a chilly January walk, winter red nose, bundled up in scarf and hat. I’d return to the apartment shivering and wet. In February it even snowed for all of one hour and lasted about that time too.
March, April and May brought wild flowers in all different colours. I’m not an artist, but springtime is the season when I truly wish I could paint.
Summer this year was brutally hot. For weeks during June and July there were days of 90 plus weather and some days it didn’t cool much below 80 at night. Too hot for me. I’d been walking in the late afternoon, but I had to change things around and walk in the mornings and if I didn’t start out by 7, the sun was too intense. I had fans going in the apartment, the shutters closed to keep out the heat, but some days it was too hot to even think. One day, I packed up the laptop and drove to a McDonald’s in Pezenas and worked while trying to resist the lure of French fries. Except for the French spoken all around me, I could have been in any McDonald’s back in the States.
But while I wilt, the grapevines thrive in the summer heat. As I walked through the vineyards in early summer, the vines were all long sprawling branches like gangly teenagers. Just a few months earlier, I’d been looking for the first baby leaf buds. The grapes, small and green at first seemed to grow bigger by the day and by July were beginning to change colour.
Back in the States, I always thought of August as the dog days of summer, but here in France–or at least on my walk this morning–I felt a bit of autumn in the air. Last night it rained and this morning the sky was a clear pale blue. Some clouds still lingered over the hills and at 7:30 there was almost a chill in the air. The grapes are hanging in purple clusters, blackberries are ripening, figs and olives not quite there yet; I definitely have my eye on the figs. After all the heat of June and July, I’m loving August! In a few weeks, the grapes will be ripe and ready to pick and head off to the vats for what Brigitte calls their education. Once the grapes are gone, the leaves wither and fall from the vine and it’s all quiet in the vineyard again until next year.