February 12 2013
The days continue to amaze! Last weekend, we checked the weather reports for New York City, hoping that the forecasted blizzard wouldn’t bring more tragedy to an area of America that had already been dealt the blows of Hurricane Sandy. Having family and friends in NY who had suffered during the hurricane we were relieved that they received only enough snow to experience the stillness of that great city and not its sorrow. And, although it’s been over a year since we sold our seaside cottage, I found myself checking the Provincetown forecast, the high tide chart and wind predictions, still afraid for that little wooden tent we called home for so long. But it and everyone survived and so we were free to relish our blue skies and sunshine, here in Provence.
So it was a shock to wake up on the Monday morning and find the world outside our window in a snowstorm of its own. It kept up for most of the day and as Joel was still shaking off a cold we lolled on the couch, fed the fire and our faces and read.
Toward late afternoon the snow stopped, the sun once again bright in its blue sky and so we bundled up and walked up and around the deserted village, all the way to the top from where we looked across to the lavender field and it’s seven cherry trees sitting like an etching on the side of the crest. Then we carefully picked our way down the slushy, icy, ancient steps and slopes and streets, the snow already melting off roofs, cascading down pipes, dripping off eaves in a veil of tears whose music was yet light-hearted. And thus we made our way back to the warmth of the fireplace and a game of Scrabble.
Having been housebound for a few days, we decided to drive to the village of Cucuron the next morning. Tuesday is market day there and we thought it would be fun to check it out. What a difference from our last visit to that village in mid-October, 2011. That day had been an Indian Summer one and in the village center, around an ancient reflecting pool, locals and tourists were eating at a string of outside cafes, faces turned to the sun, the reflecting pool a virulent green, the trees already turning copper.
Today the pool was frozen solid, some of those copper leaves suspended beneath its surface, reminiscent of a Kaiseki dish we had in Kyoto many years ago. The air was raw and damp and we were chilled to the bone within minutes. But nothing deters the locals on market days, vendors and shoppers alike.
Our favorite Patisserie man from the Lourmarin Friday market was there so we fortified ourselves with a mouthful-sized lemon merengue tart apiece and bought one of his brioche loaves to make ourselves French toast for breakfast on Valentines Day. Not to be outdone by the locals, we moved on to the fish stall for a piece of cod for dinner and then the vegetable stand for some grand-looking artichokes, by which time we were ready for the warmth of the car, but how can you leave without buying a petite handful of wild figs, oh and look at those capers?
Back in the car we turned up the heat, put in our Adagio CD and set sail through the back lanes, past winter-bare fields and remote farmhouses, smoke curling from every chimney, and every once in a while another little village would appear, each one a temptation to explore, but the day did not beckon. A rare grey sky and the damp of the valley cast a pall on us and suddenly that which can be so beautiful seemed sad and lonely and as the strains of Samuel Barber added to the atmosphere, I found myself feeling bereft of all that was familiar. Not that I longed to be in New York, I didn’t, but that I longed to feel the nearness of loved ones and for a melancholy moment wondered if I would ever see them again.
We continued east for a few miles and then turned northward, deciding to make a large circle home. And so it was that we found ourselves climbing up and up the Grand Luberon, the road becoming more deserted, the terrain changing from the flat fields of the valley to the terraced ones of the crest. The weather, too, changed; where the valley had shown only scratchy remains of snow now, on either side of the road, the landscape was deep in it and huge clumps still clung to the pine forests; hardly a house in sight. And up we went, our hearts lifting along with the light, the sky now a pure, deep blue, the sun glinting off every branch and needle.
At the top of the crest, like the Hallelujah Chorus, vast swaths of scrub oak shone rusty red, vying for prominence against the rich greens of the firs and pines, the all of it dazzling, like a jewelry display in which every precious stone on earth has been flung at random and then adorned with diamonds of melting snow drops. It took our breath away.
As did descending the other side of the crest, which because it is north-facing had not been thawed by the sun, the road a snaking surface of snow and ice with a steep drop on one side and of course, no railing. We made it down in second gear.
And so another day closes. Peach colored clouds, riding on the backs of slate grey ones are scudding across the evening sky, hurried along by a brisk wind. The fire is crackling and cackling away and soon we’ll prepare the fish and artichokes, once again grateful for this particular journey on this particular day.
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