Slow Days, Breezy Evenings
There’s sunsets and then there are sunsets. I think you know what I mean.
There’s the type where the sky goes crazy and explodes with colors that seep deep into your soul. Those are the kind we used to get in the SW US desert in the winter, memorable sunsets that are a feast for the eyes.
Then there’s the kind of sunset you get after a long hot day, where the sun is perfectly round, a sharp circle of bright yellow that fades to orange and red as it slowly descends past the horizon to set. It’s not dramatic, or even that elaborate, but the contrast between fire, and the smoothness of that circle is still just as mesmerizing, a burning contradiction that both pushes and pulls you in.
Those are the kind of the days that we’ve been having here in France. Hot, exhausting afternoons where everything bakes in an unrelenting heat, followed by a cool evening breeze that rises deliciously as that big, burning ball of fire finally sets. The contradiction is intense, and the evening relief is palpable. We long for it like a lover returning home after a long absence.
And thus time goes on, with a cadence and flow that has a life all its own.
During the day I feel a little like that scene from Lawrence in Arabia where he’s riding on camel-back through the notorious Nefud desert. The searing heat and monotony causes him to lose focus, and he almost slips off his camel and falls into a dangerous (and eternal) sleep in the sand.
Admittedly it’s a rather overly-dramatic visual for our little hamlet of SW France, but every time I step out into that heat, I can’t help but think of that scene.
I may not be riding through the desert on a camel in flowing robes, but I do walk rather slowly through our country backroads in long-sleeves, elastic-waited yoga pants and a sunhat (to protect my sensitive pasty white skin). And sometimes I do rather lose myself, drifting through the hot afternoon. It’s similar, no?
Despite The Heat & Dry, We’ve Got Produce
Amazingly our garden still produces even in this heat and sécheresse.
Our Asian pear tree is going nuts, as it always does this time of year. It’s an usual tree that surprises me every year with how much juicy fruit it produces without any kind of water or support. A real gem in this heat. Our regular apples are all ripening too, and will soon ready to be plucked.
Our grapes, on the other hand, have suffered a bit from too much heat, and not quite enough water. Many have shriveled and died, but the ones that have survived are saturated with the most intense sweetness, like mini-drops of candy. They’re so amazingly good. And of course our tomatoes are still doing wonderfully, soaking in the intense rays of sun, and transforming them into succulent yumminess.
Certain other plants thrive in this heat too, beyond all expectation.
Our lavender is still blooming and providing precious nutrients to a plethora of insects, and bees. So is our oregano, and thyme, and several other herbs that will soon reach their peak and be done for the year.
Plus our oleander, the infamous poison plant, is flowering beautifully, as are our dahlias. Both are masters of the heat and never need much water, a few of the plants that are truly pretty and thrive this time of year. These are living things that survive, even in the harshest of conditions, a good reminder in these brutal times.
And I’m Still Baking (In the Oven)
As far as baking goes, other than the kind that happens every time I step outdoors, I’m still doing a bit indoors here and there, just less often to prevent the kitchen heating up too much from the oven.
I managed to get a few breads out this week made from locally grown and ground spelt flour, and I put together a delicious frangine using our Asian pears. It’s a classic French tart made with a beautiful pâte sablée as the base, a layer of deliciously dark chocolate (my personal adaptation), and a sweet nutty almond marzipan paste to hold the fruit. I base it off this recipe from Le Journal De Femmes (which, together with Marmiton, are my 2 favorite French-based recipe websites) and it always turns out beautifully.
For Polly, It’s A Dog’s Life
For Polly all this is right up her alley. She loves lounging around, and living a country life packed with routine.
It all starts in the early morning when we take a lazy walk around the village and to enjoy the morning air and chat with our various neighbors. Polly doesn’t see the point in all that standing around and talking business, but she does enjoy sniffing the village dogs, staring down the goats, and whining to all the cats that tease her along the way (why doesn’t any cat want to be my friend?). It’s a good walk.
By mid-morning we’re back home and she is in her favorite AM lounge spot, under my old office desk (well it was my regular office desk, that somehow transformed entirely to Polly’s den), basking on the cool tile and the air from our standing fan. She’ll dream of doggie things for hours, content in deep sleep until lunchtime.
At the midday repas she’ll rouse herself, ready to share tasty morsels of goodness that invariably find their way from Paul’s plate to her stomach. Then she’ll move outside onto the shaded terrace, to digest and survey her vast domain. She’ll pretend to work a bit just for appearances sake, and if someone does happen to drive up to the gate, she’ll alert everyone with a prolonged bark and then strut around with immense pride as a multitude of “good doggie” compliments are showered her way. It’s justified praise for a job well done. Then she’ll relax back into her indoor office den, for another well-deserved multi-hour siesta. Finally she’ll perk up again for happy hour and dinner, eager to join us for more tasty morsels and an after-dinner stroll in the cooler air. It’s a good life.
For a dog that spent 10 years of life on the road, Polly really has adopted incredibly well to this stationary phase of her life. She loves having all this space to herself, free from other campers and dogs to call her own. She’s lazy and happy, as every old doggy should be.
And, Regular Life Goes On
Other than the heat, and the slow days regular life is slowly clicking on.
This is actually the time of the summer soldes, where all boutiques in France are officially allowed to sell at a discount for a period of exactly 4 weeks. All formally regulated and controlled, as such thing are over here. Every week there is an additional “step” in the sales, with deeper discounts, but lesser stock. For sales aficionados this is the highlight of their year, and a time to hunt down the absolute best deals (oh, there’s a winter sale too after the New Year, in case you’re curious). It’s kinda like the French version of Black Friday in the USA, and admittedly we’re not really participating (which is what we didn’t do in US either LOL). Guess I’m not much of a shopper….
This week-end is also another big event in France, the chassé-croisé where the folks who vacation in July (les “Juillettistes”), cross paths with the folks who vacation in August (les “Aoûtiens”). It may seem an odd thing to those that have never experienced it, but in France it’s a major deal that creates masses of traffic jams and circulation problems throughout the country. Think Thanksgiving travel craziness, throughout France, all at once. If you’re traveling it’s absolute mayhem, so much like the summer sales we choose to avoid it altogether. Guess we’re not fulltime travelers anymore either…
And finally, we’ve had some good news too. This week was my dad’s 2-year post-op cancer checkup. The prognosis was not good when we came over here in 2018, even the doc admitted that, and what he went through was considered a “last resort” procedure. But miraculously, amazingly, dad made it through and 2-years later he is cancer free….for the third time. When we presented the results to the doc this week, he drew a big smiley face on the paper and basically told us to go away and not come back again for another year. It’s a breath of relief in these crazy times, and a reminder that good things do happen, even now.
And thus another week ends in SW France. Not much went on this week admittedly, but that’s just the way of life sometimes. So how about you, my dear blog readers? Tell me about your week, tell me your news. It’s slow and hot here, so I’m ready to listen and want to read it all.