La Beauté Estivale
Summer beauty. It’s all around us, and all we have to do is wipe the salty drips from our eyes, pry open our sun-puffed lids, and gaze. There’s a reason that Lord Byron said “she walks in beauty like the night” and not “she walks in beauty like the summer,” because summer walking here involves slatherings of sunscreen, the lightest clothes one can wear without getting arrested, and a perpetual dampness that defies good manners. Surrender to sweating, that’s my new summer mantra.
I have to laugh every time I read a French magazine article reminding people to eat their five daily fruits and vegetables. We scarcely eat anything else these days. It’s only the beginning of the summer vegetables, but already I’m seduced by
produce so exceptional that even the throwaway parts are beautiful.
Every morning we wake up and read the Midi Libre, our local paper, to find out how hot it’s going to be. As usual, today it’s really, really hot and tomorrow is supposed to be really, really hot. Have you ever seen a hotter-looking cat? Even though he normally doesn’t pay much attention to the Midi Libre, except for lying on it, Beppo copes with the heat by sleeping stretched out like a person, trying to catch any tiny breeze that might ruffle his fur. Imagine wearing a fur coat when it’s 95°.
Imagine being pregnant when it’s 95°. I love it that in France pregnant women don’t cover themselves up as if they had something to hide. But still, there’s no hiding the fact that this beauty is hot.
Right now it’s all about keeping as cool as possible, and that of course means staying near or in the water whenever possible. This is a living fountain, made of moss that’s dripping constantly. We first saw this fountain eight summers ago, and it’s still as green and drippy as ever. I find that very reassuring, that the drip goes on, an inexorable beat of comfort and serenity.
And at least three times a day we’re in the pool. I’m sure there’s a way to live in the south of France without a pool, but that’s not the life for me. I’m a total wuss when it comes to heat, and the pool is where you’ll find me at almost any time of day. Even Shel is getting with the program. For a guy with a tracheostomy and a hole in his neck that goes straight into his lungs, he looks happy as a clam in the water, don’t you think? This is the first time in seven years that he’s dared to swim, and it’s all thanks to the foam noodles that keep him safely afloat.
And speaking of noodles, thanks to this lovely Mark Bittman recipe, summer produce and noodles blend in true summer beauty in my dinner bowl. Eggplant, mint, garlic, tomatoes, basil. Ten syllables that speak the language of summer.
The garden is also very happy. The flowers can depend on me to water them every day, sometimes twice. The herbs grow so fast they practically jump into my dinner pasta, and the tomatoes are giving it a good try, even though they’re confined to pots and not as free-ranging as a tomato wants to be.
This is just to say that all is as it should be in the sweetness of early summer. And now please excuse me, I need to have another jump in the pool, followed by a glass of something icy. I’ll leave you here to imagine being hot, really, really hot, and very happy.