Posted tagged ‘Summer in the south of France’

Summer Rapture

May 24, 2011

Although we normally live rather quietly, for seven out of the last ten days we’ve either had guests, sometimes two sets of guests in a single day, or been guests ourselves. And the coming week promises to be more of the same, invitations every single day. I love having guests, and I love being invited, but today, I confess that I’m glorying in having no invitations at all. It’s about 90° outside and the pool is perfect. That’s all it takes to make my day.

Even though I’ve been swimming for a week already, I’m still getting used to using my shoulder again. And the water’s been pretty chilly, until a couple of days ago. But now I can swim with a certain amount of ease, and the water’s perfect. I’ve already been swimming twice today and it’s not even mid-afternoon. More laps are in my future, and I’m in my own sort of rapture, which doesn’t in the least involve leaving this beautiful planet.

I’ve discovered a nest of baby birds that I can watch while I’m swimming. The parent birds cleverly built their nest in an old bird cage which hangs in the pool cabana, and as I approach their end of the pool I can see three little heads bobbing up and down inside the cage. The parents fly in and out with tidbits and I marvel at their devotion. The babies will have to climb out of the cage before they can attempt to fly, and I wonder if they’ll give it a try before we leave here, in only a few days.

I also wonder about other important things, like whether a Pastis or a glass of rosé goes better with swimming, which, of course, is something that can only be determined by experimentation. I wonder why I pay to have my hair colored brown, when the fierce sun of the south turns it to blond in a matter of days. We’re waiting for the electrician and I wonder whether he’ll catch me nude and dripping wet, and whether I should offer him a swim when he arrives. We have enough electrical problems here that we almost know him, but not quite. Still, it’s very hot, he must need a swim too.

It’s amazing to discover that thinking about things like that can take up a whole day, in between the swimming. Having a perfectly private pool all to myself on a really hot day is my idea of bliss, and having nothing serious to think about or do, on the same day, is the real rapture. La vie est belle, there’s just no other way to say it.

La Beauté Estivale

June 30, 2008

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.