A misty morning in the country sees a quiet haze settle over the land. The sun rises and catches on the droplets in the air, settled on the flower petals and blades of grass that blink at the sky, still waking up.
A church that appears eight miles away is in fact only a ten-minutes walk away. One wanders out the back garden and greets the old swan protecting the apple trees, then arrives at the pilgrim’s route (which carries on all the way to Spain). The plum trees with their ripened fruit infuse their scent into the atmosphere, and bring the morning rambler into the village, up a little grassy path that meets the church, which soon becomes the gravel path that winds around the post office, the bakery, the two restaurants on either end of the market street (separated only by a tabac), ending at the épicérie before branching off by the artisan studios, and the lavoir fontaine – where the washerwomen of yore did the washing by the hills, now remaining only a small shelter with a pool of water, in which tiny shrimp have gathered and made their home. A walk through this village, and one comes by the randonneurs and the pélérins, who have taken hundreds of thousands of steps and more across hills and valleys, towns and village, some coming from Spain and some from Luxembourg, or simply from a few towns away. These hardy souls greet the passerby with an exhiberant gaze – humanity at last! And is it far? How long left? But not far at all! A few metres away is the long-awaited collégiale, the destination of the pilgrims, and a site of rest after long hours on the soil!
But to one who finds their luck gifting them a home just a few minutes away, in the middle of a world of flowers, bumblers, oaks and lindens, the journey into the village is but a pleasant stroll that forms part of the morning routine. Indeed, mornings often find the kitchen infused with warm waves of a chicken roasting in the oven, being prepared for a grand Sunday lunch. Jams will be stewing on the stove, bubbling away into the high sun, and the dining table laden with beautifully marbled, radiant aubergine, and rustic potatoes freshly pulled from the ground. This dense concentration of the gold of the soil thrives in the kitchen in the mornings, the fine produce of a season’s labour.
Enough of the morning wander, the afternoons arrive in all their golden glow, the radiant afterthought of Day. One wanders up to the pruniers to have a chat with a grandmother, a swim in a tempting, clear pool overlooking the countryside, and the swallows dance in the sky for the now familiar face in the waters. It is an afternoon whiled away, in the sun, in the shade of an old oak, by the lake, amongst the hummingbird moths that have come out to feed on the abundant flower nectar that has been brewing in the sun all day.
Dinner comes, but first – a visit to the factory where the prunes are made! Such grand ovens as one has never seen before, hiding in a shelter by the sunflower fields. Great big metal tunnels that heat up the plums, dry them, burn off their calories, and they are fed masses by masses into roaring machines made for this one product. Fine, purple prunes produced and stacked in layers that reach meters high into the sky, foregrounding a flaming red globe about to cast away the day. The sky alights like the fire in the ovens – but ashamed of its sudden passion, blushes in delicate, rosy hues. Enough humility now to allow night to set in, the last contrails melting purple, navy, and finally gone with the day.
And so a day that began with a wander into the village ends with a million prunes. A day in the countryside, indeed!