Friday, March 12, 2010


12 March –Searching for signs of Spring

I know we’re another week out, but this Dordogne winter has been brutal (locals have repeatedly told us that this winter has been atypical) and I have been scouring every shrub, tree and grass patch for signs of Spring. I’ve never in my life been so bud crazy as I am now and I am just waiting for those suckers to bloom. Living here in the country in the dead of winter has definitely taught me a lot about the seasonal plant lifecycle and I actually appreciate the fact that I got to know the winter cycle very intimately this year. Got to try everything once, right? For one thing, I finally understand what, “plant after all danger of frost” means on the back of a seed packet. I never quite understood it before and definitely never considered that this instruction applied to me living in Southern California.

When we arrived here in Dordogne on January 1, most of the vines had been pruned back to one or two single vines (depending on the grape variety or growing style apparently). Most would probably think this the most unattractive season for a vineyard and I guess I would have to agree, but at least I could finally see firsthand how a grape vine is pruned which is something this avid wine drinker has a certain interest in. And speaking of pruning, my lord, the French do love to prune their trees. I have never seen anything like it and it is hard to believe that they survive after such a hatchet job, but I do know for a fact that indeed they do in the most beautiful way.

We have also been following the farmer’s tending their fields and preparing them for planting soon (after all danger of frost is gone I’m sure). I know it is very hard work, but there is something so peaceful about watching a farmer plow his field in the late afternoon. I haven’t changed my mind about still wanting to be a farmer when I grow up, but I just cannot figure out how to make a living at it (not to mention having absolutely no knowledge of farming really). It just seems so much more noble a field than advertising. I still have to figure this one out though. It’s been the million-dollar question on this trip and I’m unfortunately no closer to the answer after three months.

But, I digress, we also witnessed many of the lambs and calves that were born this winter, being raised for Spring and it is definitely a bit more difficult to order agneau or veau in a restaurant when you see the little cuties taking their first steps in the fields. But I do (still order both as they are prepared so incredibly well here) so, so much for that brief nod at sensitivity.

Luckily the hills and fields stayed beautiful and green all winter and the leafless trees actually made it possible to see the many chateaux and rivers that are usually hidden during the Spring and Summer.

Spring came a little early back home with the birth of Aiden Brown, my brand new adorable nephew on March 5th.

But I am afraid that it won’t feel like Spring comes this year for a dear friend whose mom is battling cancer.

Such is the cycle of life & death with its own joyous or equally, devastating season.

All in all, winter in the Dordogne has been amazing and as Hank and I like to joke about how we “wintered in the southwest of France,” I really wouldn’t change a thing or the season we visited. Although some of the sights were closed in January and February, we have been able to see and do just about everything we wanted without lines or crowds. It has felt slightly apocalyptic at times without a soul at some of the major sights and restaurants, but we have been with the crowds on previous trips and this time it was quite different while we received un-divided and always, kind attention from the French. Yeah, those people “who hate Americans.” Hardly.Oh, I have been frustrated like you would not believe about my inability to get the language on this trip. It’s been a little over three months and even though I do have my “moments” of clarity when buying a rabbit for example, but for the majority of the time, I’m pretty damn pathetic. And as our countdown to return home looms over me, I am desperate to absorb as much as possible as I will no longer have these wonderful audio and visual aides (not to mention, real, live people to converse with) to assist me when we’re back.

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