Around Solstice

Thursday, June 29, 2017 1 Permalink 0

The days are impossibly long now, with dawn by 5:30 and twilight past 10:30. The sun rises through the north windows of the house, at a place on the horizon across the river where you could never imagine it going in winter, when it rises maybe 45 degrees to the south.

Before the rains came this week, one wheat field downstream caught on fire and filled the valley with smoke. It was the same night we shared the best cake I have ever had in my life, made by the son of a professional baker. That family has a way with memorable moments involving flavors and fires. It could not possibly be planned, and yet it does seem to follow them like twin superlatives, indulgence and disaster.

There is a poem in there about errant fireworks, flaming crops and funerary candles accompanied by planchas and barbecues, desserts, sumptuous wakes, and homemade foie gras – but it is too tender to write just yet.

We did enjoy that cake, though. Light like a summer cloud and not too sweet. Just right, as the sirens began to scream in predictable accompaniment to our pleasure, and the whole village whooped into pompier mode. They got it put out just about sunset, and the wind picked up to clear out the haze.


Some of the storms have been heavy, with winds so strong they blew off shingles. I can see daylight through the roof in the attic in a few places, inspecting the damages, and there are the tell-tale shattered terracotta tiles here and there in the driveway. When you drive over them they become red dust, tinting the gravel a brick color, just like the house.

We have begun to wish that it were all that color. As evidenced in the photos, we are forging a new relationship with red. If blue was our successful mission these past three years, red is the new blue. White will no doubt follow. It’s that patriotic time of year and the the declaration of thematic colors is a thing that gay families in expatria think about more often than most,  I reckon.

So it’s red for us for now, inside and out, in all its many hues. It’s still new to us, but turns out to be much easier to grasp (and to find) than blues.

With that in mind, we are planning independence day parties, one for each country. Despite our manifest current differences, we were born as revolutionary sisters of common ancestry and enlightened dispositions, and the birthdays are just a few days apart.

We try to remember and honor those commonalities in our household, as much as possible: Red, white, and blue; bleu, blanc, et rouge. 


The beginning of summer in France is also the occasion of many endings. Courses and classes, regular seasonal groups of all sorts, from sports to political organizations to reading clubs to academics, are all at once throwing their end-year picnics and parties and bidding Adieu! for the warm months ahead.

France takes vacation season very seriously, and we are almost to the end of that period of goodbyes, and the end of the beloved vide-greniers with it, and the end of all sorts of extracurricular responsibilities.

For us here, the summers are a slow time. The busy normal world spins down to a quiet heat-rippled torpid rhythm. It is time for canning and heavy watering and late-night strolls, and for watching the stars come out just a little earlier each evening from here on.

1 Comment
  • Claudia
    July 2, 2017

    And I would have said, “I ran over the broken red roof tiles that blew from the roof.”
    Your description is poetry! I also love the two words describing that lovely cake/tort creation.
    Your flowers are not to believed! You are so nice to share them with the bugs who are in themselves as pretty as the flowers they occupy. Different bugs indeed.
    Any pics of your dear pets by the flowers? That would be so dramatic.
    As pretty as you paint summer, it is just plain hot & extremely humid here. We try to adjust and without a doubt comment on in every greeting instead of “How are you?” We all know how you are during our hot and very humid Summer’s that begin in April.
    With you as an inspiration, I will begin taking photos of my limited garden. Since you were here the Bougainville has literally taken over the vista from one side of the terrace. This cuts down on the afternoon sun but also blocks the view of the rest of the garden. The newest bamboo shoots were allowed to grow high & they vie for the height of the royal palms. The interesting thing about my garden us you can enjoy it on all three levels!
    A few weeks ago I visited an enormous city house nearby that was built in 1905 and is completely original down to the early plumbing. Well, yes, electricity was added.
    It is an incredible house in that the pasta tile floors are all different but if the same hues and the wall stenciling coordinates with each room’s floor tile. Even the overhead beams are incised with designs and they even stenciled the laundry room.
    The original kitchen had an enormous center island with but two wood burning ports for pots. Over this immense island is a huge copper hood. The portal is the deepest I have ever seen. The facade has recently been refurbished and it’s Porferiato style. I will e-mail you a few pics. If I was able, I would snatch it up for a mere 895k. It’s an enormous economic property with double gardens & a lovely crane crowned fountain. The story is the house was owner by the same family for 3 generations. A woman from Mx City decided her 30ish son should do something, so she bought him the manse and suggested he convert it into a boutique hotel. He dis-agreed with her idea! If & when you ever return and if it has not been snapped up, I will make arrangements for you to view it.
    Miss you-

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