Remi had something that he wanted me to see. I was beyond jet-lagged as it was only the first full evening after my return from the States, so we walked slowly as we headed towards the edge of the village and into the orchards beyond.
I felt as if I was floating under the rising moon when all I wanted was to feel grounded. I threaded my arm through Remi's and leaned in.
"Eh voila," Remi announced with a wave of his hand. In front of us was a scraggly patch of terrain that clearly hadn't been cultivated in years. One lone cherry tomato popped up bravely from the weeds, waving like a flag that had refused to surrender.
But...it is ours to care for now. While I was away, Remi went to local gardening association's yearly meeting to see if it would be possible for us to become members (at the behest of our guardian angel, Mr. W). There had been a waiting list for the past four years but as luck would have it, there was a plot available. For only 20 Euros a year ($25 US), we could have a garden.
Photo courtesy of Rémi Bénali
Remi wasted no time in the waning light and immediately set claim by delineating our land from our neighbors. I watched in wonder at his energy in my zapped state, shaking my head at the size of the task in front of us.
As the mosquitos made their nightly entrance, I persuaded Remi to drop his hoe and head back. He paused at the outer-reaches of the gardens to pick wild grapes that were nearly covered in bramble and yet still held such sweetness. "No one knows who this land belongs to...so...it can't be farmed." I tried to cast about in the twilight for imaginary shadow figures of past owners - those who had planted and raised these vines - without success.
"I will be back in time for lunch," Remi called out joyfully the next morning as he closed the gate behind him, garden-bound. "I'll see you then, good luck!" I returned. The hours passed and yet still no Remi, no word. Finally, he answered his cell phone, his voice weak with thirst. It was time for reinforcements.
When I arrived, the entire plot had been cleared. Remi had done the grunt work and then the soil was turned by Francis, who waved off Remi's offer to thank him with a bottle of wine after he had worked miracles with a rototiller. "We help each other out," Mr. W explained. "As it gets hot in le midi, we will water each others gardens when they need it, things like that...you know, it is just how it is done here."
I was introduced to everyone and then poured rounds of cold rosé, a perfect way to toast the end of the first day of work. Remi made a ham and cornichon sandwich and munched on it silently with dirt covered hands.
I spread my skirt out on the grass and looked around for treasures in the surrounding plot, still untouched. The rosé warmed my cheeks as the sun patted the top of my head. I felt present, happy and calm.
The earth is rich, soft and surprisingly springy underfoot. There is a steady water supply, readily available. And now it is up to us to make something grow. To return the land to what it once was.
Will we have gardens as impressive as those created by les professionnels, as they are half-jokingly called?
Oh goodness, I doubt it and certainly not at first. We have made a point of letting everyone know that this is an entirely new experience for us both and that if we truly don't have les mains vertes or even a green thumb then we will turn the plot over to more deserving patrons.
But it will be wonderful to learn, to try. The tomatoes and beets that our new neighbors have given us are the only encouragement that we need as they taste like the food of my youth, long since forgotten. Soon, we will layer the compost to make the land rich and then let it sleep for the winter. The laying of seeds before the seeds and then the real adventure will begin.
Today's post is my contribution to the monthly international blog get-together "By Invitation Only" which is hosted by the lovely Marsha at Splenderosa. The theme for October is: "What can you not live without for autumn?" For me, fall is all about discovery. Perhaps it is due to all of those years of living in Manhattan (New art openings! New Broadway shows!) or the joy in France of eating new dishes (Choucroute! Cassoulet!)...but while some might think of autumn as a time of getting ready to shut down, I think of it as a time to store up; to prepare for the winter ahead through the amazing gift of diving into the unknown. And that is what our new garden will most certainly give us. Wish us luck!
The title for this post was taken from a really wonderful song by Quantic featuring the ever-soulful Alice Russel:
To find out what the other contributor's have to say on this topic by all means don't hesitate and please do click: Here.
With my Best from Provence,
PS. Remi sends heartfelt thanks to all of you that sent along birthday wishes! That was very kind. :) And I have been told that some of you are having trouble leaving comments. I am looking into it but as always feel free to send me an email instead at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com.