I cupped my fingers loosely around my tea mug, tapping the tips. Today was the first morning where I needed the cardigan, felt comfortable in the weight of jeans. I looked up at the olive branches poking the bright sky of morning and thought, "Here I am sitting in our courtyard, in Provence and it is a beautiful day." Those words came out of my mind in bold print and I seemed to pull a part from myself for a few seconds as if to check, yes, I am really here and yes, it is beautiful. Just the tiniest of pauses on the stop-watch before life kept rolling on.
My Mom, Linda, was here visiting with her Husband last week. It was Leonard's first trip overseas and I witnessed quite a few of those moments of discovery, some of which were punctuated outright with thought in a bubble statements of delight.
When they left last Friday morning, I admit that I cried, 46 years old and all. But I love them so much that it is the impossible pull of the heart that an expat knows which works its way on me. Remi is used to this reaction and was exceedingly kind. He thought it best to keep me busy, to have a project to do.
And so we decided to harvest our olive tree.
The grape harvest had been a resounding success and everyone has raved about Remi's jam and jelly. Emboldened, he has decided that we will try to brine our own olives, to make the olives cassées that are such a symbol of la vie Provençale.
Last year, the olives had been victim to the same flies and disease that decimated the crops across Italy, France and Spain. We simply swept them up as they fell, soft and rotten, in hopes of arriving before the dogs did. So Remi had research to do in regard to the hows but started by simply pulling the car over in the Alpilles one day and asking an oléiculteur directly.
As we do not wish to turn our olives into oil, the moment is now for the picking. And that is what we did that afternoon with my rhythmically plucking at the lower branches while leaving Remi to perch on progressively taller ladders to try - and fail - to reach the top of our unusually tall tree. We wanted the fruit unbruised, so "combing" the branches was not an option. It was a slow process but as Remi had imagined, it was just what the doctor ordered.
The dogs watched on with growing impatience as our work continued on past their normal dinner time. The light danced through the branches until it warmed into that golden glow that exemplifies this time of year. I dotted around, snapping away with my camera to document yet another "first" of living in this wonderful home. Remi made a joking remark about how normally, as the professional photographer in the family, he should be the one behind the lens!
The beauty of the sun was rankling him and it warmed me to melt any lingering tristesse.
Now, we have our first little harvest. I say petite for half had to be thrown out immediately - according to the olive farmer, the ones that float when rinsed are kaput. The remaining firm green globes have been nicked cross-wise and will soak for the next ten days or so. As Remi is away for work, it is my task to change the water twice a day. Then he will work his magic - he already has very specific ideas for the "sauce" - and we will put up our olives for the winter months ahead.
I might even need to send a jar back to the States as a reminder to my family that they might again be far away but are always right here in Provence with me, right within my heart.