Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Summer's Zenith in the Alpilles




"Can you feel it?" Remi asked. We were standing in our courtyard with glasses of wine in hand at the end of the day and faces turned upwards. Because we can often read each others thoughts, I knew what he meant. "Um-hmm," I responded. The shift had already started to occur. 

August 15th is a holiday for the L'Assomption de Marie in France, just as in Italy it is the Ferragosto. In Provence, the date holds a more practical meaning - the end of the big vacation period when the highways are declared a "journée noir" with traffic jams that can stretch out over hundreds of kilometers, an event which is usually accompanied by a change in temperature. Often it is then that the big storms will roll in as if to thunder-clap proclaim, "L'été est bientôt fini! It is time for you all to go back to your workaday lives!"

But these photos were taken before, right when the season was at its zenith. 

Remi wanted to retrace some of our favorite spots here in the Alpilles for a project that he is working on (that I will tell you about soon) and asked if I wanted to come along. Especially as it was predicted to be yet another day when the temperatures were expected to reach 100°F, the prospect of seeing beautiful scenery while ensconced in the only air-conditioning available (our car), I responded with a cheerful, "Yes, but let's take the boys too." I think that by that point, we all were a little tired of being closed up, literally, in our shuttered home in retreat from the spindly heat, a little outing would do us good.

I was right. I love our Provence.

The light was slicing bright and the air so dry that it seemed to hover slightly over the parched yellow grasses. The sky was too blue, also just out of reach and we all felt the need to retreat into patches of shade from time to time. A deserved break from the zig-zag lines of a brash summer day. 

I was shooting blind, unable to see my camera's reflections, aided by Remi's estimates about what my settings should be. And so these photos all look too stark to me - slightly unreal - and just as I have been longing for relief from the heat, so too am I ready for a little kindness on the eyes.

Happily, it is here. Or the promise of it is. August 15th did not let us down this year and that shift that we sensed is upon us, leaving us scrambling to bring in the cushions during a surprise evening rain yesterday and shifting our timing so as to get back from the garden before nightfall falling faster. Sunsets have returned. I feel like I can think again but have loved these languorous last days. 

Instead of the song of the cigales, I can now just barely discern a quiet ticking of time numbered.

It is quite something, our connections to the seasons, isn't it? Apparently, our clocks are not so internal after all.







33 comments:

RebeccaNYC said...

This time of year reminds me of one of my all time favorite songs "Sure on the Shining Night" by Samuel Barber, a poem by James Agee. That line "High summer holds the earth. Hearts all whole." just speaks to me. I've included one of the best recordings of this song. (there's a second song following it, also wonderful.)

Sure on this shining night
Of star made shadows round,
Kindness must watch for me
This side the ground.
The late year lies down the north.
All is healed, all is health.
High summer holds the earth.
Hearts all whole.
Sure on this shining night I weep for wonder wand'ring far
alone
Of shadows on the stars.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2xWFfNZvpmk

Karena Albert said...

Heather a lovely post about the change of seasons and how they come upon us!
Autumn is my favorite of all four, even more so than Springtime!

xoxo
Karena
The Arts by Karena

Maywyn Studio said...

Glad you had a good ride in the AC.
Summer doesn't feel quite like summer without a walk in a dry field, seeing bright hot sun or shade that barely feels cooler. Here I felt a tiny speck of autumn recently after reading about back to school being near. Commerce can ruin a good summer seasonal flow.

George Snyder said...

How I love your pictures. I can feel the air hovering over those fields. I can hear the blue of the sky.
je t'embrasse,

La Contessa said...

We do shift with the seasons.........in song and attitude!This summer went by too fast for me...........no sea or pool to sit by.No this or THAT that is defiantly SUMMER to me.We do have the HEAT now...............but I'm not complaining as that allows us to eat outside at night without FREEZING!
Happy to see those furry BOYS in the shade!GORGEOUS CREATURES!
XOXO

bonnie poppe said...

Great post! I'm in the Languedoc, and it was/is the same here. That subtle shift, the harbinger of autumn. No! Not yet! The cigales are silent, the tourists are loading their roof racks, the only sound is the "plop" of a ripe fig falling onto my terrasse........
bonnie

puppyfur said...

...the zig-zag lines of a brash summer day. What a beautiful description of the summer we've had, Heather.

Bill Facker said...

Nice, Heather .. few "Family Outings" are enjoyable as those to nature .. you've shared beautifully. Even on Kauai, we enjoy subtle changes as the Summer months plod lazily along .. but definitive shifts in weather and scenery are certainly a treat and majestic display of nature's glory. Mahalo for taking us on a drive through incomparable Provence !

Aloha,
Bill

www.kauai-to-paris.com

Loree said...

It is strange how keenly some of us feel the shift in the seasons. I am noticing it too. The light has lost its harshness and is starting to turn to amber again. I am loving it as I am loving the cooler night breezes and the rain we had again last Sunday, This summer has been nothing short of miraculous - although July made up for that by being pretty harsh.

Judi of Little House said...

I love your photos - I just inserted a plate of ripe peaches into them, for some reason! Hope you took a picnic! It all just looks so beautiful, the land, the sky, the dogs! Thank you!

simpleimages2 said...

The hot summers maybe changing. The breeze seems to be laser sharp cooler and leaves starting to yellow.But with beautiful landscapes like yours you will want to enjoy summer a little longer.

With fires raging in all parts of California and drought still in high pitch an early season change with rain will be a blessing for us.

Heather Robinson said...

Ooh, thank you! The poem is absolutely perfect. James Agee is such a wonderful poet, isn't he? I will go listen to the recording. Merci, belle amie!

Heather Robinson said...

Mine too but ours is so short here, Karena. We have a really long Indian Summer and then - poof! - winter arrives. I miss having a real autumn like we do in Michigan.

Heather Robinson said...

Ah, I have been noticing the notebooks and pens on promotion at the grocery store but being a cranky old lady with little tolernance for noise from the village kids, I have cheered commerce's interruption in this case!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you friend. That blue is loud, isn't it? Looking at the photos today, I am not so happy with them! Too much contrast and not enough of the peace I felt in them. But again, merci...

Heather Robinson said...

I know what you mean...we did have many BBQs but have not gone to the sea once! It was just too hot to be enjoyable (for me) this year. This summer was all about just trying to keep our poor garden alive!
I do hope you get to meet the boys one day...
xoxoxox
h

Heather Robinson said...

Ah, that last detail just slayed me, Bonnie. A fig tree! There is one on my path where I walk the boys in the evenings and I have been steadily watching its dails progression towards ripeness. Not ready yet...yours must be a happier fig!
And I remember when we lived in the heart of Arles, we would hear the rolling of suitcase wheels especially at this time of year...

Heather Robinson said...

You know! My goodness, I wish I wasn't quite so ready for it to be over...But enough is enough! ;)

Heather Robinson said...

You are welcome, Mr. Facker. I know that you tend to stay up North on your visits to La Belle France and I am determined to show you that there is more than that on offer!

My parents lived in San Diego for many years and they too would track the subtle changes in the weather.
Sending my Best to you in Hawaii,
H.

Heather Robinson said...

Ours has been as brutal as yours normally are, Loree! So yes, that gorgeous, gorgeous amber light at sunset is most welcome.
I am happy you have had a good summer, well-deserved!

Heather Robinson said...

Oh how funny. Actually, we ended up stopping at a boulangerie for quiche and sandwiches (plus extra water for us and the boys) and taking it to our favorite place -the one we call "La Vallée Secret"!

Heather Robinson said...

The fires were on the news last night here, Edgar. I didn't catch as to where they are but I am hoping that you and yours remain safe and sound. Our poor Earth...

Mumbai said...

Yes, I can feel it....the heat and the todos atmosphere and also the start of the end of the summer. Also much deeper in the south we notice the nightfall is coming sooner already and we enjoy the pleasant nights either on
the terrace or in the bedroom, which was not possible a week ago. I really looking forward to the autumn.

Heather Robinson said...

Ah to finally be able to sleep without the loud drone of the fan!! It is great isn't it? And I love the earlier nightfall too...

Lorrie said...

It's coming. The tree tops here show a tired green, protesting against the sun, too tired any longer to make chlorophyll. Pumpkins and squash grow fat and orange. We're in the in-between season. Savoring summer and anticipating autumn.
What a great outing you had. Thanks for sharing Provence with us.

robin said...

Yes, summer ending can be a relief from the heat but it makes me sad! I think this is because it means that David is back to his school schedule AND that the hellacious winter is that much closer! But these are pessimistic views - live for today, hello??? And today we're having a super cool day after a brutally hot one yesterday - it's only 70! Loved seeing the photos - the pups hiding in the shade and the blue blues - and how funny to think that a car ride would be a treat for the air conditioner!! Yes, fall is so nice - best to remember that and welcome it!

Heather Robinson said...

Thanks for sharing your incredibly beautiful corner of the world with your readers too Lorrie! :)

And yes, I see those tired tree tops here too...One big pumpkin growing in the community garden. Unfortunately, not ours!

Heather Robinson said...

Hmmm, but your situation is different, Sister. I hear you about being sad that summer is over. And I am sending you a big hug. I love you so much!

Linda said...

Beautiful! :)

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

Mixed emotions the change of seasons brings as we are concluding one of the warmest, sunniest summers ever recorded in Seattle (but of course have had way too many deadly wild fires across the state as a result as well) but with the change of seasons means a return to the new chapter of our lives in Greece; a beginning and an end but that is the way of all seasons, isn't it?

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you!

Heather Robinson said...

Such a wonderful chapter you have to dive into...such an interesting new season of your lives!

Sarah Elizabeth said...

It's such a relief isn't it when the weather finally breaks. I hadn't realised the 15th was also a holiday in France. Thanks for stopping by my blog x x