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Notes from the Road: Ardèche

Ardèche in summer: bleached stone, green rivers, shadows in flight.

After putting my last bit of strength into one final climb, I picked my way down to the river snaking below the cliffs, tripping over stones and reaching out to crush rosemary needles between my calloused fingers.

Harness and helmet stashed in a shadow, I walked along the pebbled bank until I found a bend with enough privacy to strip down unseen. I slipped into the cool water, giddy and grateful.

Above me, the stone ruins of a church warmed to gold as the sun slid into that evening angle that magnifies the pulse in everything. Tiny silver fish darted just below the river’s clear surface. A bird glided past, scanning the shallows for dinner. Bobbing along on bent knees, I tried to blend into the scene before me, knowing I had little to offer the actors but admiration.

Notes from the road: Auvergne

We pitched our tent in a flat field bordered by blackberry bushes. From our small green cocoon, I could see the Milky Way tumbled across the sky. In the milky purple dark that passes for night sky in the city, I can never make out much more than the angular scoop of the Big Dipper. But there, in the crisp dark above Auvergne, big fat stars hung together in constellations quivering and glistening in the dark, pluckable as grapes. The thirteen miles we’d walked that day finally caught up with me, and I drifted off with my eyes riveted on a jewel in Orion’s belt. I woke a few hours later to arching pale blue. The stars were gone, as though someone had taken an eraser to the sky.

 

Harvest in Provence

A few years ago, a friend decided to plan, organize and carry out her wedding with the help of friends and family; no expensive dress, no professional wedding planner, no caterers. In late August, a group of us convened in Provence, where a zealous sun had left the riverbeds chalky white and the parched garrigue exhaled odors of warm thyme and rosemary. The southern fruits were ripe and I tasted my first hand-plucked purple fig. 

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