I was on a train somewhere in west Texas when the rain came. A smattering of droplets grew to a curtain that obscured the café car’s arching glass window as the Sunset Limited slowed to a stop. I looked up from my book in time to see the sky crack open. Where there had been slabs of fissured earth and pale dust, a web of frothy rivulets as dark as cinnamon and as moist as milk bled color into the ground.
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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.
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.