Saturday, April 17, 2010

A Saturday in the Country

Today dawned bright and clear, despite the Icelandic volcano's blanketing of Europe and the market was lively. We bought just two cheeses this morning as offerings to an eagerly anticipated lunch date on the island. This walk has become one of our favorites, not just for the approach of friendship and conversation, but also for its ever-burgeoning beauty. I love to see the banks swell with green grass, and even though I still can't quite believe it, I know those trees are going to fill in. It's like all of Brittany is all of a sudden in brightly colored 3-D - and no special glasses required! The children are responding to it by plucking little bits and pieces of nature: tonight alone in digging out the kids' pockets in preparation for doing laundry I found: pine cones, flowers, a small corn cob (???), a crab claw (left over from Ploumanac'h no doubt), and copious pebbles. The crab claw gave me a start, ever-expectant am I for a hapless frog to wriggle into my hands. Up above you see the girls on that lovely stretch of the canal walk conversing about their latest pluckings. There is a healthy abundance of dandelions that they can pick, and they've done some pretty crafty things with blades of grass - all this as we remind them that Josselin is a three-flower town and that we want to help keep it that way. So it's dandelion bouquets and blades of grass all around these days.

The warmth and beauty of the house on the island encircles its incredible gardens as well. There are worlds within worlds here: hyacinths' exuberant greetings by sight and scent, daffodils grown buttery and yellow, an herb garden just starting, and curving pathways that play with the shape of the island. You want to walk within it right away (which the kids did), go look this way to find something that way (ditto), and get the lay of the land under your feet, not just in your head. Gardens (well, ok, most things) become very quickly allegorical for me, and maybe I've spent too much time in Jean Thenaud's allegorical gardens, but it's exactly this call to the body (and not just to the eyes) that makes this garden so honest - it's a strange word to choose in describing a garden, I know, but I mean here that this garden claims its visitors' physical experience as well as his or her visual pleasure. It takes in the entire person. And perhaps I'm saying this in contrast to most French gardens which are framed and reframed so as to be much more visual than physical. Perhaps it's precisely because the garden was, for so very long, the meticulously articulated framework of so much French literature that French gardens have remained so structured. Perhaps. Well, and as much as I enjoy thinking my way through allegorical gardens (and I truly do), a vividly real garden that is open and honest about the bodies through which we will experience it is a true joy. I'm not alone in singing the praises of this garden: it's won numerous prizes including the best garden in the Morbihan several times over, which is really astounding.

Add to this garden the invitation to eat lunch outdoors (huzzah!) and incredibly satisfying food (did you know that an excellent red wine goes very well with home-made macaroni and cheese (itself no small feat to accomplish in France)? fact!), and we had our day in the sun I tell you. While the kids ran around the garden and in and out of the house, we settled into conversation and cheeses. Do you ever find yourself eagerly realizing that you haven't yet heard out a friend on a favorite topic? I love that anticipation and felt it over and over again today - about language, light and sound shows (ah, oui!), Brittany and history and mondernity... And thusly did we spend this perfectly lovely afternoon, rallying around a phenomenal dessert of our host's invention (aesthetics both culinary and visual in full glory), and invigorating cups of coffee before all giving in to a sleepiness brought on by the sun and full bellies.

I don't ever want to forget this day, its ease and friendship, and the way it marked our burgeoning Breton spring. There was an afterglow for hours: we came home and eased into the late afternoon with novels and the Barbapapas - I fell asleep over The Historian to be awakened by Iris who wanted the end of Asterix et les Lauriers de César - this is the book that has given us "farpaitement" ("ferpectly") which is getting more and more currency around here. Great ending, too, of course. And then, I can't tell you why, but making omelettes for dinner always makes me feel like all is right with the world: simple, really satisfying, and evidence of a day so rich and full that you don't really want to go nuts with a complicated dinner. Afterwards, Mac hung up our new glow-in-the-dark planets (including Pluto) and then we played what the French call a "jeu de société" (don't really know how to translate that except that it indicates you'll be playing with others and having fun) - one called Idem in which you put an adjective and a noun together ("wacky" and "food" for example) and write down what you think is the best example ("chocolate covered ants"). The rules say that you get a point if you write down what the majority of people write down but we (totally going American on this one) decided to give points for most original or funniest answer, as decided by everybody. We laughed a lot, we went to bed, Baby Pink Dragon and Her Friend the Little Girl had to find treasures in a garden that will lead them to "the ends of the earth" (the Finis-terre, or Finistère), and we slept. It was a great day.

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