Au printemps

Spring has been taking its sweet time in making an appearance. Normally the signs are visible by mid-March but this year Easter came and went with nary a blossom. It’s not surprising that the longed-for season of renewal is dragging its feet – winter came in with a bang far later than usual. But this week, enfin! The unmistakable signs of le printemps are here at last.

The birds are the first ones to announce that something is up. Even before we sprang forward by an hour, I could hear them twittering away in the predawn dark. Now there is a flurry of activity going on in the eaves and in the branches at all hours.

 

Hello yellow
Le jaune de forsythia

Forsythia is the first floral sign of spring. Hello yellow! I love it for its brief, joyful burst that heralds so much to come. Its intense yellow hurrah will only last a few weeks at best. It’s joined by bright daffodils and a softer yellow wild flower that grows around the base of trees. Wish I knew its name.

Next: the rain. It has been pouring on and off for the past couple of weeks. We had an actual thunderstorm yesterday. I could feel winter’s cold breath blowing madly against the warmer spring air. It’s colder again this morning so winter may have won the battle but spring will win the war.

Around town, all the signs are there too: the year’s first ‘braderie’ or rummage sale is coming up this weekend and – joy! – the local restaurant by the lake is open again. It closes from October to March as it specializes in local lake fish. Can’t wait to have the season’s first plate of filets de perche, the tiny fish that are cooked ‘à la meunière’ and served simply with a butter and lemon sauce.

Restaurant du Port

But first, there is the obligatory post-winter régime to rid ourselves of excess blubber. Signs have sprouted in the shops promoting ‘cure d’amincissement’, ‘détox’ and ‘minceur’. As for me, I find that it helps to eat less. So I’ve cut out my sweet and salty treats for now and am upping the ante with a bit more exercise.

Another sign of spring is the sudden onset of wardrobe renovation. I went down to the charity shop in the village and splurged on several second-hand finds. Someone who is just my size and has excellent taste must live around here. Then, given that I’d only spent a few euros, I splashed out on a brand new pair of summer sandals online. Oops. Can’t wait to take these babies for a trot.

Les sandales

Now the schoolkids are on holiday for another two weeks. Easter vacation is their last official break before the summer. There has been talk about reducing the (in my opinion, ridiculous) amount of vacation time between the Toussaint, Christmas, Winter and Spring breaks (each of which last two weeks). The mere mention of such a change in the sacrosanct French school calendar has various unions gearing up for action.

Speaking of which: across France, strike season is gaining momentum as the SNCF continues it movement, or lack of. More on that later.

What’s your favourite sign of spring?

Quand on aime, on ne compte pas

Flowers, floatingIt is said in French that in love one doesn’t count. The exact meaning of this phrase always eluded me. Does it mean that when in love we forget all rational notions of time and money and throw ourselves into unbridled passion? Or rather that in love one does not keep score about whose turn it is or who owes what to whom? Can it be applied not just to romantic love but also to the things we love?

The answer for the French is oui, oui and oui. But when it comes to me, it’s non, non, and non.

Maybe it’s my lack of Latin blood. Whether at work or at play, I simply don’t throw myself completely into things, much as I admire those who do. Like my husband, who hikes up mountains and keeps going until he reaches the top. I go a short distance, become dizzy and exhausted, and say bon, that’s enough. Husband rarely reads, but when he gets into a book he may disappear from social interactions for days at a time. And if there is something good to eat within reach, there will soon be none left.

Me, I meter out my passions in careful doses. Count my drinks and keep an eye on my calories. I don’t binge watch my favourite TV series or run marathons. I will eat just a few pieces of chocolate, then save the rest for tomorrow. Read for an hour. Sleep for seven. Moderation in all things. How boring is that?

Perhaps it’s innate to character, upbringing or genes. Whatever it is, I seem to be more at home with the English model. When Browning asks, “How do I love thee, let me count the ways?” there is a calculation, a method to her madness. There is a list.

Which is not to say there isn’t love; it’s just that there is also counting. Somewhere, no matter how far back in my mind, there is always a list.

How about you? Do you keep count or live with unbridled passion?

La fin

IMG_3724With summer’s breath still warm on our necks, the first fumes of wood smoke tickle my nose. As the leaves on the trees begin to change, I realize with regret that it’s time to put away my sandals until next year.

Fall has always felt like a fresh start to me, with its back-to-school rush and the energy of cooler days. Other than November, that dreaded dark month, autumn is the season I love best. Only three months until Christmas! Time to get on that to-do list!

But this year we have had such a glorious summer, it is hard to see it pack its bags. The first true hot summer weather in years, du début jusqu’à la fin. It got nice early in the spring and stayed that way throughout July and August. We were able to enjoy long evenings on the deck, drink and eat outside all the time. I complained, of course, that it was too hot. After all, who feels like working when the pool beckons?

But it’s time to let go. This past weekend I packed up all my summer clothes and sorted through the fall and winter ones before making the semi-annual switch. This is something I do twice a year, partly because I don’t have enough closet space to keep everything in circulation but also because it’s good to sort through what you haven’t worn lately and make a cull. Sometimes it’s an excuse to go shopping. “Out with the old, in with the new!” The charity shops enjoy it, too.

I am not a huge fan of endings. I find most things start out better than they end. When deeply enthralled with a book, I often skip ahead and read the ending so that I can relax and enjoy it without the suspense. Sometimes I get two-thirds through a film and can’t be bothered to watch the rest. But I love the bittersweet time of transitions – endings and beginnings. Summer’s end means the beginning of fall, and a new year just around the corner.

I guess that change is in the air. My yoga teacher announced that today would be our last class. She is a very good instructor and an inspired soul who puts a lot of herself into teaching, but she’s having too hard a time making a living at it. She told us today that the fall season is deeply associated with change, that it is a time for letting go. I guess that means it’s time for me to accept that all good things must come to an end.

C’est la fin de l’été.

IMG_2569How do you feel about endings and beginnings? Do you embrace change or go out kicking and screaming?