Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You will return



Remi had something that he wanted me to see. I was beyond jet-lagged as it was only the first full evening after my return from the States, so we walked slowly as we headed towards the edge of the village and into the orchards beyond.


I felt as if I was floating under the rising moon when all I wanted was to feel grounded. I threaded my arm through Remi's and leaned in.


"Eh voila," Remi announced with a wave of his hand. In front of us was a scraggly patch of terrain that clearly hadn't been cultivated in years. One lone cherry tomato popped up bravely from the weeds, waving like a flag that had refused to surrender. 


But...it is ours to care for now. While I was away, Remi went to local gardening association's yearly meeting to see if it would be possible for us to become members (at the behest of our guardian angel, Mr. W). There had been a waiting list for the past four years but as luck would have it, there was a plot available. For only 20 Euros a year ($25 US), we could have a garden.

Photo courtesy of Rémi Bénali

Remi wasted no time in the waning light and immediately set claim by delineating our land from our neighbors. I watched in wonder at his energy in my zapped state, shaking my head at the size of the task in front of us.


As the mosquitos made their nightly entrance, I persuaded Remi to drop his hoe and head back. He paused at the outer-reaches of the gardens to pick wild grapes that were nearly covered in bramble and yet still held such sweetness. "No one knows who this land belongs to...so...it can't be farmed." I tried to cast about in the twilight for imaginary shadow figures of past owners - those who had planted and raised these vines - without success.


"I will be back in time for lunch," Remi called out joyfully the next morning as he closed the gate behind him, garden-bound. "I'll see you then, good luck!" I returned. The hours passed and yet still no Remi, no word. Finally, he answered his cell phone, his voice weak with thirst. It was time for reinforcements.


When I arrived, the entire plot had been cleared. Remi had done the grunt work and then the soil was turned by Francis, who waved off Remi's offer to thank him with a bottle of wine after he had worked miracles with a rototiller. "We help each other out," Mr. W explained. "As it gets hot in le midi, we will water each others gardens when they need it, things like that...you know, it is just how it is done here." 


I was introduced to everyone and then poured rounds of cold rosé, a perfect way to toast the end of the first day of work. Remi made a ham and cornichon sandwich and munched on it silently with dirt covered hands. 


I spread my skirt out on the grass and looked around for treasures in the surrounding plot, still untouched. The rosé warmed my cheeks as the sun patted the top of my head. I felt present, happy and calm.


The earth is rich, soft and surprisingly springy underfoot. There is a steady water supply, readily available. And now it is up to us to make something grow. To return the land to what it once was.


Will we have gardens as impressive as those created by les professionnels, as they are half-jokingly called?


Oh goodness, I doubt it and certainly not at first. We have made a point of letting everyone know that this is an entirely new experience for us both and that if we truly don't have les mains vertes or even a green thumb then we will turn the plot over to more deserving patrons.


But it will be wonderful to learn, to try. The tomatoes and beets that our new neighbors have given us are the only encouragement that we need as they taste like the food of my youth, long since forgotten. Soon, we will layer the compost to make the land rich and then let it sleep for the winter. The laying of seeds before the seeds and then the real adventure will begin.



Today's post is my contribution to the monthly international blog get-together "By Invitation Only" which is hosted by the lovely Marsha at Splenderosa. The theme for October is: "What can you not live without for autumn?" For me, fall is all about discovery. Perhaps it is due to all of those years of living in Manhattan (New art openings! New Broadway shows!) or the joy in France of eating new dishes (Choucroute! Cassoulet!)...but while some might think of autumn as a time of getting ready to shut down, I think of it as a time to store up; to prepare for the winter ahead through the amazing gift of diving into the unknown. And that is what our new garden will most certainly give us. Wish us luck!


The title for this post was taken from a really wonderful song by Quantic featuring the ever-soulful Alice Russel:


To find out what the other contributor's have to say on this topic by all means don't hesitate and please do click: Here.

With my Best from Provence,
Heather

PS. Remi sends heartfelt thanks to all of you that sent along birthday wishes! That was very kind. :) And I have been told that some of you are having trouble leaving comments. I am looking into it but as always feel free to send me an email instead at robinsonheather (at) yahoo.com.

42 comments:

D A Wolf said...

Talk about a garden party! What an extraordinary transformation Rémi managed, and in such short order. It seems gift to the two of you, and equally, a gift back to the earth to be so carefully tended.

xo

D. A.

La Contessa said...

HOW WONDERFUL IS THIS..............NEW HOUSE ~NEW GARDEN..................Now I'm coming over there to teach YOU to DRIVE!You are going to have THE BEST garden around........I can see it NOW!
SO THRILLED for YOU!
XO

simpleimages2 said...

A garden, a heart that throbs in bloom. It’s wonderful to have a piece of land to till for beauty and sustenance and hard working Remi and very helpful neighbors.To plant is to discover.

Your hands and pen and mind will be full for the seasons-"prepare for the winter ahead through the amazing gift of diving into the unknown".

Mumbai said...

as good as it get's, life perfect. Heather and Remi..it seems you discovered your own paradise. Great idea in both way...taking care of the crapes/wine and make new friends which whom you can join it TOGETHER. Love the idea and announce it to the world..they really would need it.

Jackie and Joel Smith said...

What fun adventures you have in store! A perfect plot for germinating both plants and ideas for blog posts. You have me already looking forward to your spring planting!

Loree said...

Good luck. I am sure your garden will thrive and it will be so exciting to see things grow.

Bill Facker said...

Yes, Yes, et Oui !! Nothing is more satisfying than the wonderful feeling of accomplishment as you "watch your garden grow" .. Congratulations on securing that plot .. what a great "coup".

Bill Facker
www.kauai-to-paris.com

robin said...

I've never gardened at ALL - so excited for you!! We're allowed to garden here if we want; just have to check in with them about where we'd do it. It does sound soooo wonderful, like one of the most soulful activities there is! And then, at the end: food to eat! I agree with the others - it can only bring good things in all ways, and will try to be patient to see what happens in this chapter! : )

Judith Ross said...

Gardening is such a meditative act. The garden is the perfect place to work out thorny (ha, ha) writing issues. You have all winter now to plan for the spring planting. And I hope you will document the process for us.

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

Oh Heather …. I know that I always say it but, what a brilliant take on our BIO subject this month. How hard Remi has worked and how lovely that all of the other plot owners rally round and and support each other. A bountiful harvest …. your reward for all of the hard work. XXXX

Glamour Drops said...

I am so excited for you Heather! My goodness, suddenly life is all coming together for you - first the wonderful villa, and now this wonderful garden. I'm trying to work out from the photos how big your plot is, but can't. Can you tell me, to quench my curiosity? The wonderful thing about harvest gardens is that you really don't need a lot of space to grow an amazing amount of produce, as long as the soil is richly healthy with happy earthworms from lots of compost.

Joan McKniff said...

You have landed in, ascended to?. Paradise. And these photos....yes! I am so very happy for and with you.

Coulda shoulda woulda said...

We'll lucky you! Those plots are like gold dust and waiting times are now a decade in London! I hear best part is other people sharing their crop and in fact your neighbours will be more than willing to help. I know you will enjoy this so much and am envious!

Judi of Little House said...

How exciting! I have been itching to grow "food" and I am much encouraged by your post - now to find a place!

silkannthreades said...

What a wonderful blessing this little plot will be.

Maywyn Studio said...

Congratulations!
Fresh vegetables are the best rigth from the garden, but what else as wonderful is taking photographs of them in their stages of growth, color, and light.
Now, if possible, a ramped chicken wired dog house on four foot beams, screen ceiling with a wind fan above and a nice waterproof pad with some fluff for Ben and Riley will be perfect positioned to add shade for those plants that do best in cooler shade. They'll be able to share the garden experience without adding materials to the soil and plants as they might being dogs as they are. Underneath, a nice bench to rest on.

Marsha Splenderosa said...

Isn't it amazing how the most simple things on Earth can completely take us over? I'm just loving this post for that reason. And, I'm loving Remi for seeing the fun, the companionship, the nurturing this little space will provide, all in addition to the lovely items it produces. I've also begun to yearn for a small little garden, we have wild rabbits so that his to be considered...I already feed them as it brings me so much pleasure. But having just a little garden for the things that grow foods we could use everyday. Bravo Heather, another spot-on post for our group of BY INVITATION ONLY. much love, my darling friend.

Jennifer Connolly said...

So exciting for you. A new house and now a plot to garden in. You'll have so much fun in this little spot of soil. I love the visual of you spreading your skirt out on the grass to admire... Lovely post Heather. It came alive with your words. Bravo.
xo~Jennifer

Silke Bauer said...

That is so gorgeous, Heather! So cool you have met Mr W. votre "Ange Guardien"!
Since you live in the area, I guess you know the film "Jean de Florette", based on the Pagnol Story...I had to think about it looking at your photos.
It will be perfect and a great experience, I am sure!
And somehow the structure of Remis photo reminds me of a certain painting or a certain genre.. I don't remember what is was...
Bisous

Catherine Robinson said...

Oh, Heather you do it every time...you transport me to another world...the simple things make life so rich don't they?
With love xx

Jeanne Henriques said...

Heather...I read your post bright and early one morning and smiled all the way through. What a lovely surprise. You know that saying....when one door closes.. Well you have opened a new door to new passions. A home, a garden and a new community. I would say the sun is shining brightly over your little corner of Provence. Happy days ahead...wishing you both a lovely weekend.. xx

Heather Robinson said...

It is amazing to think about all of the people that tended this land for so many years, decades, centuries!

Heather Robinson said...

I don't know about the best!! We are going to start slowly...And I would take you up on the driving lessons but something tells me that you won't be back in France for a while...at least a few months. ;)

Heather Robinson said...

I can't wait to learn about it all...

Heather Robinson said...

I can't tell you how happy I am if I see someone from the garden around here in the village and they say hello. It is such a win/win situation as you say...

Heather Robinson said...

We are going to start simple, Jackie...tomatoes, zucchini and red peppers for sure...

Heather Robinson said...

It will be good to have a new project, for sure. :)

Heather Robinson said...

I love your Franglais, Bill. :) Mahalo and Bon Weekend!

Heather Robinson said...

Oooh patience is a must! Especially as nothing new will happen now until spring. :) And "soulful" is THE perfect word, Sister....

Heather Robinson said...

I will and am counting on you to help with advice!

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you, Jackie. I always appreciate your takes on the theme too. :) And yes, I really think that this will be good for us both in many ways.

Heather Robinson said...

Gosh, maybe...15 meters squared? It isn't big at all but that is fine with us, especially to start. And yes! The earth seems really, really healthy with already a lot of earthworms. We are just going to give it a boost with compost soon and then a nice winter rest. :)

Heather Robinson said...

Hmmm....which direction AM I going, Joan? Up or down? ;) But thank you...it is a real gift after a lot of noise in a lot of senses of the term.

Heather Robinson said...

We really got lucky. People have been waiting for a few years for plots too. It turns out there were several people that were squatting - renting the plots without using them - so they got the boot and we got a bit of land! And I can already see how everyone is there for each other...just for that alone it is worth it let alone for the eats...I can't wait...

Heather Robinson said...

Yay, Judi! Go for it!!

Heather Robinson said...

It already is, G... xo

Heather Robinson said...

Oh, the plot is too tiny but I love the idea!! Remi and I both feel that a move out into the country might hopefully be our next step (but not for years as we love it here) so maybe that little construction will just have to wait awhile...

Heather Robinson said...

I love imagining you feeding the wild rabbits. :)

And as someone who specializes in luxury, you will understand when I say that is what this feels like!

Heather Robinson said...

Merci beaucoup, Jennifer. I am still thinking about all that you have been through this summer...am sending good thoughts your way...

Heather Robinson said...

...but I am certainly no "Manon des Sources"!! ;) We love both of those movies. Tiens, we'll have to watch them again now this winter thanks to you.
Curious as to what painting/genre you were thinking of...that is Remi for you...point and shoot and he has something lovely!
Bisous à toi aussi et Bon Weekend...

Heather Robinson said...

They do and we are both so fortunate to see it that way, Catherine.
Sending Love right back...

Heather Robinson said...

Thank you so much, dear Jeanne. You know well both how long it took for us to find this space and the wonderfulness of making something better, for yourself and others...I am following the reno photos of TF with impatience. I can only imagine how you must feel! Oh and I especially loved the ig video of the rain...I felt that I was right there with you...Wishing you and yours a wonderful weekend as well...
Gros Bisous,
H