Thursday, January 19, 2017
If asked what our favorite season is here in Bourdeilles Tom and I both immediately reply “winter”. It would seem that the late arrival of the sun and the early arrival of night fall would make this a morose time of year but, au contraire, it is starkly beautiful and surprisingly enlivening.
Our winter mornings are so dark that we might as well sleep behind closed shutters like the French do. There’s a hint of light at 8:00 as the sun struggles to push past the horizon. Some mornings it’s even harder for the poor soul to breakthrough the thick, silencing blanket of fog.
After turning the thermostat up and putting the kettle on, it’s a quick glimpse at the thermometer to confirm just how hard last night’s frost was. A frosty morning means sunshine. The rosy glow of ice crystals covering everything is like waking up in a jewelry box with the lid cracked open to let the light in. What a glorious way to start the day.
On winter days there is no need to rush around to get to anything. There are no crowds to get ahead of. The schedules of those of us that live here year round do not often overlap. I am accompanied on my errands by the clop, clop of my own footsteps. Mourning doves sing, coo coo hoot coo coo hoot. If I walk across the bridge I can clearly hear the gentle gurgle of the river. The gaggle of ducks might stir a little and if I am lucky the great heron will startle up and silently circle overhead to quieter waters. Bourdeilles’ church bells ring crisply in the cold air or are muffled by thick low fog. The village is like a stage set waiting for action, waiting for the players and the audience to arrive. Yet in winter none will.
Winter shopping takes a bit longer as it would be impolite to scamper in and out of the two shops without a bit of chit chat, not just the quick scraps we banter over strangers heads in season. Our conversations are calm, we take time to catch up on how the family and the business made it through the crazy season. What are you making for dinner, have you heard how Monsieur X is, why did the town do this or that?
Later in the day Tom and I will head out on our daily walk. The dogs and I love the fine, fresh winter air. Tom likes that we won’t see another soul. Our peaceful souls wander into the big sky, out over the fields stretching away. There is silent, powerful drama in the setting. Oak trees with their limbs etched against the sky. The animated skeletons of walnut tree’s dance in the fields. We note the pacing of the new growth of winter crops. We comment on the day’s light. Rock against sky. Cold against cold. Grey against blue or grey against grey.
We’ll see farms, hamlets and chateau that are exposed only in winter. Human places that are silent of human voices. Silence that adds a bit of mystery, of pathos to the air. Silence that allows ones mind to work on that mystery, build it up, tear it down.
Silence again - can you tell that for us it is an important part of this season. Silence that allows calm, allows slowness, sloth, dreaminess, and undistracted reflection.
As the sun sets there is a brief moment of glory as the angled rays warm the scene. Stone flames up golden or pink. Fields are greener than green. The cutout shapes of black birds stand out in the fields or circle above in the fading light heading to their roost. All the day's events are wrapping up as the sun drops over the horizon at 5:00. It’s dark, it’s time to be tucked in like the rest of the silent village.
Winter evenings we have a quiet dinner, a roaring fire, and a good book. It isn’t just a cliche. It truly is a good way to end the day. One by one the animals move off the radiator to someone’s lap. By the end of the evening there is barely room for everyone on the sofa. The silence is only broken by the turning of a page or the rustle of a blanket being pulled up. Winter boredom and regeneration are a lovely thing.
“Oh, I’m sleepy.”