Monday, March 7, 2011

Ghost town

Before we moved, we were warned of three things about winter in Bourdeilles.
The first warning was that winter would be long and cold. Imagine saying that to a someone moving out of Vermont, land of the six-month winter. The place where snow falls just as deep as it used to when you were a kid. Here’s our assessment of “winter lite” in southwest France: December through February passes in a blink, and temperatures that are seldom below 25 degrees fahrenheit are not bone crushing, breath stopping cold. 

Second we were warned that it would be gray. And it can seem grayer than any place on earth. The sky is gray, the village is gray, and the surrounding countryside even takes on a grayness for days on end. Think black-and-white French art film from the sixties. 

That’s what happens when buildings are built out of stone and the surrounding stone is predominantly gray. Everything begins to blend together. So far the gray is still romantic and dramatic to our eyes used to less imposing wooden homes. (And when the sun shines, it always transforms the landscape into heartache beautiful.)

The third warning was that we wouldn’t see anyone all winter. Now that seemed ridiculous.  But indeed the village of Bourdeilles turns into a ghost town those cold gray days of November through February. The strange thing is that it is not like a cowboy movie ghost town with doors flapping, tumble weeds rolling about and signs squeaking in the breeze--a town long ago abandoned by it’s former inhabitants. This is a village with 700 or so full time residents squirreled away. We’re all here, but where are we? Somehow for three months we all manage to run our errands and take our walks at completely different times. There are days that go by when I do not see another villager. You can’t even peek into people’s homes in the evening dark with the early dark because shutters are amazingly effective at closing in and closing out the world. Except for the sound of a few televisions rumbling out from behind these closed shutters you would think the homes were abandoned.  I find it exhilarating to walk down the center of the street very late on these winter nights. I try to soak in the quiet, nine-hundred-year-oldness of the village. 

Who would believe that in a few weeks this place will be bursting at the seems with summer families, tourists, and those of us that have been hiding all winter.

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