Several of us were invited to join our friend Tim aboard his beautiful boat Mary-Lou on the Canal du Midi, a few days before the canal closed for the season. It was a glorious early-November day, the air fresh and crisp, and the colors vivid. There was eager anticipation in the air that morning when we arrived in Carcassonne, and later, the on-board atmosphere was relaxed and full of joy. That, and a lot of great food!
In the United States, late November means Thanksgiving, a holiday that was intended to recognize a spirit of harmonious living and sharing during a difficult time, and a way of showing gratitude for a successful harvest. Americans have a lot of different ways of recognizing this holiday—American football is often involved—but I think of it as a time to be together with those you love, to share the bounty of good food, and to remember all that we have to be thankful for.
With this year’s confinement in France, I haven’t been able to stray far from home, and I’ll be enjoying my Thanksgiving feast solo (see a photo of last year’s dinner below). Throughout this message, I’m sprinkling in a few views of autumn leaves near my house. Here in my little corner of paradise, we don’t have the red maple trees of New England, nor the golden aspen of Colorado, but we do have an abundance of wine trees,* and they’ve given us a glorious show this year.
I come from the United States, where this is the season of Thanksgiving. For my readers outside the U.S., please know that I’m not trying to force an American holiday on you! Rather than thinking of this as a day off work for eating a lot and watching football on TV, I choose to focus on it being a time to give thanks, and that is something that all of us can participate in, no matter the country, and truthfully, no matter the season.
I think of this holiday as an opportunity to reflect on the great gift of love, such as the shared love of family and friends or the love a person has for her town or her country. And for me, it is a time to express gratitude for the blessings in my life.
A century has passed World War I was officially over 100 years ago. The Armistice to end that terrible war—but then, aren’t they all?—was signed at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, hence 11:00 a.m. on 11 November 1918.
During the commemoration ceremony here in our little town, children read the names of the local soldiers who never came home, and put one candle on the monument for each of the dead. The mayor gave his speech, which included a recital of the official casualties from each country involved in the war (note: you can look up this information online. The numbers are quite simply devastating.). Our local choir sang some songs, including the Marseillaise, and two wreaths were placed on the memorial, one placed by the mayor to represent France, and one placed by a British man and a man from New Zealand, representing the Allies. It was all beautifully done.
The first sign was when my hair went extra curly. The next sign was when I had some paper to cut and fold, and the paper felt more like pie dough than like paper.
This was humidity, in full force. For a few days, we had some sprinkles of rain and light showers, and then suddenly one evening, the winds blew high and mighty, and the rain came down hard, fast, and steady. It was said that several months’ worth of rain fell within the space of three or four hours during the wee small hours of the morning.
We awoke the next day to a continuation of the bluster and the pounding, and then there was an email telling people not to go out on the roads, for any reason. I had a house guest, and I had planned to take her sightseeing. With the announcement of road closures, though, our day took a different path.
We decided to walk into town, and we set out from my house. We arrived in the middle of the ancient village and stopped in our tracks at the sight of a lake of water where the road usually was.