Wildflowers + Bees = Spring!

On Thyme Bee
Thyme starts flowering in mid-winter, and bees are always happy to visit sweet new flowers. This one is titled “On Thyme Bee.”

Wildflowers in the garrigue
Spring has been teasing us this year, sprinkling a few days of warm sunshine into a cauldron of high winds, cloudy days, and occasional rain. This has all paid off nicely, though, with an abundance of long-lasting wildflowers.

But first, what’s a garrigue?
I live in the garrigue of southern France, and like any other environment, it leaves its mark on those who live here; for me, this is especially true of the look of the land and the smells and tastes of this region.

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Southeast Asia

Spent
A colorful cluster of artificial flowers artfully placed near a well-worn wall.

I spent the Christmas and New Year holidays with my cousins, who live in Singapore. They’d invited me for a visit, and did a stellar job of hosting me, showing me around Singapore and bustling me off to Malaysia for a week. I offer you a rewrite of a few scribbled diary-like notes, plus some photographs that cannot begin to convey the atmosphere. If only I could figure out how to create a digital scratch-and-sniff photograph that could move beyond rich visuals to include multi-sensory scratches for the strange and tantalizing scents, the mix-tape of sound, myriad flavors, and the heavy weight of non-stop heat and humidity.

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Days of wine and onions

Vendange
Of course I knew that vendange was coming, the season of grape-harvesting. If nothing else, new signs had begun to appear on the local roads, warning drivers to be extra alert. Nonetheless, I was unprepared for the number and variety of grape-harvesting trucks tooling down the road. Some of the trucks are small, the ones that putter along at the pace of a horse-drawn cart, carrying a payload of grapes on their way to becoming wine. Those aren’t the trucks that startled me.

I was driving along one day, minding my own business, when around the bend came a giant beast of machinery. It was tall, oddly shaped, and slightly menacing. It was moving slowly and ever so deliberately, with focus and purpose. I kid you not, I completely expected to see Jeff Goldblum (Buckaroo Banzai) jump out of the cab. These are the grape harvesting machines, and they’re shaped the way they are so that they can move down a row of vines and harvest grapes from both sides.

Vendanges
Views of the back and front of the same grape harvester. The beast moves slowly enough that after I passed it, I had enough time to find a place to pull off the road and get out of the car with my camera. Below right, one of many signs warning drivers to be on the alert for harvesting machinery on the road.

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Fare thee well

Ail Rose
The town of Lautrec, France, produces a heavenly pink garlic. This is the fête-day display of one enthusiastic young farmer.

In my last post, I talked about what it really means here in France when someone says “bonjour,” and the post was titled “Good day to you.” With a nod to symmetry, I now offer you “Fare thee well.”

I was moving into a different house, and it was my last visit to the old place. This was a trip of random-sized boxes, for emptying out the refrigerator, for garden gloves, for the bathroom items I’d used that morning. And it was a trip for closing up the house. As I was packing my car, the neighbor who shared a driveway with me was headed toward the river carrying a chair. She walked over to ask if this was it. I said yes, it is and it’s a little sad, but she said non. “You will still be here in town, and we will see each other.” We chatted a few minutes about random things, and then she mimed knocking on a door and told me to come over any time. “Tok tok, Michelle ! Je suis la !”

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