Song of summer

Garden Toad
A toad the size of my hand surprised me one morning when I was watering my garden.


Heard from my terrace
You know that old story about how city people can’t fall asleep in the countryside because it’s too quiet? Well, that doesn’t hold water here in the South of France. It is not quiet; all manner of things are making noise. I’m here today to talk about two of the noisemakers: cicadas and frogs.

The cicadas awaken when the sun pops over the hills and begins to warm the earth. All day long, every day through the summer, the cicadas sing their amazing song. That music can get quite loud, up to 120 decibels, enough to damage human ears at close range. The cicada—cigale in French—is among the longest-lived insects, and it is recognized as a symbol of longevity and metamorphosis.

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Huzzah for Gaia!

Lichen Garden
A miniature lichen garden at the foot of a tree in the garrigue near my house.


Mother Earth, who has been beleaguered by all manner of human assault for far too long, is staging a tiny comeback. While much of the world shelters in place, the cities have cleaner air, animals feel safer to explore this home we all share, and the skies are not full of noise and contrails. Huzzah for Gaia on this Earth Day 2020!

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This ain’t no April Fool’s Day joke

Jimmy Fallon
Late-night TV host Jimmy Fallon asked people to share their experiences with cabin fever, and here are a few responses.


As the saying goes, March came in like a lion, and it left like a … lion. Lots of wind, cooler temperatures, a little rain. In between, we had some lovely lamb-like days that had colorful spring wildflowers popping out all over, giving all of us a cheerful sense of hope and life and renewal.

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Thoughts from an epidemic

Fontfroide Heart Door

I’m writing today as I often write, sitting at home with a cup of tea. Outside, the birds are singing and a neighborhood cat whispers across my terrace. Flowers are blooming. It’s early spring in France, and everything appears to be normal.

But it’s not normal. I’m not allowed to leave my house without a piece of paper, called an “attestation de déplacement dérogatoire,” essentially a travel waiver, attesting on my honor that I am only traveling for one of the five allowed reasons: to go to the pharmacy, to go to the grocery store for essentials, to go to work, to exercise, or to help those in need. If you don’t have the paper when you’re stopped, the fine is 135 euros. It’s a government-mandated attempt to flatten the curve—a phrase that now has a heavier new meaning.

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