Je suis habituée. It means, I’m used to it. I think of this sometimes when I’m working in the garden. I’ve been out weeding and slaving over my plants all morning, and I’ve forgotten to take a moment to survey our sweeping view of the valley.
But there is a view from the front of our house, very different from the one at the back. We live in the shadow of a Romanesque church, built in the 10th century. It stands alone on a grassy knoll, our watchman, the pinnacle of our perched village.
In daylight it looks friendly and lovely, its stone roof and steeple silhouetted against periwinkle sky and pillowy cloud. And if I pass it by sometimes without a glance or a thought, it’s because it is so closely woven into the fabric of the village. Photo right, the front of our house faces the church.
But when darkness comes, it’s different. When I go out into the quiet heart of the village at night (which I so often do, very late, to corral our roaming cat), it never fails to startle me. Bathed in its floodlights, it looms above, dazzling against the dark sky napped with stars. In the dead quiet of a village midnight, it speaks volumes, of the present and the past, of the many centuries that have passed under its stony watch.
Then there are the bells, three rounds of them, which define our day. They start at 7:00 am—not just with seven bells, but with a bright carillon. Traditionally for waking the farmers, but a bit hard on the expats who might like to sleep just a tad later. But the church is a stone’s throw from our bedroom window, so it keeps us industrious, and 7:00 it is.
Working in the garden or around the house, near mid-day I have one ear tuned for the sign that it’s time for every French person’s favorite time of day: lunch. Twelve bells means it's the moment to put work aside to putter about the kitchen, and set a table on the terrace for two.
As evening sets in, we wait for seven bells, quitting time for farmers (and gardeners) and the official French moment to bring out the wine (though we’ve been known on occasion to follow the American it’s-five-o’clock-somewhere rule).
Sometimes, in an off hour, the village is suddenly filled with an insistent clanging, a carillon that plays and repeats, each swing of the heavy bell pealing louder and louder. We pause from our tasks. Did someone in the village die? Or is it a wedding? Or a funeral? We can’t know until we peek through the gates to see what sort of procession is passing by.
In the COMMENTS: One of our comments this week is from Lidy at French Garden House. Francophiles, rush right over to her design blog where you can get ideas, plus buy something from her edited French collection. Then click on her Facebook page to see that her house is on the cover of French Country Style Magazine this month. Felicitations, Lidy! On Facebook, my old friend Steve Savage talks about fallen chocolate cake, which we must try. And Myrtile offers another mother's day quote from Victor Hugo: O l'amour d'une mere, pain merveilleux que nul n'oublie. (Oh the love of a mother, a marvelous bread that no one ever forgets).
FAVORITE READS: My friend Patty recommends Mrs. 'Arris Goes to Paris, what looks to be a charming tale that dates from 1958. Somehow I've missed this one--readers, do you know it?
Photos below: The church viewed from our bedroom window; and on the other side of the hill, the path to the church from the village cemetery.