Posted on 26 July 2006

Village Women

It is so sultry hot in the south of France. Reminds me of the first year of the writing workshop when some women tied wet scarves around their necks to keep cool. We all wore fewer and fewer clothes and then dispensed with undergarments all together. With each passing day, the writing grew steamier. I remember one plum sitting like a buddah naked in the attic; and the restless sleepless nights, so draining that even the nicest of us cursed to the heavens.

This month, July, is similar – someone said, though I don’t quite believe her, that one day the thermostat burst at 50. Each day sweat pours down me and it is difficult to find the energy to do anything. I find myself more frustrated than lonely – although there have been moments of extreme loneliness – one night I was in tears. But, for the most part, I am content albeit restless. What I am trying to do is observe myself without passing judgment, and see when I am most content, happy even.

My journal is full of random notes. I have had four books going at one time, each lying in various corners of the house that I go to at various times of the day. In the morning I am always up in the attic – the only time that it is cool enough. I love it here. The view is so gorgeous and whether it is time or place, my writing flows. In the afternoon, I am down in the writing room or rather, salon, as it’s the only place cool enough to think, read, write notes. I am usually content at these times.

On Sunday night, I went down the hill, out of the village, with David to learn how to water his garden. (He and Susan have left for a few days.) I felt as if I had stepped back in time. David showed me how to throw the bucket down the well and then pull it up, hand over hand, by way of a rope and a single pulley. The water is then poured into a jug and, in turn, poured onto rows of squash, zucchini, carrots, beetroots, tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs. I am such a supermarket baby that I squealed when I saw a carrot pushing its way from the ground.

Last night, Clare and I returned and while she watered, I pulled up bucket after bucket of water. It took around an hour of steady work. We both agreed that though it was fun, we would hate to be obliged to go every evening: market vegetables are so fresh and inexpensive here that we hardly see the point in trudging down the hill to do a hour’s labour and then trudge back up while the sun bakes us. Tomorrow, she – a true friend – has offered to return with me. We are going to go early morning in hopes that it will be cooler.

After our garden adventure, I was invited to Clare and Basil’s for dinner. I think Basil thinks I don’t buy groceries, don’t eat much at home which isn’t really true though I seldom eat a sit-down three course meal. Perhaps it is that I have such a hearty appetite when I’m there. Clare had prepared crudites – assorted cold vegetables – earlier and Basil waited for our return to fry the duck. I supplied a local red wine and it was an easy, perfect meal at the end of a day that was still hot, even with the door and windows open. We sat and talked for another hour or so and I only left as I saw that it was eleven and I wanted to catch Gill before she went to sleep. (This is her last full day of work.)

It was fascinating seeing Basil and Clare relate to each other. In fact, I have been observing many couples here, complementing and colliding, in order to figure out why some marriages appear harmonious and others miserable. (Rob noted once or twice that I have unrealistic expectations for a marriage though I have yet to be convinced.)

I love it when a man or woman is playful or tender with his or her mate. It distresses me when one dictates or lectures the other, as if he or she were a child. It’s not that I expect all to be lovey-dovey all the time but I would believe in the institution more if I heard more couples uttering as many kind words as words of condescention to their love.

One report (I can’t remember where I read it) insists that married men are the happiest people in the world, single women next, followed by single men, and married women alas are the least happy.

I have read Leonard’s “On the Way to the Wedding” twice and am still thinking about it. She speaks not only of one’s marriage to another but of one’s relationship to one’s creativity.

I am catching a glimpse of when I flow without fear of reprisal, in pleasure, happiness even; and where I struggle, what frustrates me, stops me cold; and my contribution to either state. Leonard insists its an ongoing battle.

No great conclusions about anything. But my daughter arrives Sunday and I am content.

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