My aunt-in-law, Marie-Françoise, weaves a "lavender bottle" at the picnic table.
tresser (tres-ay) verb
1. to plait, to braid; to twist
2. to weave, wreathe (basket, garland)
synonyms: natter (to plait, braid), entrelacer (to interlace, intertwine)
Tressons, tressons ces fleurs, hâtons-nous, jeune amie, Les songes et les fleurs demain ne seront plus! Let us weave, let us weave these flowers, let us hurry, young friend, for the dreams and the flowers will be gone tomorrow. --from the book "Irlande: Poésies des Bardes" by D. O'Sullivan
"The time to pick the lavender is now, while it is fresh," Marie-Françoise is saying, as I follow her over to the scented allée* where purple flowers mingle with rosemary in one long row, like juilletistes* motoring toward the sea.
"We'll take a poignée* from the very bottom of the bush...you won't even know they're missing!" Following Marie-Françoise's example, I begin snapping up stems from the base of the lavender buissons* which line our driveway. Jean-Marc's aunt has a tour de main* for herb gathering and before long she has collected enough spiked flowers for my braiding lesson. I hand over the half-dozen stems that I've collected for a bouquet that is now 34 flowers strong. I feel my brows lift in confusion when Marie-Françoise tosses one purple beauty out. "Eh, oui!* We need an odd number," she says, apologetically.
We return to the picnic table where my belle-mère* is peeling aubergines.* "I don't have the patience for weaving," my mother-in-law sighs, adjusting the eye-opening Tahitian print pareo that covers her swimsuit. Ah, but she has the patience to peel all those vegetables which she will soon fry in an orderly
fashion: first the aubergines, then the zucchini, then the red and green peppers...she'll even separate the skins from the boiled tomatoes before adding them to the marmite.* I wonder why all the vegetables can't just be fried together? Therein must lie the secret behind the saveur.*
It will soon be no secret how the French tressent* lavender. First, we pluck off the excess foliage along the tiges.* Next, I watch and listen as Marie-Françoise ties a satin ribbon around the neck of the bouquet, just beneath the flower base. I put my finger on the taut satin, wondering how to help. Marie-Françoise knots the ribbon there, then turns the bouquet upside down.
I have only ever weaved beads through my hair, as a child in Arizona, in turquoise, coral, and silver--colors that inspired the native Indians. I liked the coral of Sedona, the blue of Navajo turquoise jewelry, and, of course, the silver in that lining along an eastern cloud that would lead me to France. I had
not yet considered lavender and the fields of Provence, didn't yet know that one flower's essence would match my very own. Meanwhile France was budding within me, there in a mobile home park along the edge of the Mojave desert.
Near the Drôme, far from the desert, Marie-Françoise tells me that what we have here is "lavandin," that lavender is rare. But lavandin smells just as good, so good that trapping its essence is our enterprise of the hour. Marie-Françoise explains that she is about to create "une bouteille de lavande"*--which, mind you, isn't a bouteille at all, but bottle shaped. "More like a jug or 'amphore',*" my aunt-in-law admits.
She will make the "bottle of lavender" by weaving satin ribbon through the bars of the "cage" that she has formed from the lavender stems (the stems having been bent, one by one, back over the bundle of flowers, interning the lavender like so many sweet-scented prisoners).
Fishing out the longest ribbon, pulling it to the top of the cage, Marie-Françoise begins to weave. As she passes the ribbon through the lavender bars or "spokes" she explains that hand-woven lavender bottles have been used from time immemorial to freshen drawers and armoires. Placing a bundle
of lavender in a tiroir* or closet will keep hungry moths and insects at bay. The making of these Provençal pest busters is a tradition chez les soeurs* Espinasse who get together and weave up a lavender storm each summer. "They make great gifts!" my aunt suggests, adding that the woven "bottles" were traditionally given during les fiançailles.*
I notice the relaxed expression on my aunt's face as she weaves. The line of her mouth reflects her smiling eyes: soft, content, free--unlike those sweet-scented prisoners behind the lavender bars.
References: une allée (f) = driveway; le (la) juilletiste (mf) = one who takes a vacation in July; une poignée (f) = handful; le buisson (m) = bush; le tour (m) de main = the knack for something; eh, oui = that's right; la belle-mère (f) = mother-in-law; une aubergine (f) = eggplant; la marmite (f) = cooking pot; la saveur (f) = flavor; tressent (tresser) = to weave; la tige (f) = stem; la bouteille (f) de lavande = lavender bottle; une amphore (f) = ancient jar used to store oil or wine; le tiroir (m) = drawer; chez les soeurs (f) Espinasse = with the Espinasse sisters; les fiançailles (fpl) = engagement, betrothal
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:: Audio File ::
French pronunciation: listen to Jean-Marc pronounce today's word and quote:
Tressons, tressons ces fleurs, hâtons-nous, jeune amie, Les songes et les fleurs demain ne seront plus!MP3 file: Download Tresser.mp3
Wave file: Download Tresser.wav
Lavender: Practical Inspirations for Natural Gifts, Country Crafts and Decorative Displays. "Lavender bottles" are mentioned in the index of this book...
Terms & Expressions:
tresser des couronnes à quelqu'un = to praise, flatter someone
tresser un panier = to weave a basket
tressé = having interlaced fibers
More, in shopping:
Hand sanitizer with Organic Lavender Essential Oil -- naturally cleansing and soothing
In music: Quel Enfer by Niagra
Surrounded by the scents of France: Provence French Linen Water- Fragrant Basil