a purposeless walk, a wander
One hour before the sun slips behind the deep blue Massif des Maures, I ring my neighbor's doorbell.
"On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?" I offer.
"Pourquoi pas?" replies my friend, known affectionately as La Voisine. And off we march for our weekly chat-on-heels.
On the edge of our voisinage, our pace slows to accommodate the quiet scenery. We drift past a lone vineyard, its unkempt vines a contrast to the majestic castle in the darkening sky beyond. We mosey down a dirt path flanked by sleeping fig trees, their dry feuilles having nodded off weeks ago. We laugh as we amble past the free-range chickens scattering to and fro as if the French sky was falling toward their wrinkly feet. We saunter toward the river to cross over a slender bridge no longer than an afternoon line at the post office. The river now at our backs, we hike the chemin de terre leading to the medieval village of Les Arcs-sur-Argens.
Above certain village doors we see dates etched into the stone lintels: 1638... 1524....
"Treizième, celui-là!" La Voisine points out. I look up to admire another ancient doorway, grateful for the friend who has awakened this dreamer to another detail that might have gone unnoticed. How much more we take in when we walk with a pal! What might have been little more than a lazy stroll, is now a study on all things historical.
We continue our balade, weaving through a maze of tiny ruelles, walking where sewage once flowed as freely as village gossip, when families emptied their chamber pots into the narrow canal running down the center of the now-cobbled streets.
We steal around another bend where gray rock walls give way to a slew of multicolored facades in pistachio green, custard yellow and rum raisin red—village homes crammed together like so many colorful candies in a pack. The cobblestone path is littered with lipstick-red fruit—les arbouses—which reminds me that I could just kiss the French ground beneath my feet for all that I have seen over the course of our promenade.
"Take another path today," my mom always says. If you are reading, chère maman, please know that I am.
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Massif des Maures = local mountain range
On essaie un autre chemin aujourd'hui?
Shall we try another path today?
la voisine, le voisin
le chemin de terre
Thirteenth century, that one!
arbutus-berry [from the wild strawberry tree]
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For more online reading: The Lost Gardens: A Story of Two Vineyards and a Sobriety