Heart-shaped leaves (lower left), old vine trunks, and white flowers mingle with our grapes.
courbature (kor-bah-toor) noun, feminine
: ache, muscular pain
You can help with this edition by adding any related terms and expressions for today's word, "courbature". Do you know another translation for "courbature"? Does one talk about "courbature" when one is ill, rundown with the flu ("J'ai des courbatures")? Ever known a Do you know the verb "courbaturer" and would someone like to define just who that is it? Answers welcome here.
Audio File: hear Jean-Marc pronounce today's word (Download courbature.wav . Download courbature.mp3)and listen to the example sentence. Can you understand what Jean-Marc is saying? Guesses welcome in the comments box.
Vignettes from our Vendangeurs
Today's essay was written by Ansley, who joined us for the first week of the grape harvest. We missed her the second week, but she will be back this weekend, helping us gather all thirteen varieties of grapes that go into the famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape wine at Domaine du Banneret (as you might've guessed: we'll be picking grapes at Uncle Jean-Claude & Aunt Marie-Françoise's vineyard, now that we're finished harvesting our own, here at Domaine Rouge-Bleu).
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"Picking Grapes Along the Way" by Ansley Evans
At 8 am we arrive in the vines, and I pick up my bucket and clippers and get to work. I have never picked grapes before, so I ask Jean-Marc what to look for, if there is anything I should avoid. The process through which the grapes I pick will turn to wine remains a mystery to me, and I cannot yet look at a bunch of grapes and understand its wine-making potential. Soon enough, the good bunches become clear to me, and I clip their stems and throw them in my bucket with confidence. I pick up a rhythm, clipping two, three bunches at a time. But every now and again, I come across a thick bunch riddled with mold, and the uncertainty sets in. I put the bunch to my nose, sniffing for vinegar, the sign, I've been told, that the grapes have gone bad. I think I smell vinegar, so I cut the bad grapes away, sometimes tossing an entire bunch, hoping I have made the right call. I continue down the row, my nose in the vines.
In the morning, the dew wets my sleeves, chills my hands. I observe this dampness, this chill, and continue filling my bucket. I float in and out of conversation, getting to know my fellow pickers gradually, our lives outside of the vines. I think how different this is from my usual job, teaching, where my mind is constantly alert and engaged in the present moment, responding to the relative unpredictability of interactions with others. As I pick, I must remain physically alert, I wouldn't want to cut off a finger, but my mind can wander. Perhaps due to the repetitive nature of the clipping, my thoughts flow in a cyclical pattern, repeating themselves without being willed to do so. This is a
moment of transition in my life, and my next step is uncertain; my mind traces many potential paths, over and over again, coming to no clear conclusion. Meanwhile, my eyes are like scanners, honing in on grapes. I discover more efficient ways to clip and, before I know it, my bucket is filled again. I avoid looking down the row of vines, an endurance trick, the end always looks so far away. I focus on one vine at a time, knowing in the back of my mind that there is an end in sight.
By afternoon, the dew is gone, and the sun heats my skin. I begin to sweat and notice the fatigue of repetitive actions, squatting and standing, bending and straightening, grabbing and clipping. The filled bucket feels heavier and heavier as the afternoon wears on. Nonetheless, I pick more confidently, with less doubt, less hesitation. By late afternoon, as quitting time nears, the conversation turns to beer, and my mouth waters. We will stop for the day once we reach the end of our rows, a concrete goal achieved, and will begin where we left off the following morning.
Eventually, the grapes I picked will become wine, and some of them, already pressed and in tanks, have begun to ferment. My labor was one part of this cycle, a deliberate action to begin this natural process that has been appreciated by humans for centuries. I, a student of literature, am tempted to
see all of this work as series of metaphors: to set distant goals, to not be overwhelmed by ambitious projects, to focus on one step at a time. But my aching knees, nicked fingers and sunburned neck remind me that even such metaphors do not make life simple and easy. There is often hard work to be done along the way.
Ansley Evans, from Portland, OR, just finished a two-year stint teaching English at the University of Avignon, in the heart of the Cotes du Rhone region. During this time, she had the chance to explore a number of villages and cellars in this wine-making region, which inspired her to get her hands dirty in the vines.
Comment on today's post, or contact Ansley directly, via email: ansleyevans AT hotmail.com (replace AT with @)
Joining Ansley in this last photo: my sister-in-law, Cécile (left) and Ross.
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